“Summer came and passed away, hardly seemed to last a day, but it’s over. And what can I do?” – Electric Light Orchestra, It’s Over
The white-hot bat Ian Happ is lugging around these days just wasn’t enough to keep the Cubs on their longest win streak of the season. In a game that may or may have not been decided by a ball that got stuck in the outfield ivy, the Cubs lost 4-3 to a Reds team that is still in the thick of the NL Wild Card race. Chicago was neither good nor bad last night, and neither was Cincinnati for that matter, but our Boys in Blue were just a little more mediocre than their esteemed opponent.
Ian Happ – Chicago Cubs (20) pic.twitter.com/3oOB1e3j3S
— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) September 8, 2021
For much of the past half-decade, many of us didn’t realize it was Bears season until about Week 7 or 8 of the NFL schedule, but not this year. Last night felt every bit of the post-Labor Day, pre-Autumn evening it was, and once the magic of a seven-game winning streak hit the skids, it sure felt like a good time to start talking football. Heck, how many Bears promos did Marquee run during last night’s game? Even the Cubs conceding that this fall is going to feel quite different than any year since 2015, and Boog Sciambi mentioned Justin Fields three times by my count. If you’re keeping score at home, he uttered Andy Dalton‘s name just once.
Is it just me or did this summer fly by? Maybe it’s because we spent most of the last summer in isolation, or maybe it’s because the Cubs folded up shop for the rest of 2021 on July 30. Darkness falls a lot quicker these days, both metaphorically and literally. With 22 games left in the season, the Cubs are just six losses from finishing below .500 for the first time since 2014. In that respect, and to make sure I get in as many Baseball-Reference links as humanly possible, let’s talk about the difference between selecting 5th or 10th overall in the MLB Amateur Draft.
Evan teed it up nicely in his post about Frank Scwhindel yesterday, but I thought I’d provide some textual reference just to show how silly it is to spend each game biting your nails down to the fingertips hoping the Cubs lose as often as possible just to score a higher pick.
The MLB draft is nothing like its NFL and NBA counterparts, and you only need to take a look at all the drafts from 2005-15 to prove that. In condensed form, and please follow closely here, I’ll link to the actual draft and then provide the 5th and 10th selections, who the Cubs chose and when, plus the best player picked 11th or later.
- 2005: Ryan Braun (5); Cameron Maybin (10); Mark Pawelek (Cubs 20); Brett Gardner (109)
- 2006: Brandon Morrow; Tim Lincecum; Tyler Colvin (13); Max Scherzer (11)
- 2007: Matt Wieters; Madison Bumgarner; Josh Vitters (3); Freddie Freeman (78)
- 2008: Buster Posey; Jason Castro; Andrew Cashner (19); Wade Miley (43)
- 2009: Matthew Hobgood; Drew Storen; Brett Jackson (31); Mike Trout (25)
- 2010: Drew Pomeranz; Michael Choice; Hayden Simpson (16); Christian Yelich (23)
- 2011: Bubba Starling; Cory Spangenberg; Javier Báez (9); Trevor Story (45)
- 2012: Kyle Zimmer; David Dahl; Albert Almora Jr. (6); José Berríos (32)
- 2013: Clint Frazier; Phil Bickford; Kris Bryant (2); Cody Bellinger (124)
- 2014: Nick Gordon; Michael Conforto; Kyle Schwarber (4); Trea Turner (13)
- 2015: Kyle Tucker; Cornelius Randolph; Happ (9); Walker Buehler (24)
Having gone through that, we can be assured of a few things besides the fact that losing an extra game or two to move up a few slots is pure folly. Scouts and front offices take much more into consideration than choosing the best player available, which is obvious. The Giants had a wonderful string of drafts in the mid-aughts, and while the Cubs never had a chance to select Trout, how did they miss out on Freeman, Yelich, Bumgarner, and Berríos? By the way, Buehler dropped because he was coming off of Tommy John surgery. But still, what a coup for the Dodgers.
Cubs News & Notes
- Bench coach and acting manager Andy Green is really enjoying the team’s new faces. Despite last night’s loss, players like Schwindel, Rafael Ortega, and Patrick Wisdom continue to be key contributors, and the bullpen has regained the mojo it lost right around the trade deadline.
