The Rundown: Offense Struggles Continue, Velázquez Stays Hot, Rizzo Jacks 3 Bombs, Baseball’s Unwritten Rules Challenged Again
“I read the news today, oh boy…” – The Beatles, A Day in the Life
I don’t feel like talking about yesterday’s 3-1 loss to the Braves. It’s nothing personal, but sometimes insight repeats itself so often that it starts to sound like a broken record. When the Cubs’ bats are on, they win, and when they’re not, they lose. That’s going to be the theme of this season and every season until Jed Hoyer finds a couple of dominant starters and a guy who has a better than average chance of swatting an outcome-changing home run.
On my cyber walk to prepare for this morning’s column, I read a couple of articles lamenting the universal DH, which will forever be a part of baseball no matter how much the kicking and screaming of most fans of a certain age continues. Are we really that upset that the intentional walk and sacrifice bunt are on the endangered species list? We’ve learned to live with limitations on the stolen base and most younger fans don’t even know what the hell a hit and run is, but did those things make the game any more poetic than a three-run homer or a stud pitcher shoving triple-digit fastballs?
Unfortunately, Hoyer sees a Punch-and-Judy offensive attack backed by a pitch-to-contact rotation as a competitive advantage because nobody else is doing it. If there was a championship for playing middling baseball, Hoyer would be in demand for every front office position available. Other than Baby Boomstick Nelson Velázquez, there is no power remotely close to joining the big league club in Chicago’s system, either.
When the American League added the designated hitter, teams loaded up on sluggers like Greg Luzinski, Willie Horton, Cecil Cooper, Richie Zisk, Lamar Johnson, Don Baylor, Rico Carty, and Andre Thornton. The DH was added because of the general deterioration in hitting and the painfully small contributions at the plate made by pitchers. The Cubs started Yan Gomes at DH last night and have used Clint Frazier and Rafael Ortega in that spot as well. If it’s a month into the season and Kyle Hendricks has just as good a chance of getting a base hit as any of those three, you are probably lamenting the new DH rule, too.
When the Cubs let Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber leave, they gave up a ton of firepower that has yet to be replaced. I imagine Seiya Suzuki will hit 30 home runs this year, and Patrick Wisdom should also reach that mark, but the Cubs are on pace to finish the season with about 130 home runs with nine hitters in their everyday lineup. That’s a far cry from 2019 when Chicago hammered 256 baseballs into the outfield stands and beyond.
You can say the Cubs did much of nothing with that offensive profile, but they did win, at least during the regular season. The North Siders kicked off the toughest part of their schedule with a loss last night, they’re playing .412 baseball (equivalent to a 66-win season), and though they only struck out six times, they managed just four hits and barely worked a four-pitch at-bat. If they don’t see 165 pitches in a game over 35-40 plate appearances, they are going to lose. Last night, Braves pitchers barely worked up a sweat tossing a grand total of 126 pitches, 87 for strikes.
That said, Chicago was in a position to win it up until the last out, if only they had one player capable of blasting a three-run homer. Rizzo leads the Yankees with eight taters so far this year, three of which came last night. I can’t help but wonder how much better the Cubs would be if they had a similar player in their lineup.
Cubs News & Notes
- Velázquez is on a white-hot streak over the last week or so and he had another three hits last night.
- Brennen Davis is in a bit of a slump at Triple-A Iowa, where he has struck out five times in the last two games.
- Marcus Stroman pitched a lot better last night and deserved to win, but the offense let him down.
- You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to access the content, but Hoyer thinks there may be a spike in trade activity when rosters are reduced by two players next week.
- The Cubs are applying the brakes to the rehab schedule of Andrelton Simmons due to persisting shoulder irritation.
- Willson Contreras thinks that PitchCom needs a couple of tweaks before he is willing to give the pitch-calling system his seal of approval.
Odds & Sods
“In my day, hitters were able to make adjustments when umpires called a bad game. Ted Williams didn’t hit .400 and Roger Maris didn’t blast 61 homers just because the umpires squeezed the plate on the pitchers of that era.” – An unnamed boomer blogger, once the robotic umpires arrive.
