It’s not much fun following the Cubs these days, and writing about a team that has played .400 baseball over its last 25 games is a burdensome endeavor. Watching the team lose three of four to the Cardinals with one game remaining in the series is doubly excruciating, especially for a team whose bats have been in hibernation almost all summer.
Forget about the 13-3 start that’s nothing more than a mirage at this point. As the Cubs continue to look downright silly at the plate, I’m wondering if Anthony Iapoce isn’t feeling a little like he may be the next in what is becoming a long line of ex-hitting coaches for this organization. The now-departed Steven Souza Jr. striking out with the bases loaded is a perfect microcosm of yet another maddening summer of Cubs baseball. Plainly put, the Cubs have regressed every season since winning it all in 2016, and this team looks a lot more like the 2012-14 versions than the 2015-17 ones.
As the Cubs trend toward what now looks like a .500 season at best, it’s fair to start wondering which members of their core will be brought back. Though nothing should be taken as gospel in a season that has been more challenging than any other, only Ian Happ has proved to be worthy of a contract extension based on 2020 stats. The bigger issue at hand, and one that is far more problematic, is that a prolonged team-wide slump at the plate usually has more to do with coaching than bad luck.
Ian Happ has finally overtaken José Abreu for sole possession of home runs at Wrigley Field this season with 7.
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) September 5, 2020
With two-thirds of the season now in the books, Baseball Reference has Kris Bryant (-0.1) and Javier Báez (-0.1) as negative-WAR players. Kyle Schwarber (0.1) and Willson Contreras (0.4) haven’t been much better. You won’t win many games with that lack of production by your best hitters.
I’ve heard Marquee analyst Jim Deshaies say on several occasions this season that “the secret to hitting is hitting,” a direct quote from Iapoce that carries little water when a team looks as bad as the Cubs do. In past seasons, I’ve thought the carousel of hitting coaches entering and exiting this organization was more a matter of deflection than anything else, but I’m starting to think that the current approach to at-bats and opposing pitchers can’t continue beyond this season.
Still, if so many hitting coaches struggle to bring out the best in Cubs batters, who can get the job done? Maybe it’s time to bring John Mallee back, or please allow me to endorse my personal choice, Brant Brown. It would be nice if the Cubs could somehow incentivize Brown to leave the Dodgers and work for David Ross in 2021.
Cubs News & Notes
- Starter Jon Lester took the loss last night and has been struggling badly over four of his last five starts.
- Lester is now battling confidence issues, too.
- Jason Heyward left yesterday’s game due to lightheadedness and shortness of breath.
- Souza was DFA’d between games of Saturday’s doubleheader and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere near Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer when they were forced to make that call.
- The Cubs selected the contract of reliever Matt Dermody, promoting him from South Bend to bolster their bullpen.
- Ross said winning the division is secondary to making the playoffs.
- Yu Darvish is having an historical season, and could earn the NL Cy Young Award if he continues to pitch like he has over his last seven starts.
- Adbert Alzolay will get another start on Thursday against the Reds.
- In case you missed it, Pedro Strop has agreed to a minor league deal with the Cubs.
- If the season ended today, the Cubs would be the third seed in the National League and would open the playoffs against the Phillies.
- St. Louis Hall-of-Famer Lou Brock, who started his career with the Cubs in 1961, passed away yesterday. He was 81.
Odds & Sods
This may have been Souza’s last moment as a Cub.
I mean… pic.twitter.com/MDcR4fM3dO
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 5, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
Happy Labor Day, everyone, please remember you’re just as important to your employer as anybody else.
Who’s having barbecued ribs today? I know I’ll be playing horseshoes this afternoon and we’re having some grilled ribeyes. I may even have a beer or two. We’ll see.
How About That!
Umpire Joe West ejected Nationals GM Mike Rizzo from yesterday’s game for yelling at the umpiring crew from a luxury suite in Atlanta.
2019 AL batting champion Tim Anderson of the White Sox leads the league in hitting again and has made further strides at the plate this year. In addition to his .351 average, his walk rate (5.9%) is more than double what it was last season and his strikeout rate has dropped to 21%.
The Yankees are slumping and could be in danger of missing the postseason.
The Mariners, Marlins, Padres and White Sox could end postseason droughts that have lasted more than a decade for each organization. The Marlins’ last playoff appearance was in 2003, when they beat the Cubs in the NLCS before dismantling the Yankees in the World Series.
Minor League Baseball is facing a fundamental change to its structure as Rob Manfred and MLB owners take a victory lap.
Out of Left Field
Thank you, Alex Dickerson.
Alex Dickerson is out there playing carnival games with the cutouts ? pic.twitter.com/mFOBNgdejN
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) September 6, 2020
Sunday’s Three Stars
- Shane Bieber – The Indians starter fanned 10 Brewers over five innings yesterday, earning his seventh win of the season as Cleveland beat Milwaukee 4-1. Bieber has yet to lose a game.
- Jacob deGrom – The Mets ace could be in line for his third straight Cy Young as he dominated the Phillies over 7.1 innings yesterday, allowing just three hits with 12 strikeouts in a 14-1 win.
- Dean Kremer – The Orioles rookie starter stymied the Yankees yesterday with six innings of one-hit ball, striking out seven in the process. It was the first big league appearance for the 24-year-old righty.
Imagine where the Cubs would be without Happ and Darvish?
Sliding Into Home
My biopsy redux has been scheduled for Wednesday morning. Based on how I felt after the last one, it is unlikely I will post a column on Thursday. I have been assigned a different surgeon and promised the results by Thursday afternoon.
I wish I was half as fast as Trea Turner
— ᑎIᑕK ᗩᔕᕼOOᕼ ? (@NickAshooh) September 3, 2020
They Said It
- “It’s better to be in first than second. The way I approach this season is we’ve just got to get better each and every day. If we can take that mindset, it doesn’t really matter to me that you win the division right now in this playoff format or you come in second. You get in the playoffs and try to be the best version of yourself to win a World Series. Whatever path we take is what it is. The goal is to continue to get better every day. The goal is to continue to play championship-caliber baseball every day.” – David Ross
- “I wouldn’t take that from a player. I wouldn’t take that from a manager. If it was Donald Trump, I’d eject him, too. But I’d still vote for him.” – Joe West
Monday Walk Up Song
Falling Away by Richard X Heyman – A pretty apt expression for Cubs at bats over the last month or so.