“Now’s the time that we need to share, so find yourself, we’re on our way back home. Oh, going home. Don’t you need, don’t you need to feel at home?” – Goo Goo Dolls, Give a Little Bit
Note: For personal reasons, I chose this version of the song over the better version by Supertramp.
If you wanted a decent glimpse of the future of the NL Central, Hayden Wesneski and Hunter Greene provided it last night. Don’t get me wrong, that matchup will never compare to those head-to-head duels between Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson, not in an era where starters rarely go three times through a batting order. But Wesneski and Greene are two of the best young hurlers in the league, and both pitched exceptionally well Monday night.
Greene got the best of the Cubs, stopping Chicago’s win streak at seven games. He also prevented Cincinatt-uh (apologies for the Ken Harrelson-ism) from losing its 100th game of the season. But Wesneski was almost as good over his six innings of work. Monday’s game was the Cubs’ ninth straight in which its starting pitcher didn’t allow more than one earned run.
It’s exciting to think about the North Siders’ rotation next season. Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman are the obvious anchors unless Jed Hoyer signs someone like Jacob deGrom, Carlos Rodón, or Justin Verlander. There’s a two-way star on the West Coast who might be available in trade this winter, too.
Let me pause for a second. The fact that I can remain positive after a loss to the lowly Reds means I’m a big believer in the Cubs’ future. In addition to outstanding pitching, we should see the major league debuts of Brennen Davis, Matt Mervis, and possibly Pete Crow-Armstrong. If the Cubs sign a starter and one of Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, Carlos Correa, or Trea Turner, they’d probably be a closer shy of making a long playoff run in 2023.
Somebody get me Liam Hendriks stat, please and thank you.
I can sense your incredulous look from my keyboard here in Milwaukee, but the Cubs were playing .567 baseball in the second half entering play Monday night. The Brewers were eliminated last night, and scaling Chicago’s winning percentage to a full season would have earned the Cubs the second NL Wild Card spot above the Padres (.550) and Phillies (.544). We’re not talking about a small sample size either. The team’s second-half pace equates to 91-92 wins over a full season. Pitching has been the key to the resurgence, and Hoyer and David Ross are hoping to improve the rotation going into 2023.
Though the crowds have been a little smaller at Wrigley Field, the hope and anticipation are growing at a pace we haven’t seen since 2014-15. Incredibly, few fans still lament the losses of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez, and Kyle Schwarber. It will be fun to watch Schwarbs and Rizz in this year’s postseason, but they no longer feel like Cubs, at least to me. I’m more excited for Mervis, a second year of Seiya Suzuki, and a shortstop to be named later. And, my God, that pitching staff.
I’m mad that I have to admit Hoyer was right. The Cubs are not rebuilding. They’re just growing, and the organization has been nearly perfect at controlling that pace. In fact, Chicago’s North Side baseballers aren’t a Jon Lester away from achieving credibility. They are, instead, a deGrom or Rodón plus a middle infielder and a lockdown closer away from playing for hardware, jewelry, and extra paychecks.
Cubs News & Notes
- There will be as many as eight managerial openings this winter, and Ross is championing third base coach Willie Harris for one of them.
- Wesneski is truly a breath of fresh air, isn’t he?
- Cubs fans are starting to believe that giving up Scott Effross for Wesneski was the right move.
- The success of the team’s pitching staff breeds a lot of optimism going into Hot Stove Season. Heading into last night’s tilt, Cubs pitchers led the majors with a 1.68 ERA in their last 12 games. That is, without doubt, complete domination.
- Adrian Sampson just put the finishing touches on a stellar month of September (1.50 ERA) and has been a surprising contributor this year. His FIP is a little high, but he’s been consistently effective.
- Stroman is ready to anchor Chicago’s rotation in ’23. The veteran right-hander was 4-2 with a 2.56 ERA in his last 16 starts since July 9.
- Mervis and Davis should be key contributors next year. The left-handed Mervis played himself into consideration for the first base job by producing 36 home runs, 40 doubles, 119 RBI, and a .984 OPS across three minor-league levels.
- Bleacher Report listed the Cubs as one of seven “sleeper teams” to keep an eye on next year.
- Chicago is ranked No. 6 on potential free agent destinations for slugger Aaron Judge.