Don’t let the kids see the blurb below, please and thank you.
Angel Hernandez is so bad at calling balls and strikes that the sex industry has taken notice and feels obligated to get involved. pic.twitter.com/epLvAQF4nM
— Kendall Baker (@kendallbaker) April 26, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Yeah, I’m traveling down this lonesome road. I feel like I’m dragging a heavy load.” – Molly Hatchet, Flirtin’ With Disaster
I don’t know what you call a lineup that is as capable of scoring 21 runs on 23 hits as it is scoring one run on four, but I don’t particularly enjoy those types of inconsistencies. The Cubs have a .346 OBP but are slugging just .412 right now. If you want to be the modern-day version of the hitless wonders, you’re going to need five pitchers in your rotation that are capable of shutting down any offense in baseball. Chicago doesn’t have one of those.
By the way, that batting average will be buoyed by Saturday’s offensive explosion for at least another two weeks. If you take that game away, the Cubs are batting .245 as a team.
- Games Played: 17
- Total Plate Appearances: 637
- Total Strikeouts: 134
- Strikeout Rate: 21.03%
- Team Batting Average: .266
How About That!
Home runs are down across the league.
Joc Pederson staring down a Brewers heckler after launching a bomb is exactly what baseball needs more of.
Nationals infielder Alcides Escobar had a minor hissy fit because the Giants broke one of baseball’s unwritten rules.
You can’t really fault those “arrogant” Giants players for wanting to do their jobs for the entire nine innings they played against Washington, can you? As fans, aren’t we paying for the full game experience?
Players clinging to unwritten rules needs to go the way of NL pitchers being allowed to hit.
All wins are created equal, even if you forget the score, where runners are on the bases, and how many outs there are.
A baseball dad in Cincinnati caught a fly ball while bottle-feeding his baby. I’m sure that raised a few eyebrows on social media, though I didn’t bother checking. At least give the big guy credit for saying that protecting his baby was his first priority.
Is it ever okay to dip your ballpark dog into your frosty adult beverage? Live and let live, I say.
The “Yankees Letter” was released yesterday and contained nothing that would be considered alarming or shocking.
Guardians outfielder Myles Straw called Yankees fans the “worst on the planet” after being deluged by garbage over the weekend.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Rizzo – Three taters and six ribeyes would have looked really good for the Cubs last night. Sigh.
- Willy Adames – Two home runs and seven RBI is a great night for Mike Trout, let alone the Brewers’ shortstop, who was 4-for-5 to boot.
- Daniel Lynch – The Kansas City starter pitched six, two-hit, scoreless innings as the Royals extended the White Sox’s losing streak to eight games. It’s not a stretch to say that Tony La Russa should be thinking about job security, no matter how much Jerry Reinsdorf loves him.
Michael Hermosillo runs like a freaking gazelle.
You gotta put your behind in your past. @mhermosillo10 pic.twitter.com/ZPOEhtJrli
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 27, 2022
Punting Into Coverage
Over at Bears Insider yesterday I mentioned that it would be shortsighted for the Bears to trade defensive end Robert Quinn, something I also said two days before new GM Ryan Poles traded Khalil Mack. That gives Quinn about 48 hours to find out where he will be playing in 2022, and I’m guessing it will be with the Rams.
They Said It
- “Normally, you get past Opening Day, and [trade talk] quiets down. This year, the one thing that’s going to be interesting is rosters have to go back to 26 on May 2. So when that happens, I think there’s going to be a lot of transactions that happen around the league around that time because a lot of decisions have been punted. It’s the out-of-options guys or different decisions that you haven’t had to make right now that you’re going to have to make at some point. So a lot of the deals that you would have seen now — or transactions you would have seen now — are just going to happen in three weeks. I think it will be pretty active around that time. And then I think it will quiet down until we get into July.” – Hoyer
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) by Journey – Like everything else, baseball should be allowed to evolve in order to stay current with the tastes and the eccentricities of youth. That sounds like a great formula for Stranger Things 4!