“But I feel it in the air on the highest mountaintops. Just wanna hold that breath forever.” – Barefoot Truth, Changes in the Weather
I didn’t catch last night’s 5-2 win over the Rockies but based on this morning’s box score, it looks like the Cubs went back to a more contact-oriented approach at the plate. Even though Frank Schwindel hit an opposite-field home run, Chicago batters averaged 4.6 pitches per plate appearance, pounded out 10 hits, and went down on strikes only four times. The Cubs are obviously a much better team when they stop trying to consistently power the baseball out of the stadium.
Schwindel entered the game with four hits in five games, yet most Cubs fans remain concerned that he is at the precipice of unfounded regression. With two hits yesterday, perhaps Frank the Tank will allay some of those fears. I wouldn’t worry about Schwindel, who has hit at every level, is battling a slight back issue, and didn’t get the requisite Cactus League at-bats to fully prepare for the regular season.
Though starter Justin Steele didn’t qualify for the win, he had another solid start and was cruising until he started to show a little fraying around the edges in the 5th. Keegan Thompson, whose versatility is going to be a big part of the team’s success this season, pitched 3.1 strong innings to earn the victory. It was part of another solid performance by Chicago’s bullpen, which is becoming one of the team’s strengths. We moaned about the team’s relief corps for years, but that part of the pitching staff has been regularly dominant since 2020 despite high turnover.
It was nice to see the Cubs bounce back from a listless performance in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss to the Pirates, and even better to see that the offense is more than just the Seiya Suzuki show. The rookie outfielder had another RBI last night, but other hitters stepped up for a change. In addition to Schwindel, Nick Madrigal, Jonathan Villar, and Yan Gomes also enjoyed two-hit nights.
Cubs News & Notes
- Kris Bryant said he will always be thankful for his time with the Cubs and indicated he’s not closing the book on any potential return in future seasons.
- Bryant joked that the service time rule in the new CBA should be named after him.
- Speaking of ex-Cubs, Javier Báez said he and the Cubs were about five days away from finalizing a contract extension in 2020.
- It’s a good time to segue from the past to the future, and Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic are hearing good things ($) about prospects Kohl Franklin, Ed Howard, and Kevin Alcántara.
- Also from The Athletic, the Cubs believe they are on the verge of a breakthrough that will make the lack of homegrown pitchers a “narrative of the past.”
- Third base coach Willie Harris has managerial aspirations.
- The Ricketts family has withdrawn their bid to buy the Chelsea Football Club.
- Attendance figures for Chicago’s opening series at Wrigley Field against the Brewers could indicate that some fans remain bitter about this winter’s lockout.
Odds & Sods
Ken Griffey Jr. learned life lessons at the dinner table thanks to discussions with his father about the legends of the game. Imagine being a kid and going with your dad to the ballpark to meet players such as Hank Aaron, Willie Stargell, and Johnny Bench. Junior is the inspiration behind all players wearing the No. 42 jersey in honor of Jackie Robinson.
— Sporting News MLB (@sn_mlb) April 15, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“There’s a feeling I get when I look to the west and my spirit is crying for leaving.” – Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven
The best part about Schwindel’s home run was his follow-through. The barrel of his bat finished about 16 feet above home plate. That’s not a normal Frank the Tank swing, but we’ll take the jack. The Cubs were 4-for-9 with runners in scoring position last night and struck out just four times. They’re a much better team when they are more contact-oriented in their approach. Ian Happ had a single and a walk, extended his on-base streak to 33 games, and his new, quiet confidence is impressive.
I still have faith in Patrick Wisdom, but if you took away his at-bats, the Cubs’ K-rate would be just 19.8%. That said, the North Siders could be one big bopper shy of being a serious contender. If only there was a path to trade for Mitch Haniger in case Wisdom fails. Let’s give P-Wizzy his 100 at-bats before we panic too much.
Wisdom’s .048/.087/.048 slash line is about as ugly as it gets. He probably can’t do any worse if you’re looking for a silver lining.
- Games Played: 5
- Total Plate Appearances: 220
- Total Strikeouts: 50
- Strikeout Rate: 22.7%
- Team Batting Average: .242
MLB News & Notes
Robinson changed the game forever when he broke baseball’s color barrier. This year’s celebration marks not just the 75th anniversary of Jackie’s debut but also the 25th anniversary of then-commissioner Bud Selig’s announcement that Robinson’s No. 42 would be retired across MLB.
The Robinson jerseys that will be worn by all players this year are a little more pronounced, and you can purchase a replica if you have an extra $425 to spend.
Robinson’s accomplishments transcend statistics, so much so that the numbers he did accumulate are dwarfed by his significance as a man.
Thursday’s Three Stars
- Jonah Heim – The Texas catcher enjoyed a 3-for-5 night while plating five runs, including a 2nd inning grand slam off of Angels’ starter Shohei Ohtani.
- Manny Machado – The Padres beat the Braves 12-1 last night, and the San Diego third baseman played a big part, going 5-for-6 with a home run and two RBI.
- Daniel Vogelbach – The Pirates DH, leadoff batter, and would-be model destroyed the Nationals last night with four hits in six trips to the plate, including a solo home run in the bottom of the first. Vogelbach was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, and there may be nothing more majestic than watching the hulking hitter leg out a three-base hit.
What a thrill it must have been to see Robinson playing at Wrigley Field in the 1940s and ’50s. The man stole home 19 times in his MLB career, including once against the Cubs in his 1949 MVP year, when he victimized starting pitcher Bob Rush and catcher Mickey Owen.
“If there is anything rival moundsmen dread, it is having Jackie on first,” wrote the New York Times’s Louis Effrat the next morning. “Rush was no exception. Obviously upset, the right-hander could not prevent Robinson’s steal of second, even with a pitchout. And when Owen’s throw was wild, Jackie continued to third.
“The next batter grounded out short to first, but Robinson was unable to run home. With Carl Furillo at the plate, on a 1-and-1 count, Robinson twice … went dashing down the line toward the plate, and on the third start, he kept going, stealing home to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.”
From the personal archives:
1) Jackie Robinson during his MVP year at Wrigley Field. .342/.432/.528
— Laurence Holmes (@LaurenceWHolmes) April 15, 2022
They Said It
- “I enjoyed my time in Chicago, but I don’t know if it warrants a press conference every time I play them. I don’t know if that chapter will ever close until I’m done playing baseball because I rely on a lot of what I went through there to make me who I am now and help me in the future with the guys here. So I’m not ever going to close that chapter because I had a lot of fun there.” – Bryant
- “It was really, really close, more than anybody thinks. People got different plans, [and] it was hard leaving Chicago.” – Báez
- “The transition in philosophy that happened a couple of years ago has gone through some bumps in the road, but it also produced some guys who are now on the map. You see some of the velocities and the stuff starting to show up. We have a long way to go and things happen and guys get hurt or don’t have good years.” – David Ross
- “When you hear one name for a long time [such as Adbert Alzolay] and then all of a sudden you start to hear different names coming through the system. You hear multiple names — that’s when you know you’ve got a really good farm system and things are trending in the right direction.” – Ross
Friday Walk-Up Song
Roll Me Away by Bob Seger – Enjoy your weekend, folks.