The Rundown: Cubs Coast Through Cali, Steele Continues Stellar Run, Scherzer Ejected for Sticky Substance Violation
“Thanks to you I’m much obliged for such a pleasant stay.” – Led Zeppelin, Ramble On
Your Cubs just took five of six games on a mini-West Coast swing and now come home to Chicago to face the Dodgers and Padres. Believe it or not, both have losing records. Good morning Mr. and Mrs. John Q Baseball Fan and all ships at sea. Welcome to your morning Rundown!
Cubs News & Notes
- You know things are going well when Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic does a feature on your team. Rosenthal said team chemistry is off the charts ($), and a lot of that has to do with veterans springing for team dinners when the team is on the road.
- Chicago’s recent offensive surge has put them in rarified air. According to Stathead’s research tools, this marks the 12th time since at least 1900 that they have scored 99 runs in their first 17 games of the regular season and the first time they’ve hit that mark since the 2019 season. Of the previous 11 occasions, which includes the 2016 World Series-winning squad, the Cubs made the playoffs five times.
- Cubs starters posted a 1.23 ERA and 0.79 WHIP, and opponents hit just .157 against them in 36.2 innings of work on the road trip. The performances were bookended by a pair of strong starts by lefty Justin Steele.
- Steele now has 11 straight starts in which he’s given up two runs or less. He has had a sparkling 1.17 ERA since July 22, 2022, the best of any pitcher in the majors with a minimum of 10 starts.
- The Cubs are clicking on all cylinders in all components of the game right now.
- The West Coast swing proved that the Cubs’ offense is more than just Dansby Swanson. Nico Hoerner, Patrick Wisdom, Seiya Suzuki, and Cody Bellinger had breakout performances on the six-game trip.
- Suzuki was given the day off yesterday.
- Wisdom has been balling when faced with two-strike counts.
- No. 4 prospect Cade Horton tossed four innings of no-hit, seven-strikeout baseball in his second pro start.
- Pete Crow-Armstrong hit his first home run of the season on Tuesday night.
- I dropped my first “Caught Looking” column last night, which will be an observational counterpoint to The Rundown. That’s a sophisticated way of saying “Go there to find the preamble that used to be here” (but with a little more detail). That column will also be a daily event and uses the Sunday Rundown format as its foundation.
Odds & Sods
Oh, for the days when you could buy Beechnut Gum or El Producto Cigars at the ballpark. By the way, if you want ice in your soda it’s going to cost you an extra dime. I also love that kosher dogs cost a nickel extra and that your popcorn box doubled as a megaphone. But fish cakes? Seriously?
Concession prices at Connie Mack stadium in 1954 pic.twitter.com/qSxdLuapPI
— BaseballHistoryNut (@nut_history) April 19, 2023
- St. Louis: Willson Contreras and Madison Bumgarner had a little tête-à-tête yesterday and, though it was fun to watch, it’s really just two of baseball’s biggest egos butting heads.
- Milwaukee: Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first Christian Yelich trade rumors of the year and wouldn’t it be fun if the Brewers shipped him back to the Marlins?
- Cincinnati: The Hunter Greene contract extension proves the Reds are sticking to their plan of building from within.
- Pittsburgh: The Pirates are among the top three teams in the National League in runs scored, and hey, they might be a little better than any of us predicted. Guess the other two?
Climbing the Ladder
“We don’t know where we’re going, but the season’s right for knowing.” – The Who, Join Together
The run differential is insane and the Cubs are now third-best in all of baseball in that statistic. I’m surprised their Pythagorean record is only 12-5, but that’s a pretty petty complaint right now. Chicago was only 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position yesterday, so the damage could have been much worse.
By the way, if you peek under the hood, Nick Madrigal is slashing .345/.387/.801 with an OPS+ of 119. Can we please stop talking about cutting this kid?
Eric Hosmer hit his first home run as a Cub in his attempt to stave off Matt Mervis, though I don’t think a Mervis promotion necessarily means Hosmer will be cut. Back in February, we believed the two could co-exist on this roster and that’s still very possible. Hosmer is the type of veteran presence a playoff team needs.
