Morning Cubs Roundup: Darvish and offense shine, Kimbrel gets torched

Yu Darvish (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

Yu Darvish (Photo by Stephanie Lynn)

A 6-3 victory which raises the Cubs record to a NL Central best 5-2… what could be wrong?

Last Game: Cubs 6, Pirates 3

Up Next: Keller vs. Chatwood, 7:15, Marquee

Game Recap

This looked like the 2019 second half version of Yu Darvish. He walked only one while punching out seven (18 whiffs and 18 called strikes on 86 pitches). It was a truly dominant effort. No runners reached scoring position against him.

The Cubs bats continue showing up every game. They’ve scored no fewer than three runs over their first seven games while getting production at every position. It is a more diverse lineup than the previous couple of seasons with L/R balance and a nice mix of patience, power, and contact skills.

Their situation could be about to get even better as Kris Bryant looks like he is starting to lock in. He’s been grinding long at bats all along, but he hasn’t been expanding as much since returning to the lineup, and is now making hard contact (without many positive results yet).

And how about them 2nd baseman?

A year ago the position was an offensive black hole as Addison Russell (79 OPS+), Ben Zobrist (77 OPS+), Tony Kemp (45 OPS+), and Daniel Descalso (37 OPS+) all floundered.

Through 7 games in 2020?

Nico Hoerner is batting .389 (128 OPS+) with 5 RBI in 5 starts.

Jason Kipnis is slashing .455/.500/1.000 (311 OPS+) in 3 starts (1 at DH).

And that other 2B, who hasn’t gotten a start at the position yet?

David Bote is outhitting both to the tune of .500/.583/1.200 (388 OPS+) with 2 HR in 4 G.

Injuries, Updates, and Trends

Catching up on a couple of roster moves and transactions since my last post a couple of days ago:

  • The Dillon Maples Experience ended quickly in 2020. I hoped an Opening Day roster spot would boost his confidence a bit and help him throw the ball over the plate. My hope was in vain. After a disastrous outing Wednesday he was returned to South Bend in favor of swingman Colin Rea. I doubt we see Rea pitch unless a starter exits early or the game is a blowout one way or the other.
  • In a desperate search for bullpen help, the Cubs have made a desperate move, signing former stud closer Cody Allen to a Minor League deal. The former Cleveland All-Star struggled with the Angels in 2019 as his once dominant fastball dropped to the 92-94 range. He’s still got a decent curve, but a two-pitch guy can’t get by with one of his offerings being as hittable as his fastball has been. He also walked a Maples-like 20 BB in 23 IP last year. Allen was released by the Rangers just before Opening Day. This is purely a flyer. I don’t expect it to work out, but the Cubs had a couple of open roster spots and they can easily release Allen quickly if he doesn’t show improvement in South Bend.

Trust Level

Kyle Ryan and Rowan Wick were okay last night. Not dominant, surely, but more or less got the job done. Both were throwing a bit harder than their previous outings, more closely mirroring their 2019 velos, so maybe they are nearing regular season form.

High leverage: Ryan, Wick?

Shaky, but trending in right direction: Wick?, Jeffress, Tepera, Sadler, Brothers?, Underwood Jr.?

There’s hope, but not earning it: Brothers?, Underwood Jr. (?), Norwood

We gotta pitch somebody: Winkler, Rea

Need a 3(5?)+ run cushion: Kimbrel

About that Kimbrel guy:

Filed under: Morning Cubs Roundup


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  • "I hoped an Opening Day roster spot would boost his confidence a bit and help him throw the ball over the plate."
    Dillon Maples has all the talent in the world, but w/o confidence it means nothing. Michael, your knowledge of the abilities of the Cubs players at all levels is awesome. Keep up the great work, but not at the expense of your health. I hope that you got some rest and recharged this spring because a year ago last spring, you were getting colds that would come back, not good.

  • In reply to shalin:

    Thanks, shalin.

    I caught H1N1 about 10 years ago, which did a number on my lungs for a good 9-10 months, so I've been taking COVID quarantine seriously. With few exceptions, only going out to walk my dog (away from people) and go to the store once a week. My allergies have been bad this summer (including this week, which is why I took a couple of days off this week). I'm trying to be smart and take time when I need it.

    I'm not sure we ever see Maples in a Cubs uniform again. He's been here for 10+ years and he couldn't even maintain a spot in an 11-man bullpen. I've always assumed he'd figure out his control just enough for a year or two in order to make an impact at the MLB level, but I've also always felt it might not be until he is in his 30s, when he's on like his third team.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael, I told John to slow down and delegate authority when his blog site took off. Yes, he did hire more writers, but never stopped working so hard. As you know he had insomnia and in the spring around a year before he developed lymphoma, he was getting colds that would come back again and again. His immune system needed a great deal of R AND R, but John ignored the problem.