- Meet Nick Gomez, the barber who keeps Cubs players looking fresh on and off the field.
- The Cubs’ 2023 home paid attendance was 2,616,780, their lowest in a non-pandemic impacted season since 1997.
Odds & Sods
Future Cub Shohei Ohtani (angel emoji, bear emoji, smile emoji, winking emoji).
Shohei Ohtani has allowed a total of 21 earned runs in his last 18 starts while striking out 148 batters. The only other pitcher in MLB history to do this is Clayton Kershaw.
And yes, Shohei had the 7th-highest OPS in all of MLB during this time. 🦄 pic.twitter.com/ThD53vElbX
— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) October 3, 2022
Climbing the Ladder
“Well, I got all this time to be waiting for what is mine.” – Counting Crows, Hanginaround
Two games left, and then we get to chart our course for next summer. I think this will be one of the happier winters we’ve endured in almost a decade.
Games Played: 160
Total Plate Appearances: 5,988
Total Strikeouts: 1,426
Strikeout Rate: 23.81%
Team Batting Average: .240
Runs Scored: 640
Runs Allowed: 726
How About That!
A coin flip is credited with saving baseball in Seattle.
Rather than using far too many words to explain how the expanded postseason works, how about I link you to a bracket instead?
I think Danny Rockett has a side hustle writing baseball haiku for Sports Illustrated. I mean, that’s a Son Ranto exercise if I’ve ever seen one.
Baseball is finally connecting with younger fans.
Apropos of Nothing
Just for grits and shins, tell me who you think will win the World Series, followed by who you want to win the final game of the 2022 season. I love the Dodgers to steamroll the field, but it would be a lot more fun if the Phillies go all the way.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Albert Pujols – The old man hit No. 703 last night and passed Babe Ruth for second on the all-time RBI list with 2,216. Henry Aaron holds the MLB record with 2,297.
- Schwarber – Two bombs and a postseason berth for the behemoth slugger. Good for him.
- Jesús Luzardo – The Marlins hurler spanked the Braves last night, tossing six shutout frames with 12 punchouts. Atlanta lost a chance to clinch the NL East, as the idle Mets were rained out at home against the Nationals.
Schwarber takes a rip and boom goes the dynamite.
Kyle Schwarber crushes his second home run of the day and the Phillies are inching closer to the postseason! pic.twitter.com/kWiw5yfoR3
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) October 4, 2022
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Justin Fields should not solely shoulder the blame for the Bears’ offensive ineptitude. Analytics prove Chicago currently has the highest QB pressure rate and the lowest WR separation rate.
- Sunday’s loss to the Giants proved the Bears lack blue-chip talent, and that Sam Mustipher is one of the worst offensive linemen in the NFL.
- For a minute there, Carolina Reaper pepper challenges were a legitimate phenomenon. Back in 2016, the Guinness World Records’ world’s hottest chili pepper title holder was even causing incidents on school grounds—pretty much the adult definition of a “phenomenon!”
- Tom Petty passed away five years ago this week, so Eddie Vedder and Stevie Nicks paid tribute with a scorching version of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” at Vedder’s Ohana festival in Dana Point, CA.
- Aerial pictures of Sanibel Causeway show just how destructive Hurricane Ian was. It made landfall just 2 mph short of a Cat 5 event.
- Halloween is just around the corner, and that means Geico is once again running its greatest commercial ever.
They Said It
- “If you had told me I’d be right here in this spot, I’d tell you you’re lying. I thought I’d be in Scranton, Pennsylvania, still. I don’t know, September’s been long, but this year has been short. It’s been weird. It’s been a crazy year.” – Wesneski
Tuesday Morning Walk-Up Song
That time Bruce Willis, aka “Bruno,” thought he could actually sing. Looks like Kevin Bacon gave him a dancing lesson or two. I can’t believe Luther Ingram actually authorized this, though the Pointer Sisters did give Willis a little credibility.
By the way, all of today’s music selections are dedicated to my Blarney Island crew. The iconic island bar in Antioch, IL was a summer staple for the eight of us from 1989-2005. It’s only accessible by boat, and those were some of the best summers of my life. Only two of us are left these days, but the memories live on forever.