“We’re all movin’ on up. Lord, have mercy. We’re movin’ on up!” – The Impressions, We’re a Winner
The Cubs capped a semi-successful road trip by taking two of three from the Blue Jays but still managed to fall in the standings. The North Siders trail the Brewers by 3.5 games and the Marlins have a one-game lead over Chicago for the final Wild Card spot. No pumping the brakes now. Chicago’s North Side baseballers have upcoming series against the White Sox, Royals, Tigers, and Pirates before a three-game set at Wrigley Field against the Brewers to close the month of August.
On the flip side, Milwaukee butts up against one of the rougher stretches of their schedule. They play the Dodgers in Los Angeles before traveling to Texas to play the Rangers. The Brewers then face the Twins and Padres at home before their trip to Chicago. The Cubs should be in first place when the teams meet; if they’re not, something will have gone dreadfully wrong.
The Cubs are 25-11 this season when Mike Tauchman leads off. pic.twitter.com/wtdhtTa1F0
— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 15, 2023
I know the temptation to sit starters will gnaw at David Ross, but it’s time to go chips-in with the division crown within reach. That means letting Mike Tauchman hit leadoff and keeping Jeimer Candelario and Christopher Morel in the lineup. Nick Madrigal can rotate in and out at third, but Ross needs to keep Patrick Wisdom on the bench. Chicago seems to lose its spark when Tauchman isn’t playing, as evidenced by Sunday’s 11-4 loss to the Blue Jays. Sure, Jameson Taillon pitched poorly, but imagine where the Cubs would be if Ross refused to enlist his wretched Sunday lineup all season.
This is where you push the envelope and punch a hole in the sky because the combined record of Chicago’s next four opponents is 192-284 (.403). The Cubs won’t win all 12 of those games, but they should. Let’s hope Marcus Stroman is ready to go. Keeping Drew Smyly out of the rotation will go a long way toward catching and passing the Brewers. The team expects Stroman to be activated Wednesday, the first day he is eligible, to start against the White Sox at Wrigley Field.
Cubs News & Notes
- The Cubs have won seven of their last eight series.
- Stroman admitted that he’s “in a way better space” following the downtime, suggesting that the hip injury which has plagued him ultimately led him to try to compensate and thus compromise his mechanics.
- Dansby Swanson and some of his teammates essentially bullied Jed Hoyer to buy at the deadline. Candelario is a difference-maker, but the acquisition of José Cuas could be sneaky good, too.
- Swanson became the first player in team history to homer in three different countries during the same season when he went yard against Toronto on Saturday.
- The shortstop is slugging .483 over his last 70 games.
- It’s a subtle difference and a relatively small sample size, but the front office seems to do a better job of onboarding new acquisitions than in the days of Theo Epstein. Candelario is slashing .425/.489/1.114 since joining the Cubs, while Cuas has yet to allow an earned run in five appearances. Of course, Swanson and Cody Bellinger are having huge seasons, too.
- Patrick Mooney of The Athletic wrote that “not seizing” the opportunity ($) that lies ahead should be seen as a failure.
- Cuas gives Chicago’s bullpen a unique look, and the sidearm righty has earned the opportunity ($) to pitch in high-leverage situations.
- Hayden Wesneski is also embracing a relief role. He admitted to being guilty of changing his arm slot to manipulate a pitch, something he and the coaching staff have been working to correct.
- MLB Pipeline did their post-deadline adjustments to the top 30 prospect lists and there are some nice surprises in the Cubs’ system. Cade Horton is now No. 2 behind Pete Crow-Armstrong, and my guy Owen Caissie jumped up to third. Kevin Alcántara and Ben Brown round out the top five. Jackson Ferris is eighth overall, but expect him to be in the top five at this time next year. Crow-Armstrong, Horton, and Caissie are top 30 prospects in all of baseball.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Barring injury, Caissie will be the best among all current Cubs outfield prospects when all is said and done.
- Javier Assad was very impressive in Friday’s 6-2 win over the Blue Jays.
- The White Sox intend to play spoilers in their two-game series with the Cubs.
- The latest quiz from the legendary Bill Chuck of the Chicago Sun-Times is an homage to the gameshow “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Lucky me, I answered all nine questions correctly! Where’s my briefcase full of bills?