- That second-chance squad has found incredible camaraderie as the game’s unwanted castoffs. “There’s a beauty in being cast aside and [when] people start to doubt you,” said Green.
- Sounds like Green is indirectly quoting the movie “Almost Famous.”
- Willson Contreras is a big fan of his new teammates, too.
- Frank the Tank was named the NL Player of the Week. Like there was ever any doubt.
- Schwindel and his misfit teammates made for a great story this week and our own Ryan Thomure provides all the details in this week’s Tuesday Trends.
- Justin Steele said his goal is to become a more consistent starter.
Odds & Sods
Joey Votto won the internet once this was broadcast last night. What a great guy.
“You stay here and we’ll talk all game.”
Joey Votto arranged a special day at the ballpark for a young Reds fan going through cancer treatment.
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 8, 2021
Climbing the Ladder
“Gunter glieben glausen globen.” – Def Leppard, Rock of Ages
The Cubs homered in their 14th consecutive game yesterday, the longest active streak in the National League.
- Games Played: 140
- Total Plate Appearances: 5,141
- Total Strikeouts: 1,382
- Strikeout Rate: 26.9%
- Team Batting Average: .233
Over his last 23 games, the switch-hitting Happ has raised his batting average from .177 to .219. He has eight multi-hit games in that span, including five three-hit games, and he’s hit nine of his 20 home runs since August 12.
How About That!
Just for grits and shins, the following players were drafted ahead of Jeter (6th overall) in 1992: Phil Nevin, Paul Shuey, B.J. Wallace, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Chad Mottola. Jeter was worth twice as much career WAR as the other five combined.
Padres starter Blake Snell is really dealing right now. His line over his last two starts is nearly unprecedented. He tossed 14 consecutive innings of no-hit ball and, per ESPN Stats & Info, Snell joined Corbin Burnes (2021) and Rube Marquard (1911) as the only pitchers since 1900 with 30 Ks and fewer than five hits allowed in a three-game span.
Mets president Sandy Alderson acknowledged yesterday that two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom is dealing with a sprain in his right elbow. Alderson called it the “lowest-grade” of a partial tear in the ulnar collateral ligament. There is no timetable for the starter’s return.
Tuesday’s Three Stars
- Nelson Cruz – By homering twice last night, the 41-year-old Cruz became the oldest player in major league history to hit 30 home runs in a season. You’re may feel an urge to go check Barry Bonds so let me save you the trouble. David Ortiz and Darrell Evans are the only players to eclipse 30 homers after turning 40.
- Pete Alonso – The big first baseman also had two homers last night in leading the Mets past the Marlins. New York trails the Padres and Reds by 3.5 games for the final NL Wild Card slot.
- Ian Happ – If you took the last 50 games of the past three seasons and combined his entire offensive output, Happ may be the best hitter in baseball. He was 3-for-4 last night and crushed a home run to left-center, his 20th of the season.
Just another reason why it is so easy to love baseball. That said, somewhere Rickey Henderson is itching to make a comeback.
Starling Marte is currently tied for 5th in the AL in SB AND still is 4th in the NL in SB, too
No player has ever finished in the top 10 in SB in both the AL & NL in the same season
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) September 8, 2021
They Said It
- “[Happ] was going through stretches early in the season where his ground-ball rate was extremely high, even in comparison to his career norm, and now he’s down below his career norm recently as he’s heating up. Everybody’s excited about the way he’s swinging the bat and the quality of his at-bats. The lineout in the last inning was a great swing too. We’ve believed in him for a long time, and everybody’s really excited to see him kind of be [himself] right now.” – Green
- “The way [the new guys] are playing right now is nothing but amazing. The way they make adjustments in the game, and the energy is there. I haven’t felt this energy in a really long time, and I like what I see. I really love the energy that we have right now, and the chemistry is getting a lot better.” – Contreras
Wednesday Walk-Up Song
Autumn Sweater by Yo La Tengo. Some outlying areas will see lows in the upper 40’s across Illinois and Wisconsin this week and next. Yes, football season is here. Break out those crockpots and pumpkin-spiced everything.