Stroman’s Return, No Comebacks, Effross, Suzuki, and Other Cubs Bullets

I am told that the root canal was a success yesterday, but I was also told it would not be painful and that was definitely not accurate. I apparently fall into a small-ish category of folks who have trouble being numbed properly (it’s happened in the past with various procedures, so I was kinda on alert for it), and let me tell you, when that drill goes into your tooth and you’re NOT numbed, it does not feel good! Thankfully eventually they got me there, but I am extremely sore today thanks to the extra work that had to be done.

• Marcus Stroman looked really good last night, especially for a guy who hadn’t pitched in 18 days and just got over COVID. Here’s how he described it to The Athletic: “It was tough,” Stroman said. “My family had it. I was just really, really tired. Pretty much just in bed and didn’t have any energy to do anything. Just listened to my body, just took the days that I needed. The second I felt good, kind of got it ramped back up and started preparing to be back out there. ”

• You see five innings and three runs and you wonder about the start, but one of the runs was unearned because of a passed ball, another of the runs came because the Diamondbacks perfectly sequenced their hits with two outs, and only one was because of a titanic home run. Stroman got 11 whiffs on 77 pitches, had a 34% CSW, and wasn’t giving up much hard contact. It was just good all around, and very encouraging after the layoff AND after his last start (the May 1 outing against the Brewers) was so good.

• Speaking of having Stroman back, he rejoins a Cubs rotation that has been sneaky excellent in his absence. From Sahadev Sharma: “The rotation had started the season dreadfully, including Stroman, who had an 8.78 ERA over his first three starts. Somehow the starters matched last season’s numbers through the first 27 games – a 5.27 ERA, 27th in the majors. But in their 10 games since, they’ve delivered a 2.63 ERA, second best in the bigs during that stretch. ” Your obligatory caution there is that the games have come largely against a couple bottom-five offenses in Arizona and Pittsburgh, but there has been a lot to like in the visual performance.

• Stray thing that has been mentioned to me a few times this week, so apparently a lot of us are seeing it come to a head:

• It isn’t just Peter – this year’s Cubs have not done the late comeback thing. At all. It has been very conspicuous by its absence, and while comeback wins are not common, we’re not talking about shocking, 9th inning turnarounds – even down just a couple runs from the 6th inning on, the Cubs have not been coming back.

• One part of that to turn into a compliment, though: the Cubs bullpen has been so good that they have KEPT the Cubs in those games to the end, which makes it FEEL even more frustrating that the offense can’t ever overcome a one or two-run deficit. It feels a lot different if most of those one-run 5th inning games become four and five-run games by the 8th inning.

• Speaking of the bullpen, it kinda blows my mind that there are 24 relievers in baseball with a better ERA than Scott Effross’s 1.06. I guess that’s a reminder about the early-season offensive environment. That said, just one reliever – Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley – has a better FIP than Effross’s 0.98 (and only 0.80 when coming out of the bullpen (remember he was an opener…)).

• As Ken Rosenthal noted in his latest, if not for the three blowout wins over the Pirates, the Cubs’ +4 run differential on the season would actually be -33. Those games still count, of course, but their scope certainly skews the numbers considerably from where we believe the Cubs’ true talent outcomes would be. (Bonus “fun” – the Cubs are +29 against the Pirates this year… and have a losing record against the Pirates this year.)

• This sure isn’t the sole reason for his down period, but it isn’t helping when this keeps happening to Seiya Suzuki (if the image cuts off for you, pitch one was below the zone and pitch three was inside):

• Since his scorching first 10 days, Suzuki is hitting just .193/.245/.307/57 wRC+, with a 35.1% K rate. Since his swinging strike rate is only 11.0% during that period (not good, but not bad), you can presume his strikeout issues continue to be because of all the strikes he watches go by. And, if the strike zone isn’t actually being called correctly on him, that sure ain’t gonna help him stay within his zone and not go into the other kind of problem (ie, extending for weak contact or whiffs on pitches out of the zone).

• If you want to depart this Suzuki section on a positive note, he’s got a 105 wRC+ over his last 11 games, so maybe we’re seeing some more stabilizing happening. But then again, that period includes a 36.6% K rate.

• Trevor Story had a four-hit, three-homer game last night for the Red Sox, and it improved his season line from a dreadful (oh god what have we done !?) .205/.293/.320/79 wRC+ to a solid (oh see he’s probably fine) .230/.317/.413/111 wRC+. That is one of the more extreme swings I’ve seen in late May, and I think often about how much a single game like that can change the way fans talk about a player’s season, depending on what day they happen to look at his stats .

• Automatic balls and strikes (robo ump) has reached half of Triple-A (not the half the Iowa Cubs are in), and a reminder on what the zone is:

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