Suzuki’s Hard Luck and Progress, Robertson Closing, Central Injuries, Garcia, Newcomb, and Other Cubs Bullets

If you told me in March that, by late May, the Cubs would have a winning record on the road (thanks to last night’s win, they do now), I’d have asked how many games in first place they were. The Cubs have typically been very, very good at Wrigley Field. this year? Not so much.

• Over his last 14 games, Seiya Suzuki is hitting .245/.327/.408/109 wRC+. It’s not quite where he needs to be and the 36.4% K rate is sufficiently bad that it would really neuter the results over a larger horizon. But it’s a clear start – plus those strikeouts are tainted by a frequently terrible strike zone … – and he’s hitting the ball incredibly hard when he’s making contact (92 mph average exit velo over that time). Adjustments in progress?

• Meanwhile, did you notice Suzuki’s 398-foot rocket double off the wall last night and think to yourself, man, that might’ve been a homer in some other parks? And then you followed that by thinking, man, I feel like I’ve seen him do that a lot? Has he really missed out on a lot of homers this year? Well, if you did think those things, you are smart and correct! According to Statcast’s calculations, no hitter in baseball has missed out on more homers than Seiya Suzuki! Based on how and where he’s hit the ball this season, you would expect him to have about 7.1 homers, and yet he has only 4. That 3.1 difference is the largest in baseball, and if he did have seven homers right now, the math on his slash line would look a lot different.

• Heck, if he were on the lucky side, and every one he’s hit that had a better than average shot at leaving the park did, in fact, leave the park, he’d be up to 11 homers (tied for 4th in baseball , one more than teammate Patrick Wisdom). Just say’.

• (Stray fun fact: the guy at the other end of the spectrum, leading the board with the largest positive difference in homers (also 3.1!) … Anthony Rizzo. Dude is loving that short porch in New York.)

• Speaking of homers and expectations and ballparks, this was PERFECT:

• I’ve mentioned before that Happ, when batting as a lefty, is SO GOOD at peppering that exact spot at Wrigley Field, where the alley in left center is the shortest in baseball. I said it on the podcast earlier in the day. And then Happ goes out and puts one off the wall in that exact spot, where it would’ve been a homer at Wrigley Field and nowhere else. His monster shot to right field would’ve left every ballpark, for the record, and his deep fly out to center would’ve left eight ballparks, too!

• David Robertson did the high wire thing his last time out against the Diamondbacks – maybe his first of the year – so it was nice to see him cruise last night in a save situation. He has just been so dang good (1.76 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 36.7% K rate, 15.1 IP) that it’s gonna be a little sad when the Cubs trade him for a great prospect. /wry smile

• In all seriousness, if the Cubs do become sellers, they couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season for Robertson, who is looking like the perfect rental closer for a team in the race.

• It may not matter to the Cubs in terms of the divisional race when all is said and done (they are 8.5 back of the Brewers already), but it still seems major news that Freddy Peralta’s lat issue is a serious one:

• Sounds a bit like Adbert Alzolay’s lat strain, in terms of how long of an absence it creates (the lats are key for shoulder rotation, so so it’s pretty obvious why lat injuries can be so bad for pitchers). The Brewers are also already without Willy Adames (ankle) and Hunter Renfroe hurt his hamstring last night.

• For Alex Reyes, it’s gonna be shoulder surgery:

• Not all shoulder surgeries are created equally, and some guys come back just fine from minor shoulder procedures. But it sure feels like, unlike with elbow surgeries, the odds that a guy comes back from shoulder surgery being his normal self are much lower. The crazy thing about Reyes, 27, is because he came up so young, he’s already due to hit free agency after next season – a season that suddenly becomes entirely about proving health. He’s pitched just 145.0 big league innings since he first came up in 2016.

• Gear for gaming is among the Deals of the Day at Amazon today. #name

• Stray Justin Steele statistical praise:

• There is some luck baked into a data point like that – you can absolutely REDUCE your barrel rate over a large enough sample, of course, but there’s going to be natural variance at the ends of the bell curve on just how often you happen to give up a barrel (even if you’re, overall, really great at not giving up barrels). That is to say, I don’t want to leap to any conclusions here on a small sample, but I think it’s worth noting that Steele also had an exceptionally good barrel rate last year, and has the kind of nasty movement in his pitches that you would associate with staying off the barrel. (Recall, the statistical “barrel” is basically a batted ball that falls into the range of the exit velo/launch angle spectrum where you would expect the most damage.)

• I hadn’t checked on the big name former Cubs lately, so I was curious:

• Mixed bag, for sure. As mentioned above, Anthony Rizzo has taken exceedingly well to Yankee Stadium. Kyle Schwarber has been hitting a bit more lately, but isn’t quite where you’d expect him to be. Javy Báez has been terrible at the plate, but we know how that goes (he could streak into being the best hitter in baseball over the next month). Kris Bryant has been injured (back) and disappointing.

• Tommy Birch puts this reality well about Robel Garcia’s chance of getting another real look with the Cubs (and I’d also note that it gets harder with Nico Hoerner, David Bote, and Nick Madrigal coming back, too):

• Garcia, 29, is currently hitting a very silly .324/.423/.713/191 wRC+ at Iowa. I want to see him get another big league look somehow, but it’s hard to see how he gets regular starts, and there’s not much point in having him up if he isn’t going to get regular starts. I tend to think he would still strike out 40% of the time in the big leagues, so he’d have to obliterate the ball Patrick Wisdom style to have even marginal value … but he actually might, you know? He’s got that kind of contact quality. He just swings and misses so very much.

• Sean Newcomb starts what could be a very long rehab assignment (ankle) at Iowa today:

• I say could be very long because Newcomb has no minor league options remaining, and the Cubs might not want to push anyone else out just yet. Relatedly, while I don’t expect or necessarily WANT it, I wonder to what extent Newcomb will be stretched back out while in Iowa. It’s been a very long time since he was an effective starter, and I think it’s to the point where you should just take your best swing at making him an impact reliever – but this IS his first new organization in a very long time, and you never know if something clicks. With a 30-day rehab assignment, the Cubs would kinda get a free swing at trying to remake him as a starter.

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