I am very happy to be back in hoodie season. It won’t last long before it becomes full-on winter coat season, but I love me my hoodies, man.
- The Chicago Cubs are single-handedly destroying the Philadelphia Phillies season. I’m exaggerating a little, but going 0-6 against the Cubs is quite a blow to a team that is right there on the border of the final Wild Card spot. If the Phillies had merely SPLIT the season series with the Cubs, they would be in the second Wild Card spot, a half game. ahead of the Padres.
- It’s still kinda blowing my mind that neither the Cubs nor the Phillies had swept each other in the season series in 139 years until yesterday:
- We have made the jokes about the Cubs winning the NL East this year, since they dominated those teams, but it wasn’t just a lot of wins – it was their best winning percentage EVER:
- The win was another of the increasingly-common “entirely-home-grown-pitching” performances, with Javier Assad, Michael Rucker, and Keegan Thompson combining for the shutout. Thompson just continues to look dominant in his multi-inning relief outings (although I know he also had some great starts, and I understand not wanting to fully close that door until you have to), and Assad looked as capable as ever as a depth. starter. It’s kind of funny that you would say Assad might be more likely to keep starting into next year, but Thompson is far more likely to contribute impactful innings at the big league level next year. I suppose we don’t know for sure what Assad would look like as a multi-inning relief guy, but it seems like, for a guy whose biggest asset is a very diverse mix of usable (but not overwhelming) pitches, depth starter is the right role.
- Rucker, by the way, keeps making his case to keep his 40-man spot this offseason. The 28-year-old righty has his season ERA down to 4.10, which is about 2% behind league average (the FIP is about 10% behind), but the ERA is just 2.38 over the past month. The peripherals have been only mediocre, though. You don’t want to just toss away a guy with minor league options remaining who has shown he can pitch capably at the big league level, but the crunch is going to be sufficiently real that the Cubs may have to risk it, and rely on their ability to produce more Rucker-level pitchers in 2023. If Rucker doesn’t stick, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him claimed on Waivers almost immediately.
- About the Cubs’ responsibility in the Wild Card race, no worries for yesterday, at least. With the Cubs win, the Brewers could’ve moved into sole possession of that third Wild Card spot, ahead of the Phillies, but instead they did this:
- You can now go all the way back to June 16 and say the Cubs have a winning record since then. With roster context, that’s pretty impressive! … but, of course, those first two+ months did happen, and they did torpedo the season. That can’t happen in 2023, and this swell of performance and optimism in the second half NEEDS TO carry over strongly into the offseason. This group of players, with this group of coaches, is just pushing-pushing-pushing every day. They deserve some strong additions in the offseason so they can keep pushing in 2023 from day one.
- Got into that quite a bit in the latest ‘Onto Waveland’ actually:
- A final record note for the moment: if the Cubs can just split these final six games with the Reds, they will avoid 90 losses on the season. I’ll admit it: even just last month, I *NEVER* would’ve thought that was possible. It’s a totally arbitrary line, but there’s something about 73-89 that looks a lot better than 72-90.
- Sounds like we might not see Justin Steele (back) in these final six games, though. He has had successful bullpens and might throw one more “intense” bullpen before a final evaluation, but the way the quotes read from David Ross, I’d say Steele is definitely done: “What’s the point of 2 innings where a guy has proven that [he can be a big-league starter]?” Ross said. “I think the main thing is he’s working on some stuff. The bullpen was intense — just continue to build off that and get into the offseason right is important. Coming back and starting, coming out of the bullpen — whatever we would ask him to do with where we’re at and having enough pitching — it just makes some sense to me to just go ahead and send him off on a high note.”
- Ross is not wrong. I want to see Steele one more time as a fan, and I’m sure Steele, himself, wouldn’t hate a final outing to put a bow on a breakout 2022, but none of it would fundamentally change anything. Steele broke out, and locked himself into a rotation spot for 2023, regardless of what happens this offseason. That’s saying a lot.
- The Mets are going to bring up top prospect Francisco Alvarez today, per multiple reports, where he’s expected to help mostly as a right-handed bat (ie, they say he won’t do much catching, if any). I think that’s probably right, but in reality, you do this right now in case he catches fire against pitchers who haven’t seen him before, and then he just keeps on raking into the postseason. The 20-year-old was going to be Rule 5 eligible this offseason anyway, so add him now and see what happens. I respect it.