Odds & Sods
Manny Machado might want to check ESPN or FanGraphs. Baltimore is 73-45 this year and was 83-79 in 2022, but hadn’t had a winning season since 2015, a stretch that included three seasons with at least 108 losses.
“I’ve never seen a team rebuild that quickly.”
— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) August 15, 2023
- Milwaukee (65-54): Christian Yelich wants Cubs fans to know that the Brewers “are pretty good, too.”
- Cincinnati (62-58): Matt McLain and Spencer Steer are chasing Corbin Carroll of the Diamondbacks in the NL Rookie of the Year race.
- Pittsburgh (53-66): MLB insider and former GM Dan O’Dowd believes the Pirates are a year or two away from competing for the NL Central.
- St. Louis (53-66): Adam Wainwright might be reaching the end of the line of what has been a terrific career.
Climbing the Ladder
“But now we’re on our way, let the ride just take us. Side by side and make us see the world through new eyes every day.” – Pet Shop Boys, Winner
Bellinger is on pace to finish with 5.8 WAR, which would be the second-best of his career. Swanson is right behind him, with an expected WAR of 5.4, and Nico Hoerner is close to that pace, too.
- Games Played: 118
- Record: 61-57 (.517)
- Total Plate Appearances: 4,538
- Total Strikeouts: 1,062
- Strikeout Rate: 23.4%
- Team Batting Average: .255
- Runs Scored: 597
- Runs Allowed: 533
- Chances of Making the Playoffs: 67.6%, 3.4% to win the World Series
How About That!
OPS isn’t a perfect indicator when calculating OPS+.
Umpire Ángel Hernández lost again in his racial discrimination lawsuit against Major League Baseball when a federal appeals court refused to reinstate his case Tuesday.
Shane Victorino and MLB are calling for financial assistance to help Hawaii where a series of wildfires has killed at least 96 people this month. You can help by texting HAWAII to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
Monday’s Three Stars
- Max Scherzer – The new Rangers ace dominated the Angels last night, pitching seven innings of one-hit baseball with 11 strikeouts in a 12-0 win.
- Eddie Rosario – The veteran outfielder led the Braves with four RBI on a 3-for-5 night that included a home run in an 11-3 win over the struggling Yankees. Atlanta entered the game slugging .502 as a team, which would be the best mark in 25 years.
- Grayson Rodriguez – The Baltimore starter outdueled Darvish in a 4-1 win over the Padres. Rodriguez tossed seven innings of three-hit ball with seven punchouts as the Orioles increased their playoff odds to 98.9%.
I like the looks of this list.
Best Defender: Pete Crow-Armstrong
Best Power: Owen Caissie
Best Curveball: Ben Brown
— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) August 15, 2023
Tuesday Morning Six-Pack
- Retired NFL player Michael Oher says the popular movie and book about his adoption by a white couple when he was a teenager in need of a stable home are based on a recently discovered lie. That’s according to a court filing that accuses Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy of never adopting him and cheating him out of millions of dollars. Big Mike has never been a fan of the film The Blind Side. The allegation makes the line “Don’t you dare lie to me,” seem awful fallacious.
- In a huge win for “yutes,” yesterday a Montana state court ruled in favor of young people who claimed the state violated their right to a clean environment by allowing the proliferation of fossil fuels without checking their impact on climate change.
- July’s record-breaking temperatures were not subtle. A new heatwave is headed this way this weekend.
- If you want to go Mach 10, you should at least understand how airplanes fly.
- Hip-hop celebrated its 50th birthday on August 11. The genre was born at a house party in the Bronx in 1973. I disagree. Check out the hardcore eponymous release by The Last Poets in 1970 and thank me later for enlightening you.
- What’s the greatest debut rock album of all time? I chose Led Zeppelin I, and if you agree with me we’d both be correct.
They Said It
- “I love unique looks in the bullpen. Having guys with different slots, different pitch types, and pitch packages really allows you to do some cool things as far as matching guys up with certain hitters.” – Tommy Hottovy
Tuesday Walk-Up Song
Not the first drop, but assuredly the first mainstream hip-hop hit. Also, check out the song’s origins according to Nile Rodgers.