Sunday, April 21, 2024

Alternate Sho


...He does know you're allowed to give up runs over here, right?

It took until Game 4 of Shota Imanaga's MLB career before he gave up a run, to the Miami Marlins of all people. Until then, he was completely unbeatable out there, and kept opposing offenses at bay like a pro. Now that he's drawn blood, I don't think we should hold him in any less regard. In an era where great Japanese pitchers are blowing their arms out and not playing [Senga, Darvish and Ohtani are all hurt right now], it's nice to see someone try a different approach and just outthink people. Imanaga's 30, he's not like the Roki Sasaki child prodigy thing who can throw fire, he's got 18 or so strikeouts so far, and is mostly just winning by being dominant. It's not the Yu Darvish style that Cubs fans may be used to, but they certainly love this guy already, and he's already given them some big games before the first month of the season has even elapsed.

The Cubs have been doing a lot right this year so far, and Imanaga is just the biggest highlight. But there's a lot of other smaller bits of progress, like ensuring Adbert Alzolay's continued success in the ninth, procuring Miguel Amaya's promotion to starting catcher, and the rise of Michael Busch, a guy the Cubs weren't sure about when he came over from LA. Busch has been a mainstay at 1st base, is hitting .300 and has 6 homers and 17 RBIs already. And for the biggest offensive performance so far to come from a guy the Cubs were shrugging off in March...that says a lot. Yes, Bellinger, Swanson and Hoerner are performing well too, but they haven't fully taken off yet. Mostly, Swanson and Hoerner are getting accolades for their defense, which...should go without saying at this point.

And that's important for this team. I assume the hitting will fully take off sooner or later, but the defense and pitching has made this team a competitor. Imanaga has had Javier Assad, Ben Brown and Jameson Taillon by his side, with great starts from each. The only weak link in the rotation has been Kyle Hendricks, who's been...unsettlingly bad this year, in a way that's worried many fans. If Justin Steele's gonna be out for a while and Hendricks isn't gonna be the rock, it makes things a little more nerve racking. The next guy in line is Hayden Wesneski, and after last season he's not a surefire hit in the majors, much like Jordan Wicks at the moment. So thankfully the guys that are working have continued their success, and the bullpen has enough people like Mark Leiter Jr. and Keegan Thompson to provide solid work.

I think the issue right now is that the Cubs just aren't the overpowering favorites the Brewers are. The Brewers have shown success in power hitting, starting pitching, and tons of small stuff. The Cubs aren't there yet. But thankfully there's enough time for them to get there. Hopefully Imanaga can give them a few more awesome starts along the way.

Coming Tonight- It's a wonder the Angels have seen this guy mellow out after pitching a no-no so early in his career.

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