The Rundown: WillCo Explodes, Bullpen Implodes, Dark Tower Review

Thursday’s oft-delayed marathon was weird as heck and offered little recompense for those who sat through it. I myself was busy playing on the losing end of a softball tournament game in which we came up on the wrong end of a one-run final for the third time this season against the same team. Ugh.

I’ll talk about some of the ugly stuff in a bit, but let’s first give some love to Willson Contreras. If not for that business with trying to bunt – which he seems to attempt far too often — in the 9th with Anthony Rizzo on first and the Cubs down two runs, WillCo had himself quite a day. It’s not just about the pair of homers and the bases-loaded single, though.

Contreras has been on fire since adopting a leg kick in his swing back in mid-June, slashing .324/.397/.669 with 13 homers and 40 RBI over his last 157 plate appearances. His wOBA and wRC+ are .439 and 172 in that stretch, and his 1.4 WAR ranks first among catchers over the last 30 days.

What’s more, Contreras lowered his K-rate to 20 percent in July while walking in 11.6 percent of his plate appearances. Pretty solid. His consistent improvement is a testament to both his ability and his work ethic, and the results are continuing as the sample grows, telling us it’s more than just a fluke.

Not very relieving

When you score six runs on Zack Greinke, you need to win that ballgame. There’s just no excuse for losing after you’ve jumped all over one of the game’s best pitchers. We’re not in the business of laying blame at peoples’ feet, so we won’t be doing that here.

But if we were, we could start with Jose Quintana, who gave up a half dozen runs of his over through five rain-spattered frames. We could look to Justin Wilson, who has not been very sharp in two outings with his new team. Or we could point to Wade Davis, who allowed a pair of home runs in the 9th to cost the Cubs the game.

But, man, Carl Edwards Jr. has been a hot mess out there. I’m not saying it’s his fault that the Cubs lost, only that it’s a cardinal sin for relievers to walk batters and he’s red as a mofo right now. Through his first 33 appearances (31.1 IP), Edwards had a 1.72 ERA on the strength of 12.64 K/9 and 4.02 BB/9.

In the 14 outings since (11.2 IP), his ERA has ballooned to 6.17 and he’s notched 14.66 K/9. The latter is really good, outstanding even, and the ERA is something you can live with because relievers get dinged due to their short stints. Also, his FIP in that stretch is 4.16, which isn’t great but it is acceptable.

The walks, however, are killing him. Anyone wanna guess at Edwards’ BB/9 during the stretch in question? Ten. Point. Eight. Zero. He’s walked at least two men in five appearances during that stretch and has only failed to hand out a free pass in five others. And in six of the appearances in which walked at least one batter, said base(s) on balls came with no outs in the inning.

Despite having some of the nastiest stuff in the pen, I think a convincing case can be made that Edwards needs to be moved out of high-leverage situations for the time being. I’m not sure whether it’s a matter of having too little or even too much confidence, but the Stringbean Slinger would do well to get back to throwing strikes.

The Dark Tower

I do not write with my hands. He who writes with his hands has forgotten the face of his father. I write with my heart.

Writer/director Nikolaj Arcel would have done well to have recited this appropriation of the Gunslinger’s Creed a few thousand more times, though it may not have helped since I’m reasonably sure he never knew the face of his father in the first place. Metaphorically speaking, that is. Arcel’s adaptation of Stephen King’s epic tale was like an episode of the Maury Show, but with no resolution as to who truly fathered the brainchild.

There were some fun callbacks to other King works, which is more than fitting given the incredibly meta nature of the Tower series, particularly the later entries. But while it was as lean as Roland himself and the first novel that brought him to life — King himself called the movie “all killer, no filler” — the in-betweenness of the movie was as muddled as a billy-bumbler’s speech.

Everything was far too tidy and lacking in the exposition necessary to really breathe life into either the characters or their struggle. I suppose those of you who are not devotees of the source material might find that more appealing, given that you’re not going into it yearning for some of the concepts that are so integral to Roland and his singular mission.

Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but feel that it kept approaching a eureka moment, only to touch its own reflection in the water and watch as ripples muddled the likeness. Or perhaps you’d prefer to think of it like old trick of flattening Silly Putty onto the funnies in the newspaper and then seeing the negative image transferred over. Except then you stretch it out into something that’s still recognizable, but only just so.

Take, for instance, the scene from Jake Chambers’ first night in Mid-World, when he and Roland are camping among the remains of an amusement park that was left behind when the world moved on (mild spoiler alert). A few months ago, I tweeted out “Give me lobstrosities or give me death,” and I am sad to report that I’m only just hanging onto life.

Idris Elba was an inspired choice to breathe life into Roland of Gilead, and for more than the fact that it irritated the piss of purists (which I suppose has more than one meaning in this case). Matthew McConaughey looked the part of the Man in Black, but there was something missing there for me. He had more intrinsic purpose than your average two-dimensional baddie, sure, but his dialogue was too wooden and restrictive to really provide him with any conviction.

Listen, I’m not a movie critic and won’t try to wax intelligent about cinematography and all that fun stuff, though I thought the scope of the scenes from the mesa in Mid-World were pretty sweet. I only know that I began reading The Gunslinger nearly a quarter-century ago and have been waiting patiently for it to be brought forth onto the silver screen. Now that it has been, I kind of want to keep waiting.

This was a first go-round, though, and there’s potential to move forward with bigger and better adaptations. With this being another turn of the wheel, they don’t have to hew closely to the actual stories either. Except, isn’t that kind of the point? Without giving away too much to those who haven’t read and who still want to, there’s something to be said for the inexorable creep of time and the idea that we can never, ever truly get it right. Or maybe that’s just me.

Go then, there are other words than these.

More news and notes

  • The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel made waves when he lamented his team’s lack of movement at the trade dealine, but it sounds like it wasn’t due to a lack of trying. The Astros had agreed to a deal for Zach Britton and another big-time reliever who Ken Rosenthal wrote would have “surprised the industry.” It sounds like the Orioles were both incredibly stringent in their review of medicals and the Astros were very stingy in terms of the prospects they were willing to move.
  • The Cubs were scared off by Baltimore’s tactics, which is why they went after Justin Wilson with such fervor. Some of that was also fueled by San Diego’s valuation of Brad Hand, who wasn’t moved at the deadline as a result.
  • Tigers righty Michael Fulmer in on the DL with ulnar neuritis in his pitching elbow, which should not be confused with neurosis or neuralgia.
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