Yes, I said playoffs, and why not? If the Cubs play .500 ball the rest of the way they’d finish with 88 wins. That would have been good enough to get in last season.
- Games Played: 17
- Record: 11-6 (.647)
- Total Plate Appearances: 670
- Total Strikeouts: 142
- Strikeout Rate: 21.19%
- Team Batting Average: .286
- Runs Scored: 99
- Runs Allowed: 60
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 64.7%, 1.8% to win the World Series
How About That!
The Athletics have entered into a binding agreement to buy a ballpark site in Las Vegas. This is great news for baseball, and Billy Beane must be ecstatic.
Max Scherzer was ejected from yesterday’s game because he was going to his rosin bag too often. Umpire Dan Bellino said Scherzer “had the stickiest hands” he’s seen in three seasons of inspecting pitchers. Come again? I suppose that’s why the ace needed so much rosin.
Scherzer’s ejection also exposed baseball’s tricky substance rules.
From Ben Clemons of FanGraphs: “Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is a force of nature. He’s one of the best hitters in baseball and in a very obvious way. He scalds the baseball to all fields and he hits a bunch of home runs.”
For those outside of Cubs fandom, the Pirates are the most exciting team in baseball.
Brewers veterans, whose salaries are somewhat lower than their Chicago rivals, buy team lunches when the team is on the road. So there you have it…there really is such a thing as a free lunch. Yelich can’t afford to spring for dinner?
Aaron Judge wanted Shohei Ohtani to know who the real American League MVP is.
Wednesday’s Three Stars
- Andrew McCutchen – The veteran has discovered Tiger Blood in his return to the Pirates. He’s slashing .310/.417/.903 after a 2-for-5 day that included his fourth home run.
- Luis Garcia – The Astros starter dominated the Blue Jays yesterday. He went seven strong with nine strikeouts, allowing only two hits and one walk.
- Hosmer – He was 2-for-5 with a tater and three runs scored. Give the man his due.
The Cubs may have crushed the A’s yesterday, but Mason Miller has all the earmarks of a rotation stud.
Mason Miller vs Patrick Wisdom.
Look at this stuff. It's totally Ridiculous. 😳
Slider in the dirt/Sword
Slider outer third/Buckle
102mph with sink/run/ball
Then blows him away with elevated 102 ⛽️ pic.twitter.com/PKmx4auunw
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 19, 2023
Thursday Morning Six-Pack
- The Bears have Andrew Billings and Justin Jones as their starting defensive tackles, but Jalen Carter would be a nice addition if he’s available when Ryan Poles is on the clock next week.
- No judgment from me if you’re still using Facebook now, but if you were using the social network any time between May 2007 and December 2022, you can submit a claim here for your share of a $725 million privacy settlement. Someone tell Sean Holland, please and thank you.
- Happy 4/20, celebrate accordingly and be sure to pay your respects to Willie Nelson, who turns 90 next week.
- Speaking of 4/20, here are the 10 best stoner movies of all time and 25 to watch once you’ve imbibed. By the way, any movie can take on a surreal quality if you’ve been smoking from the devil’s garden.
- Your morning wouldn’t be complete without 14 ribald rock star stories that involve those left-handed cigarettes.
- Russia is expanding its military recruiting drive with ads targeting “real men.” I wonder if Budweiser is a sponsor.
They Said It
- “Someone said something like, ‘Man, we’ve already had three or four team dinners. That’s three or four more than we had last year. You bring in veterans, guys who have been in winning organizations, and that’s the stuff that happens.” – Jameson Taillon
- “You typically see that out of relievers, the two-pitch mix. But it’s funky, and it’s relentless. [Steele’s] fastball just kind of goes away. Sometimes his slider turns into a curveball. Sometimes his curveball turns into a slider. So it looks maybe like two pitches, but sometimes it’s three, maybe four, even if he throws a straight heater and then he throws a fastball that cuts. But it also shows how good both of those pitches are.” – Tucker Barnhart
Thursday Walk-Up Song
It’s his week.