Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Assad One Out


If it had just been Javier Assad and Jameson Taillon with ERAs under 2.50 by mid-May, that might be good enough for Cubs fans. Two unhittable pitchers, one who's come into his own in Chicago, the other who's only gotten better with more opportunities. That's fantastic. But...then they've got Shota Imanaga with a sub-1 ERA by mid-May, and that's something most Cubs fans didn't even know they wanted til earlier this year.

The Cubs' rotation this year has not been perfect. Justin Steele has been a bit rockier than usual coming back from an injury, and there is the worry that after pitching the best material of his career last year that he'll immediately need surgery. Ben Brown and Jordan Wicks haven't been THE answers that the club previously thought. Kyle Hendricks...I mean...look at 'im. What's going on there?? Something is clearly up. But Imanaga-Assad-Taillon has been fantastic, and it looks like Hayden Wesneski is finally fully MLB-ready and catching up in a longman/occasionally-fifth starter role. Considering we went from the ironclad 2016-2019 rotations to the starting options being 'Kyle Hendricks and whoever we can wrangle into one place for 30 seconds', this is some immense improvement, and it says a lot about how well the Cubs have been building themselves.

The most striking issue the Cubs have had in the last month has been injuries. You've already seen people like Cody Bellinger, Jameson Taillon and Justin Steele take IL stints and then come back, but we're just now losing Dansby Swanson, and the majority of the bullpen is on the IL. The Cubs have had to scramble for relief options, hence trading for Tyson Miller and doubling down on innings for Jose Cuas and Luke Little. They have so much roster space dedicated to injured relievers that they only have one active pitcher on the 40-man who's not up with the club. Michael Arias, who's up in double-A. And you know what? If this arrangement's working, then fine. But if one more reliever gets hurt, and your next best option is a 22-year old from the Smokies who hasn't even made it to Iowa yet, then you really need to work on putting together a package for Mason Miller or something.

There's still a lot about this team that works. Bellinger and Morel are RBI machines. PCA and Amaya are proof that the kids can take over. Busch and Tauchman have been nice surprises. And Hector Neris and Mark Leiter Jr. have been doing a lot to prove that problem was, in fact, the Phillies' bullpen coaches. This is a strong 2nd place Cubs team, and their more even May has been helped by the fact that the only NL Central team to really improve in the last few weeks has been the Pirates, helped by two Paul Skenes starts...against the Cubs.

The Cubs have a fair shot to compete in October this year, and hopefully the injury gods are a little kinder to them going forward. 

Coming Tonight- Josh Jung's out for a bit, and the next best option is someone who had been waiting for an opportunity to play everyday for the past 2 years. So, unsurprisingly, it's going well for him. 

1 comment:

  1. The injury bug has bitten the Cubs big time, but fortunately they're short term injuries instead of 3-4 month injuries. Hopefully Hendrick's bullpen run will turn his season around, he seems to do alright the first time through the lineup, so long relief may work out.