The Rundown: Dodgers Offer Big Early-Season Test, Little Eager to Face Ohtani, Suzuki Destroying Baseballs, Betts Even Better

“A heart full of joy and gladness will always banish sadness and strife.” – Chet Baker, Look for the Silver Lining

My love for baseball has me torn on the Dodgers. On the one hand, it is refreshing to see an ownership group doing whatever it takes to try to win a championship. At the same time, I’m disgusted that Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed with little if any open outcry from the rest of the league. The Cubs made an allegedly competitive bid to sign Ohtani, but the interest wasn’t mutual.

The coup of signing both Japanese players was so magnificent that it dwarfed the trade to acquire Tyler Glasnow, who I also hoped would end up in Chicago. Some analysts believe the Dodgers are going to be the top destination for Juan Soto next year, so I refuse to entertain any thought Jed Hoyer will sign him. Cubs fans are therefore left with the fanfare that comes with signing Cody Bellinger to a discounted contract.

Still, I kind of like the David vs. Goliath theme to this weekend’s series at Wrigley Field where Chicago’s lunch pail squad will try to derail their 7-2 Hollywood counterparts. It’s Clark and Addison vs. Rodeo and Mulholland, but I like Chicago’s chances this weekend. The Cubs have quickly adapted to the unseasonably chilly Chicago weather, while the Dodgers are playing their first road games since opening the season against the Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

It’s early but the weekend series and subsequent West Coast road trip will give us an indication of how good the Cubs can be. I applaud the Dodgers for attempting to build an unbeatable team, but I’d love nothing more than to see Chicago’s North Side Baseballers scrap their way to winning the series. I’ve got the Cubbies taking two of three from the Trolly Dodgers this weekend, with wins today and Sunday.

With nothing but day games on Chicago’s weekend docket, Wrigley Field may not have the playoff-like atmosphere this series deserves. I’m also surprised ESPN doesn’t see the value of promoting Sunday’s tilt as their game of the week. Shōta vs. Shohei is going to be a whole lot of fun to watch, and I’d love it if this series is something we all look back to come playoff time. I believe the Cubs are better than a lot of their preseason projections. This is one series where they can prove me right.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I love the stance by Ty Cobb. He is going to put wood on the ball no matter what but potentially bunting in the middle of a blizzard seems unfair to the White Sox.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“He got the action, he got the motion. Oh, yeah, the boy can play.” – Dire Straits, Walk of Life

The Cubs’ 33 walks are third-best in the majors, trailing the Pirates (43) and Dodgers (39), who have played more games. Three of the team’s typical first four hitters also appear to be locked in right now. Suzuki, Morel, and Ian Happ have nine hits apiece through six games.

The Cubs appear to be running much less under Counsell than they did when David Ross managed the team. Chicago has just two stolen bases, one apiece by Dansby Swanson and Nick Madrigal. Michael Busch is 5-for-16 (.313) on the season but all of his hits have been singles.

  • Games Played: 6
  • Record: 4-2 (.667), 3rd place in NL Central
  • Total Plate Appearances: 242
  • Total Strikeouts: 39
  • Strikeout Rate: 16.12%
  • Team Batting Average: .276
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 15-for-56 (.268)
  • Runs Scored: 40
  • Runs Allowed: 30
  • Pythagorean Record: 4-2
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 80.4%, 5.2% chance to win World Series 

How About That!

Mookie Betts has a whopping 1.4 fWAR through nine games and 42 plate appearances. That equals the entire 2023 output of Kyle Schwarber, who needed 720 plate appearances to reach that mark.

In the wake of the news that the Athletics will leave the Oakland Coliseum for Sutter Health Park in West Sacramento at the end of the 2024 MLB season, Kings (NBA) owner Vivek Ranadivé hopes the city eventually will get an expansion team, though there are no guarantees.

The Phillies unveiled their “Unapologetically Philly” City Connect uniforms, and, well, you be the judge.

Pittsburgh’s offense has been the driving force behind the team’s hot start. The Pirates have scored 49 runs on 76 hits in seven games and they’ve drawn 43 walks.

Nike is testing different options to upgrade MLB uniforms, which have been plagued with all sorts of problems since the start of spring training.

Thursday’s Three Stars

  1. Tanner Bibee – Cleveland’s second-year starter notched nine strikeouts in 5.1 shutout innings to get his first win of the season as the Guardians tripped the Twins 4-2.
  2. Nelson Velázquez – Baby Boomstick hit his second homer of the year on a 2-for-3 night, leading the Royals to a 10-1 thrashing of the White Sox.
  3. Gio Urshela – The Tigers third baseman was 3-for-5 with two RBI in a 6-3 win over the Mets. The Tigers lost the nightcap 2-1, so there are no remaining undefeated teams, while the Mets are no longer winless.

Extra Innings

I have yet to give up on Crow-Armstrong, and shame on you if you have.

They Said It

  • “Whether it’s Day 1 or Day 50, you’re going to deal with these things all year. That is baseball in 2024. You’re going to deal with injuries. You’re going to deal with poor performance. Things are not going to go as planned. Part of what makes [Counsell] a really successful manager is he’s a flat-liner. We knew we were going to need a lot of starting pitching to get through the year. And now we’re faced with it right away. Very quickly after the game, there’s no bemoaning or lamenting. It’s just like, ‘OK, what’s the solution? What do we need to do for tomorrow?'” – Hoyer
  • “Young pitchers get a little bit better, they get a little more experience, and they also get innings under their belt. That’s how they get better. They get better at facing major-league hitters. The major-league hitter is harder to get out than the Triple-A hitter, so it’s a bigger challenge. It’s important that they get that challenge. It might not be in the full role of like, ‘Here you go, here’s 100 pitches, just go for it and see what happens.’ But it’s important that they face those hitters and also get those experiences and get those exposures so that they can make adjustments and improve.” – Counsell
  • “The way [Morel] is going to get better is by playing. We’ve never given him that opportunity in a Cubs uniform. We’ve never just given him the position and told him to go work on it every day and get comfortable and acclimate. The hope is that he continues to get better and better because it is really important. We have to be a clean team. That is how we’re built. We can’t make a lot of errors [and] we need to secure the ball. Our game plan will get derailed if we don’t do that.” – Hoyer

Friday Walk-Up Song

I’m not a big fan of Hootie & The Blowfish, but this is one of pop’s better post-grunge songs. That said, I am going to see them play at Alpine Valley on August 10.

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