Morning Cubs Roundup: You need a few ugly wins
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Up Next: Cubs (17-10) @ Tigers (11-15) – 6:10 CST, MARQ
A frustrating homestand and series concluded on a relatively high note Sunday. The Cubs won. That is the most important thing. They won ugly, sure, but sometimes an ugly win can help a struggling team break out of a slump. It isn’t reasonable to expect a team on a losing streak to flip a switch and all of a sudden begin playing well. More often than not, you need a game or two like this to provide a confidence boost where just enough goes right. It takes the pressure off of guys when they know they don’t need to play perfect in order to win.
For instance, they won despite whatever mental block is preventing these guys from producing with the bases loaded (.182 on the season). Their failures in these situations has already cost them games this season. It very well could have again yesterday. But, it didn’t. They managed to find another way, thanks to Yu Darvish, back-to-back hard hits by Javy and Kyle, and finally some masterful tightrope walking by Kimbrel and Jeffress.
It isn’t a talent issue. It isn’t a “these guys are fundamentally flawed” issue. Every single one of these players has performed well with the bases loaded in the past and pretty much every one has contributed to the failures this year. In general, every hitter performs better when the pitcher’s back is against the wall. But some bad luck, and yes, some fundamentally bad at bats has led to a snowball effect.
You know reporters are asking them about it. And you get the sense the players are thinking about it when they get up to the plate (and again when they walk back to the dugout after failing to drive in a run). Maybe they can use a game like to help remind them they can fail in certain situations and still win a game. Hopefully that can free their minds and take the pressure off.
How about that man, Yu Darvish?
I don’t really have anything to add regarding his performance (Sunday and over the past year) that you don’t already know. He’s been dominant, pure and simple. The one thing I will note is that this year his HR/FB rate has turned around. Last year his 22.8% rate included exceptionally bad luck, just as his his 7.4% rate this year includes some good luck. But I also believe Darvish has commanded and sequenced his pitches a little better so far in 2020.
Side Note: Maybe Sunday’s game can also be a catalyst for Baez to break out of his slump. Javy finally took advantage of a mistake pitch (something he has thrived on his whole career but failed to capitalize on thus far in 2020). This came a day after he walked and singled. There has still been at least one ugly strikeout in each game, but just like the team, maybe it isn’t going to be a flick of a switch, but rather rubbing some sticks together to get the light to come on.
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
- Cubs made a few roster moves over the weekend. Most notably, Kris Bryant was sent to the IL. I had stated on Saturday I didn’t mind that they were holding off on that move simply because the team really didn’t have any position players on their 40-man roster to call up in KB’s place. The only options were 20-year old catcher Miguel Amaya and SS Zack Short, who is not officially a member of the 60-man player pool, although he is hanging out in South Bend with the other prospects. Well, the team made another roster move (switching RHP James Norwood from the 10-Day to 45-Day IL) which opened a spot for speedy OF Ian Miller. Miller was called up and made his Cubs debut as a pinch runner on Sunday.
- Everything apparently went well with Jose Quintana’s latest sim game, and the expectation is that he is close to returning, although he may work out of the pen initially given he worked only two innings. With the Cubs struggling to get reliable left-handed relief help at the moment, Quintana’s imminent arrival couldn’t come at a better time. The loss of Brad Wieck in the first week of the season and the failure of Rex Brothers to seize his early season opportunity in the expanded bullpen has left the Cubs with just Kyle Ryan from the left side. Even Ryan, who was probably the Cub most reliable arm last year, has not been the same in 2020. His velo is down and command off a bit, which has led to him getting hit hard in several outings. He still tends to keep the ball out of the air, but right now he is not trusted in close, late-inning situations.
Morning Cubs Recap