The Rundown: Hendricks Continues to Struggle, Hoerner Stays Hot, Horton Dominating Double-A, White Sox Historically Bad

“Smiling faces I can see, but not for me.” – The Rolling Stones, As Tears Go By

The Cubs are 13-9, which projects 96 wins, and they’ve played some tough opponents. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they split their series with a woeful Marlins team and have a couple of big pitching problems in Kyle Hendricks and Adbert Alzolay. Cubs manager Craig Counsell has temporarily removed Alzolay from the closer’s role, but what will he do with Hendricks?

Alzolay blew a save opportunity on Saturday, his fourth of the season, which puts him on a pace to give away 32 Chicago wins. Saturday’s meltdown hurt the Cubs because Hendricks entered yesterday’s game with a 12.71 ERA. I hate to blame the two losses on poor outings by pitchers the Cubs are depending on because there are other reasons. Still, Alzolay and Hendricks need to start stepping up. Keegan Thompson pitched the 9th inning in what amounted to mop-up work, but perhaps he’s an option to replace Alzolay.

Hendricks may be running out of chances to right the ship. Far be it from me to interpret Jed Hoyer, but he doesn’t sound as confident that Hendricks will get 29 more starts as he did last week.

“[Kyle’s] place in Cubs history is secure,” the president of baseball operations said. “I don’t think anything is going to change that. He’s struggling. The velocity is actually the same — if not a tick up — from last year. His location and execution have been poor. He’s paid for it; he’s faced good lineups. I’m not saying anything out of school — I think he has to pitch better.”

Hendricks was in desperate need of a strong outing yesterday and pitching against one of baseball’s least productive offenses (69 team wRC+) provided some hope he would. He gave up four runs on six hits over four innings, which is statistically better than any of his previous four starts. That’s a poor outing when you consider the opponent, however, and it also speaks to how bad Hendricks has been. He’s inducing soft contact, but he’s still allowing too many balls to be put in play.

His home run rate is downright atrocious. Hendricks has given up eight longballs, which accounts for 35% of Chicago’s total. He is also averaging just over four innings per start, which isn’t helping the team’s overtaxed bullpen. Counsell removed Hendricks after 56 pitches on Sunday.

The offense is good enough to win when Hendricks allows four or five runs, but it’s asking a lot to force them to do so in each of his starts, especially with the way Alzolay is pitching. Chicago has lost five winnable games between the two, and there is a world of difference between 17-5 and 13-9. That can’t continue, so each must improve quickly or Counsell will have to turn to other options.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

I think Jordan Romano is simply pissed because his jersey looks like a soaking wet washcloth.

Central Intelligence

Climbing the Ladder

“You know the day destroys the night. Night divides the day. Tried to run, tried to hide, break on through to the other side.” – The Doors, Break on Through (To The Other Side)

The Cubs were 3-for-16 with RISP in Sunday’s loss, which is why they cannot afford poor outings by Hendricks. That said, The Professor’s .392 BABIP is much higher than the league average (.292) and also exceeds his career mark (.286) by plenty. There is a caveat, however. Hendricks has allowed eight home runs in five starts, and those are excluded when calculating BABIP, which is, well, not good.

Nico Hoerner had three hits yesterday and was 2-for-3 with runners in scoring position. he now has 15 hits in his last eight games and is Chicago’s hottest hitter.

  • Games Played: 22
  • Record: 13-9 (.591), 2nd place in NL Central
  • In One-Run Games: 3-4 (.429)
  • Total Plate Appearances: 843
  • Total Strikeouts: 188
  • Strikeout Rate: 22.3%
  • Team Batting Average: .247
  • With Runners in Scoring Position: 51-for-177 (.288)
  • Runs Scored: 119
  • Runs Allowed: 101
  • Pythagorean Record: 13-9
  • Chances of Making the Playoffs: 74.8%, 4.8% chance to win World Series 

It might be a good time to do a wellness check on any of your friends or family members who are White Sox fans. They are just the 10th team in MLB history to drop 18 of their first 21 games. That’s a 23-win pace, and it might be time to just start betting blindly on the Sox to lose.

Baseball fundamentals are becoming relics of the past. Perhaps that’s the driver behind Chicago’s awful start.

Eating healthy at MLB ballparks has become a challenge.

Ángel Hernández. I’ll say no more.

Major League Baseball on Monday announced WM, a leading environmental services provider, as the Official Sustainability Partner of Major League Baseball. This would have made for some great Sopranos episodes — as if the proliferation of Sportsbooks wasn’t enough.

The Rangers optioned rookie starter Jack Leiter back to Triple-A Round Rock after his shaky debut start.

Paul Skenes is dominating at Triple-A while waiting for the Pirates to call him up.

Sunday’s Three Stars

  1. Mitchell Parker – Washington’s rookie starter tosses seven innings of three-hit, shutout baseball with eight punchouts as the Nationals blanked the reeling Astros 6-0.
  2. Tyler Glasnow – The Los Angeles righty improved to 4-1 on the season by blanking the Mets over eight innings with 10 strikeouts. The Dodgers beat the Mets 10-0 and Glasnow was overpowering all game
  3. Shohei Ohtani – He had two hits in the Dodgers’ win, including the 176th home run of his career. That breaks the record for Japanese-born players, previously held by Hideki Matsui.

Extra Innings

Chicago’s rotation gets a huge boost once Justin Steele returns, but who will be the odd man out among Hendricks, Javier Assad, and Jordan Wicks? Based on what Jed Hoyer and Tommy Hottovy have said recently, my gut tells me Hendricks will stay in the rotation.

Monday Morning Six-Pack

  1. I’m so tired of mock NFL drafts that I created an anti-mock for the second consecutive year.
  2. We can never have too much Keith Richards in our lives. Mark today as the first time I’ve heard that Richards plays a five-string guitar.
  3. Richards turned 80 in December and has shed a number of his bad habits, though he still enjoys a cocktail now and then.
  4. Happy Earth Day to those who celebrate. Did you know that cleaner air in the Atlantic Basin increases the number and strength of hurricanes?
  5. Passover also begins at sundown this evening. The Hebrew celebration of freedom carries extra meaning this year, though its liturgy also reminds participants of the hardships endured by enslaved Israelites.
  6. The House passed a bill on Saturday requiring a forced sale or ban of TikTok in the US within a year. The bill is expected to get through the Senate as soon as this week and will almost certainly be signed into law by President Biden.

They Said It

  • “I don’t think today [Alzolay] would be [the closer]. The job is always to be able to get 27 outs. The title of ‘closer’ is not an actual job. It’s just to get 3 outs generally or get 4 outs or get the last outs of the game. If… we have to do that in a different way, we’ll do it in a different way. If we can get Adbert back to it, that’d be great too.” – Counsell
  • “Of course I want to go as deep in the game as possible. But when you’re not getting the results and giving up runs — that’s a game we had to get. … I gotta be better and prove it to get those opportunities.” – Hendricks
  • “I understand what Kyle’s meant to this organization. And most of all, I respect his track record of what he’s accomplished. And you go through these. He’s gone through — maybe not this particular stretch — but stretches where you’re not pitching the way you want to and struggling. And you figure it out. That’s what being a 10-year Major Leaguer pitcher is about.” – Counsell
  • “We need better results [from Hendricks], frankly.” – Counsell

Monday Walk-Up Song

The Marlins have six wins, but two have come against the Cubs.

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