  • As we all know, the Cubs will need a closer and it could be soon. Our potent offense has given us a cushion, but Kimbrel or someone else will need to step up to fill that hole.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    They definitely need to settle on a closer. I assume Jeffress gets the next opportunity. He's got a bit of experience doing it. If he can get his velo back into the mid-90s like he thinks he can, he may just be able to do a decent job as well, but that isn't certain. After him, they may be forced to do a matchup based juggle between Ryan, Wick and maybe Tepera. Obviously not ideal, as those three should ideally be 7th inning arms. I suppose it is possible Kimbrel finds himself enough to get another opportunity if it gets to that point.

    If they are still struggling to find an answer three weeks from now, I suspect they make a trade AND dip into South Bend to give Carraway a look in a late-inning role.

  • Burl caraway=2005 Bobby Jenks? Think they tried Shingo and Dustin hermanson(injury) before trying jenks. Try him now I would hate to lose two or three games before he is brought in.

  • I hate when closers are used in non-save or high leverage situation. They typically get bounced around. It happens way too often.

    I believe Kimbrel will be fine. Probably needs 2-3 more outings to get locked in.

  • Hate to play Debbie Downer, but ignoring the news doesn't make it go away.

    The covid-positive tests on the Cardinals are rising, with an additional 6-7 today, following an eerily similar pattern as the Marlins outbreak. Their entire team is shut down indefinitely.
    Several teams are now in limbo, and the schedule is a complete mess. I don't know that even Norway could compute how to make this thing come anywhere near a fair and balanced competitive season among all teams.

    Several players are opting out, with the Brewers Lorenzo Cain being the biggest name so far today. More importantly, IMO, players and managers are raising great concerns regarding players' health on the field. The constant ramping up and down on a daily basis is a recipe for injury. Teams on lockdown need to separate players from one another, yet are somehow expected to remain in game shape. Pitchers are especially prone, and the announcement that MLB will attempt to make up lost games with 7 inning double-headers is raising even more alarm about arm injuries with such an awkward routine.

    Manfred is said to be contemplating cancelling the season Monday, depending on how this weekend goes. Perhaps more tellingly, the business side of MLB is informing networks and other entities that broadcast baseball to begin setting up alternate programming beginning next week.

    Enjoy it while it lasts, and Go Cubs!

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    After I posted this, Manfred issued a statement saying he and the owners are 100% commited to playing a full season, but the players need to do better.

    Has the blame game begun?

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Baseball has history and is our national pastime. 'We never give up' good for our commissioner! Holding this season together is very important, Hurrah Manfred!!

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Of course they are. Millions of dollars at stake for everyone.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    The owners are the greedy ones who still want to make all this money and not leave $1 on the table, while taking very little risk to themselves or their own families. This is gonna have to ravage through at least half the teams before they will finally pull the plug. If more high profile players start opting out, that may also push the hand of the owners to cancel the season, but that remains to be seen how many and what quality of players decide to walk away. Manfred is just the owners puppet, and he never handles these situations in any sort of admirable way.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    The issue the players are bringing up, about games being cancelled and a complete breakdown of the routine of a set schedule increasing the chances of sports-related injury, is a huge red flag to me. SP's can pitch one day, and don't know when their next scheduled start will be. 5 days? 14 days? Position players are being told to separate from their team and training facilities, yet remain in shape to play, maybe tomorrow, for games that probably will mean nothing. The risk of career-altering injury for what?

    This issue concerns me more than the virus.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Idk Mike, career ending issues can happen any time. Games count more than ever until they don't. Pro sports including or maybe especially baseball are in losing fans by the millions. It's time for rich millionaires to get off their knees and play like their sport depends on it, because it just might be true.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to 44slug:

    It’s been reported that the Marlins and Cardinals situations have been traced to certain players going out to bars and other establishments. The responsibility for safety falls on their shoulders as well.

    No new cases for the Marlins or Phillies, so one glimmer of hope.

  • Please take care of yourself, Michael.

    Why so negative on Colin Rea ("We gotta pitch somebody") , Michael? Wasn't he 14-3 and the Cubs minor league Pitcher of the Year last season?

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Rea is just a guy. Average stuff, average command. Can contribute in long relief/spot start if needed, but isn't a high leverage reliever.

  • I'm not impressed with guys who opt out. It shows lack of courage and commitment. Ones' teammates are battling and Cain walks off to leave them hanging. If I'm on his team I'm thinking good riddance.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I think that's too harsh. I understand the teammate thing and these players would probably get a minor cough, if anything, if they became infected. But we don't know their broader circumstances.

    To put it in a personal perspective, I am an amazingly healthy 49 year-old. I'm confident I'd be just fine if I got it, but I care for my 73 year-old mother, who is extremely high-risk. She lives with me, and is bedridden on 4 liters of oxygen 24/7. If I get it, she gets it, and her chances of survival are slim and none. I decided to not work in February to minimize the risk.

