Morning Cubs Recap: It was just one loss
today at 8:21 am
Last Game: Brewers 8, Cubs 3
Up Next: Brewers @ Cubs, 1:20 CST, Marquee
This isn’t an easy one to write about. Yesterday’s game was like the living manifestation of the fears every fan has about the Cubs in 2020:
- Yu Darvish not pitching to his potential – CHECK
- The bullpen imploding – CHECK
- Mental errors on defense/bases – CHECK
- Hitters failing to deliver with RiSP – CHECK
- Offense relying solely on the HR – CHECK
Most frightening of all, we had to watch a game with C.B. Bucknor calling balls and strikes.
My first impulse was to wallow in misery, to let this game be serve as proof that the Cubs window has slammed shut, that the team should have blown up this roster over the winter.
But then I let the rational part of my brain take over for a while. Once I did, I realized, this was Darvish’s first start. We know by now he is a player that needs to find his groove to be at his best. While this shortened season doesn’t allow for a long period of adjustment, there is more now that MLB has expanded the playoff field to 8 teams in each league. And besides, Yu says he is close, and I can see some evidence of that when examining yesterday’s game. His stuff was fine, he was just missing his spots. I’d be more worried if it was the opposite.
After Darvish left with the Cubs trailing by 2 after 4 innings I knew the Cubs could be in for a bumpy ride the rest of the way. I held out some hope when Duane Underwood Jr. was the first arm out of the pen. Regardless of his results yesterday, I do hold out hope DUJ can provide this team with effective middle relief. He struggled with his command as well, but at least he was mostly missing out of the zone. The one mistake he made on the homer to Smoak was to have his fastball drift over the center of the plate, but at least it was above the zone. It was a good job by Smoak to go up and get that.
I know Underwood’s fastball will get hit on occasion, especially when he is closer to 94 than 97 like he was yesterday, but his changeup is legit and the curve is coming around. He’ll need decent luck with his HR/FB numbers this season. As long as that happens he can eat up some innings in middle relief for this team.
I worry less about the bullpen performance after his exit. Once that run scored and the deficit expanded to three runs Ross chose to save his best arms and instead ran out four guys very much on the bubble for when roster cuts are due in two weeks. The Cubs will need one of Brothers or Wieck to step up as a high leverage option, and heading into the season Brothers had more of my confidence than Wieck. And I think we all saw why in this game. His control ain’t great, but his stuff has been electric.
- Kyle Schwarber put the Cubs back within striking distance with his bomb. He also walked. There wasn’t much beyond him though. The top five saw some pitches and didn’t make it wasy for Brewers pitchers, but that wasn’t enough as the 6-9 hitters went a combined 2-for-14.
Countdown To Cut Down
Over the first month of the season I am going to focusing on the players on the fringes of the roster. The Cubs will need to trim their roster to 28 players after the first two weeks of the season, then cut down to 26 two weeks later. My current expectation is for three pitchers and one position player to be the configuration on the chopping block.
- Bullpen: James Norwood, Dillon Maples, Dan Winkler, Brad Wieck, Rex Brothers. Once the bullpen reduces from 11 to 9 then settles on 8 pitchers, I expect the configuration to be 6 RHP/2 LHP. That leaves Norwood, Maples, Winkler battling for one spot from the right side, and Wieck and Brothers battling for one from the left side. All five of them have options so there is no waiver concerns. Performance can be the sole dictator. Right now Brothers has a clear advantage over Wieck in my eye. It is less certain among the righties. Norwood is in the most tenuous, for sure, but the battle between Maples and Winkler will be interesting. Maples has the advantage in stuff, Winkler in control and experience.
- Position Player: Josh Phegley. 3 catchers is a luxury, especially with the 3-man taxi squad on road trips. I don’t expect Phegley to ever make a start for the Cubs unless one of Caratini or Contreras gets injured. He will likely become the mandatory catcher on the taxi squad once rosters are reduced.
- DH count: Caratini 1, Contreras 1
An Eye on South Bend
- This will be a weekly segment beginning next Sunday where I will dig in on a prospect competing in the Cubs camp in South Bend. I haven’t finalized my plans for it yet, but I imagine they will be slightly more in depth than the prospect profiles I regularly did in the Daily Minors Recaps but not quite as thorough as the prospect overviews I do in the offseason.
Morning Cubs Recap