Baseball predictions are silly up to a point, but I’m going to predict the Cubs are about to go on a run that’s similar to what they did in the first half. The Cardinals have pulled within 6.5 games, which is still a mile away in baseball terms, but I do miss the double digit lead they enjoyed for awhile. The Cubs again have the best record in baseball, which they lost for a brief period when they forgot how to win. They lost 14 of 18 and with last night’s 5-2 win over the Brewers, the Cubs have now won 6 of their last 8 games.
- Dexter Fowler returned to the lineup and immediately put the Cubs up 1-0 with a solo shot to center field. Fowler continues to be the best free agent acquisition of the 2015-2016 offseason. He fell into the Cubs lap just as spring training started for just $8 million in 2016. The deal also includes a mutual option for 2017 at $9 million. The option has a $5 million buyout on the Cubs part. It’s hard for me to imagine the Cubs not exercising their part of the option, but it’s possible the Cubs and Fowler reached some sort of agreement that the Cubs would decline the option. Even if that is the case, it’s still the best deal of the offseason. Fowler went 3-4 with a walk, 3 RBI and 2 runs scored in his return.
- Addison Russell was 2-4 with a run and a strikeout. He also tripled to lead off the 6th and the Cubs failed to score.
- C.J. Edwards, Jr. has pitched really well since his call up. He was second in last night’s game in WPA to Dexter Fowler with 0.16. He came in relief of Jason Hammel in the 6th inning with a man on and nobody out. Edwards threw a clean 6th inning, allowing no hits and stranding the runner. He walked none and struckout 2. He had some nasty stuff that the hitters didn’t look like they had much of a chance with.
- Anthony Rizzo has had a few games lately where he’s been impatient at the plate and looked pretty bad. He struckout four times in a game against the Mets, though Noah Syndergaard started the game so at least some of that was just facing a great pitcher. Last night he was 0-5 with 2 strikeouts, but he did take the NL lead in RBI with a sac fly so it’s not all bad.
- Jason Heyward was 0-4 and he hit at least two weak ass ground balls. Heyward was better in June, or at least the early part of June anyway. He’s back to being pretty awful at the plate in July. His wOBA by month so far: .281 (April), .272 (May), .319 (June), .275 (July). He’s batting .231/.322/.319 with a wOBA of .289 and a wRC+ of 77. Thanks to some great defense he’s still been worth 1.3 fWAR, but this is about as bad a first season as any of us could have imagined. About the only way I can think it would be worse is if he had or does suffer a leg injury, which could limit his speed, range and overall defense in the future. The Cubs may have signed the best free agent bargain in Dexter Fowler, but so far anyway, the worst contract of the offseason is Jason Heyward.
- This third and final spot is going to Joe Maddon. After Russell’s leadoff triple in the 6th inning, Miguel Montero hit a soft fly ball to LF that didn’t have a chance of scoring Russell. Jason Hammel was due up and in the bottom half of the 5th, the Cubs bullpen was already active. The score was 4-2 and the obvious and correct decision here is to pinch hit. Joe did not and the Cubs failed to score. To make the decision even worse, after Hammel allowed a leadoff hit, he was removed in favor of C.J. Edwards, Jr. There’s really no acceptable explanation as to why you’d not pinch hit for Hammel, but take him out after just one batter the following inning. It was a terrible decision. Joe does many great things and those are discussed to death, but he makes similar decisions to this too frequently and for some reason the media doesn’t call him out on it.
Next up: Cubs @ Brewers, 6:10 pm CT