    I suspect many players are making a sacrifice of not seeing specific loved ones and trying to play through it. I also suspect many players want to play, but aren't willing to shut down the rest of their personal lives. They figured they'd give it a shot, and if their chances of getting infected and further isolating loved ones increased by outbreaks across baseball, they'd opt out.

    I don't think it's always about looking out for themselves and quitting on the team. For some it could be, and some may even be taking a social stand. But I completely see the logic in players seeing this going South and determining it's not worth the risk.

  • In reply to Mike Pilbean:

    Social stand? He probably just quit on his team. If he has a family care giver duty, he would make that known to Brewer fans. Sorry, I'm unimpressed.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to 44slug:

    I don't understand the criticism of players that opt out. There is no cure. If you catch it then it's just basically luck if you get worse or get better, and if you have a family or members of the family who are older or have pre-existing conditions then I really don't see how anyone can object when they make that decision. Besides, we know that it affects the lungs but we don't know the long term effects of it also. I let everyone make the decision that makes them feel the most comfortable.

  • In reply to Jonathan Friedman:

    Idk, Johnathan, few healthy die from civid. Statistically, more people are struck by lighting. Your prognosis sounds like this virus will eventually kill is all. When I expire, I want it to be right after a Schwarber post season homerun.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Re "Statistically, more people are struck by lightning" than die from COVID. That is just ridiculous. According to multiple official sources on the web, lightning kills about 30 Americans per year, with "several hundred" injured by lightning per year. COVID has now killed over 150,000 in about 5 months. So, in 5 months, COVID has killed 5000 times more Americans than lightning, and about 300 times more people than are injured by lightning, in a full year. Facts matter.

  • In reply to jeffalson:

    Sounds about right. Sorry about that. Old stat misquoted, I'll stand by my position tho. Play ball, as long as possible.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to jeffalson:

    Not only that, but the ones who don't die sometimes aren't affected very much, but look at all the ones who were hospitalized and then on ventilators and then the ones who, months after contracting it, are now discovered to have lung and/or heart problems. This is Cubs den, not Covid den, I'm just saying that some things are more important than money or statistics.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    IMO there’s plenty of other forums to have conversations like this. But I will say the idea more people are struck by lightning then die from COVID certainly doesn’t sound accurate to me based on the 150,000+ COVID deaths recorded in only 5 months. It’s not just about dying too we know very little about this virus, and it’s long term effects. It has all sorts of different, random symptoms and often effects people differently from person to person. You may not know anybody that hasn’t gotten better in 2-6 weeks, but I personally know multiple people (both fairly young and healthy) that still have severe, scary symptoms 3 months after getting the virus. There’s over 100,000 other COVID survivors that haven’t gotten better in the 2-6 weeks that most people do. If it were my family I wouldn’t be playing if I had the money to sit out a year. Why risk my health to play a game during a season that has a chance of being shut down anyways? Sure that may not make some fans happy, but they’re not the ones putting their family’s health at risk.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Well, it's difficult o discuss shutting down the baseball season due to Covid without mentioning covid. It's silly for us to argue even the experts can't agree on this virus. We do know it's serious, but folks need to live nd work as safely as possible.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That’s true my biggest thing is I try to be considerate of people looking out for the health of their loved ones. Selfishly I would like to see the season completed with the cubs off to a nice start. Like you I hope they try to see this thing through, as only really the marlins have been drastically affected. I would certainly be disappointed say if say rizzo opted out for example, but I personally can’t say that I wouldn’t be able to empathize with that type of decision. It’s just hard to insure that an entire clubhouse is going to remain healthy. Then factor in having to worry about travel and you lt opponents following safety measures. I can look out for my own safety but what about all the other guys? Hopefully our cubbies are holding each other accountable, and it’s good to see that we’re the only team with no players testing positive. With Lorenzo Cain opting out and the cubs sitting at 5-2 obviously I hope they can play safely, because the outlook looks pretty bright.

  • fb_avatar

    Michael, your health comes first, second and third. I'm glad you've been taking it easy, and also that work might actually help but not to the point of being detrimental.
    I was glad to see the Cubs acted quickly in sending Maples down, there isn't a lot of time to see if someone "can work it out." I've been very impressed with Nico and Happ. They seem to hit the ball where it's pitched and not trying to pull everything. Being 5-2 is more than we could have imagined given the slow starts we've seen the last few years.
    Go Cubs!!

  • Hello,
    longtime lurker since about 2-3 years before John(RIP)
    passed.He was the main reason I kept coming back.
    I think all the writers(main ones)do a great job and I can't
    leave Barley out either..Please change back man!
    A little about myself..Since I moved to South Bend from
    Seattle(sigh)in 81.Yay Happ just jacked one! I have been
    a Cubs fan,the Mariners are my AL team,,Whoa Javey time!
    Wind was supposed to be blowing in 15mph where he hit it.
    I am a Seahawks fan also..Sonics(RIP) Go Cubs!!!

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