Though it may not be worthy of a Paul Harvey monologue, playing time has been one of the most confounding and perversely intriguing aspects of the Cubs’ season. In the space of a month, they’ve gone from having too many good players in need of regular at-bats to too many underperforming hitters getting days off to clear their heads. Whether it’s Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell, or Kris Bryant, the issue has now become one of trying to string together enough guys to push runs across.
And then you’ve got the little injuries, whether real or imagined, that have hampered and/or sidelined various players. Sprinkle in a dash of youth and a pinch of bad luck — though not bad luck in a pinch, oddly enough — and you’ve got a recipe for inconsistent performance and a .500 record. The finished product tastes about as good as it looks.
Except it’s not a finished product yet, is it? Even though many would have you believe they’re dead in it, the Cubs are still treading water. And they can continue to do so for quite a while. That’s not necessarily fun to watch, but Joe Maddon is playing it like Mickey holding Rocky back from switching to southpaw.
“The thought is to…I’ve been talking about it all along and I really want to be more proactive with resting guys right now,” Maddon said prior to Sunday’s series-clinching win. “Proactive in not pushing starters too hard right now.
“Based on experience, the two times I’ve been in the World Series, the following season there’s been like this push to get back in normally. And when the push occurs, what normally occurs is that you run out of fuel by the middle of August. I don’t want that.
“I think we’ve been proactive regarding resting people — we talked about that — but I have to be even more mindful of that. What is this, June, middle of June? Like for another month and a half, another six weeks, I think I have to be very mindful of not pushing anybody over their limit.”
You think maybe the ghost of Leo Durocher came to Maddon in a dream or something? And was getting kicked out of the game the other day Maddon’s way of being proactive with his own rest?
Bryant sits again
The Cubs were off Thursday before heading to Pittsburgh, yet Kris Bryant was still out of the starting lineup for Friday’s series opener. His name was absent from the order again on Sunday, which is a major head-scratcher when you’re talking about any everyday starter and an even bigger deal when you’re talking about the MVP.
According to Jesse Rogers, Bryant admitted to feeling fatigued and said he was okay with the bench time if it meant being fresh for a late-season run. A .208 batting average in June might be evidence that Bryant is indeed tuckered out, but that’s not an accurate picture.
The All-Star third baseman has a .387 OBP on the strength of a walk rate that’s within kissing distance of 20 percent and he’s hit four home runs this month. His 125 wRC+, a measure of overall offensive production, tells us that he’s been 25 percent more productive than the average MLB hitter in 62 June plate appearances. Not bad for just a few points above Mendoza.
So what’s with the depressed average and the talk of being tired? It comes down to the confluence of several related factors, not the least of which is the inconsistent production around Bryant. The lineup has been shuffled on a daily basis, yet little has afforded the Cubs’ best hitter any greater protection. Not that it would really matter, since pitchers are going to attack him differently than they do most other hitters.
Bryant has struck out in his last five at-bats and in 10 of his last 18, the product of where he’s being pitched and what’s being called. Some borderline strikes seem to have gone against him, which has him expanding the zone deep in counts and swinging at pitches down and out.
There were a few gems among a great deal of other tripe thrown out during the FOX broadcast of Saturday night’s game, one of which was John Smoltz discussing Bryant’s ability to adjust. That’s a topic we’ve covered thoroughly here at CI and it’s certainly not new, but it was nice to hear it nonetheless.
As Smoltz warned, opposing pitchers had better enjoy this while they can because Bryant is going to figure it out soon and it’ll be game over.
Hendricks may be out until after break
I guess this is part of what Maddon was talking about when he said he was going to be more mindful of rest. Kyle Hendricks said Saturday that he might not be back to active duty until after the All-Star break, which is not in keeping with the original timeline for his return from middle finger tendinitis.
This isn’t due to a flareup or setback of any sort, more just a matter of letting things play out to the point where Hendricks is pain-free and subsequent examinations reveal no structural issues. The pitcher has been steadfast in saying that he’d still be able to pitch were the season at a more important juncture. Kinda makes you wonder why the Cubs weren’t more proactive with Ben Zobrist.
Jason Heyward went to the ground to attempt a sliding grab Sunday, only to come up shaking his left hand. Head Trainer PJ Mainville came out and applied some athletic tape and/or bandages to Heyward’s palm and wrist as the outfielder fidgeted in obvious pain. Heyward went on to make a subsequent play, displaying no ill effects on the throw back in, but he came out of the game shortly thereafter.
Here’s the Instagram post Heyward shared following the game, but I should warn you that it’s kinda gross. Oh, you’re just seeing the taped-up hand? Scroll to the next pic.
Between Heyward’s palm, Hendricks’ finger, Arrieta’s thumb, and Zobrist’s wrist, the Cubs are having some serious hand problems.
More news and notes
- Bronson Arroyo’s career may over after another rough start Sunday
- Aroldis Chapman was activated from the DL and pitched for the first time in over a month Sunday, striking out one in a perfect 8th inning
- The NL Central is a trash bin
- This dude named his daughter Waveland, though I’m sure mom had something to say about it too:
— Stephen Case (@casest10) June 18, 2017