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Cubs back in regular September form
And yes, that's bad
This is the third season in a row when the Cubs have been in position to win the division late in the season and their offense has disappeared. In 2018 they ended up in a game 163 with the Brewers, lost it and then lost the Wild Card game to the fucking Rockies. Last year they lost nine in a row from September 17 through September 26 and missed the playoffs altogether.
They won’t miss the playoffs this year, but the late season offensive dirt nap is a pretty clear indicator that they won’t need to worry about being Bubble Boys in Texas for the NLDS.
Kris Bryant has five RBI for the season. So does Steven Souza. Souza was released on September 5.
Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have combined for 11 homers. Eleven solo homers.
Kyle Schwarber is 0-for-his-last-26 with runners in scoring position.
Victor Caratini is 7-for-his-last-47.
Javy Baez came into the game last night with an OPS+ of 64. For comparison, the great Mike Freeman is hitting .229/.300/.314 for the Indians. That’s a 67 OPS+.
Oh, and Bryant’s a 60.
You know where this is headed. Back on August 4 with the Cubs riding high at 9-2, Theo Epstein couldn’t help himself. He was ready to declare his move to dump Joe Maddon and insert his oft-concussed old third string catcher David Ross as manager, a complete success! He only needed 11 games of proof to decide.
Theo had seen all he needed to see. All that was missing was an aircraft carrier tarmac and a Mission Accomplished banner.
“[Ross] has stepped in and helped address some things that have been lingering for years, and for him to do that in the first two weeks (of the season) is really impressive.” — Teddy Epstein, Cubs President of Hiring Dudes to Address Stuff
The Cubs would win four of their next five to get to 13-3. And when they back into a playoff spot this week they’ll have done it almost exclusively on the strength of those first 16 games. Since, they’re a languid 18-19.
Because, surprise, it turns out when you just keep running out the same players, you get the same stuff, for good and bad.
To be fair, if it wasn’t Joe’s fault in 2018 and 2019, it’s not Ross’ fault in 2020. But acting like something was fixed when it wasn’t and crediting it to your galaxy brain choice for corner of the dugout motivational speaker just 12 games into his tenure was ludicrous then, and it’s just as dumb now.
The Cubs didn’t have a terrible week. They went 3-2 and had two days off. Scoring two runs in three games over the weekend can ruin any fan’s mood. The two losses came at the end of a five game winning streak. They’re off to Pissburgh for four games, and as long as they don’t face Joe Musgrove (of all people) that should breathe a little life into the offense, temporarily at least.
Dare to dream.
There’s a reason three of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young Award are in the NL Central. Yu Darvish and Trevor Bauer have been joined by Brewers’ starter Corbin Burnes (eight starts, 4-0, 1.77 ERA, 83 K’s and 31 hits in 56 innings.)
Those pitchers have only faced teams in the NL and AL Centrals. And there are a lot of teams in those divisions that can’t hit.
The four teams that score the fewest runs in the NL are the Pirates, Reds, Cardinals and Brewers. The Cubs are seventh. Five of the six teams with the worst batting averages in the National League are the five teams that make up the NL Central. Three of the four teams that strike out the most in the National League are the Cubs, Brewers and Reds. Then when you factor in the crossover games against the AL Central, three of the five lowest scoring teams in that league are the Indians, Royals and Tigers. That’s not a rough road.
Giving a Cy Young to a pitcher who only has to face 24% of his own league is pointless, and it’s even worse if those four teams are any of the teams in the NL Central.
Last night, Schwarber was yanked from the game before the top of the third. ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian had a chance to ask Ross during an in-game interview if Schwarber was hurt. Ross said, “No, he’s fine.” And Vasgersian let it go. “Oh, manager’s decision then.”
That was bad enough, but an inning later, Vasgersian said:
“Cameron Maybin waiting on deck, not Kyle Schwarber. In a move that seems more curious now after David Ross told us that there was not an injury with Kyle Schwarber. I’m quite positive that the Chicago media will be tuned into this after the game, when Ross addresses the writers.”
Yeah, too bad you just talked to him and you didn’t seem interested in doing that yourself.
As if last night’s game wasn’t surreal enough, right after Schwarber got benched, Ian Happ was being interviewed while he was playing center field. So, on one hand, you have your left fielder grabbing some bench because he trotted after a ball after it hit the ivy and let Jake Cave stretch a double into a triple, but now you’ve got Happ yukking it up with A-Rod and Vasgersian from the outfield during the game?
Granted, Happ did a great job. He was funny and informative and clearly focusing on the action more than the dumb shit the announcers were asking him, “Who was your favorite Cleveland Brown? Jim Brown or Bernie Kosar?” (The correct answer had to be Charlie Frye.) But either you’re willing to act like you’re staying loose as you amble into the playoffs, or you’re sending a message that it’s time to tighten shit up. Hard to send both of those messages at the same time.
Ross clearly benched Schwarber as a wake up to everybody else. Kyle didn’t bust it after that ball and it cost them a base. The way the inning played out, Cave would not have scored had Kyle held him at second. Everybody on the team knows Schwarber plays as hard or harder than they do, so it should resonate.
Should. But it probably won’t make a nickel’s worth of difference. The team’s beyond messages at this point. Playing as hard as possible would be great, but that alone isn’t going to score any runs.
We’ll break down the Bears’ big win over the Giants tomorrow. Well, OK, the Bears hang on for dear life win. Whatever.
But, why wait? You can hear all about it in our instant reaction podcast that Mike Pusateri and I did right after the game. It’s the only Bears’ podcast that folds in prescient analysis plus talk about Bill Raftery and Three’s Company.