The Chicago Cubs struggled mightily this week, but Marcus Stroman had two excellent starts, showing the form that the Cubs hoped for when they nabbed him off the free agent market. A couple of Cubs hitters soared while another plummeted to Earth. (Numbers in parentheses are NL rank heading into this week.)
- Record: 2-4, .333 (12)
- Runs scored: 12 (15) Runs Allowed: 31 (11)
- Player of the Week: Marcus Stroman, 1.38 ERA, 2.2 BB%
Stroman shaved more than a run off his ERA last week with a good start against Atlanta and a dominant one in Milwaukee. Stroman treated walks like they were sanctioned Russian oligarchs: in 13 innings he walked just one batter, producing the sixth-best walk percent in the NL.
The right-hander made it to 90 pitches for the first time this year in the Milwaukee start; the Cubs will certainly want to see that figure continue to trend upward. While Stroman surrendered a few more flies than is typical for him, he allowed just two extra base hits over the two games. Credit the squishy ball if you will, but plenty of other Cubs pitchers failed to take advantage of it.
Amidst a general offensive collapse, Patrick Wisdom and Ian Happ continued to rake, producing 140 and 125 wRC+, respectively. Four of Wisdom’s five hits were for extra bases, with two leaving the yard. Happ launched a dinger and drew a team-leading five walks. (Old friend Kyle Schwarber tied for the league lead with seven.)
What we learned last week
Seiya Suzuki is human. After two weeks of hitting dominance, Suzuki cratered with a wRC+ of four. Yes, four. The Three True Outcomes gaveth, and now they tooketh away: his high strikeout rate continued while the walks and homers disappeared. Suzuki doesn’t hit cutters, changeups, and curves as well as the harder stuff. Last week, compared to his season average, he saw more cutters, changeups, and curves. Sometimes baseball isn’t all that complicated.
That said, his collapse was across the board: Suzuki fared poorly against almost every pitch he faced. The only one he managed a positive run value against was, surprisingly, the curve. You can see the ghastly data for the Cubs qualifying hitters here. Given the team’s overall offensive ineptitude last week, it’s not a shock to see all those negative numbers. In any event, Suzuki has entered the first of many periods in which he will need to adjust to his mound opponents.
What we questioned last week
Nobody beats The Wiz, but how long can Patrick Wisdom keep this up? Last week he pummeled five extra base hits while striking out 39.1 percent of the time. Wisdom has the fourth-highest K percent in the majors. You have to drop all the way down to the 20th guy on that list, Miami’s Jesus Sanchez, to find a player with a better wRC+ than Wisdom. Most of the hitters in Wisdom’s strikeout neighborhood are under water. Josh Lowe, the guy right after Wisdom, just received his bus ticket to Durham.
Wisdom has shoved his whole stack in on power. His .271 ISO is 11th in the majors, and many of the guys above him on the ISO list are frequent MVP candidates. But none them whiff any where near as frequently as Wisdom, whose season mark stands at 38.5 percent.
Happ provides an interesting contrast. So far this year, Happ has walked more than he’s whiffed. Happ’s BABIP is just .214, yet he’s still been one of the better hitters in the league. As between the two, the futures market for Happ certainly looks brighter. But Wisdom’s ultimate high-wire plate appearances are, for now, a heck of a lot more entertaining.
Last week the Brewers hit just one Cub (Nico Hoerner), and the Cubs (in the person of Kyle Hendricks) hit just one Brewer (Kolten Wong, OK – twice). Just three beanings in the series: that’s progress.
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Angry baseballs seemed to focus their wrath on the Mets this week, so maybe they were just too busy to bother the Cubs. But this week’s Brewers-Cubs series seemed to show that their encounters do not have to degenerate into dodgeball parodies. Whether the league quietly intervened or people just came to their senses, it was encouraging to see a cleaner series this time around.