Happy Memorial Day!
A tip of the cap to the men and women that have given the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
It is Memorial Day and for the first time this decade, the Cubs have a winning record on the last Monday in May. The Cubs enter a very difficult homestand five games over .500 (24-19) and 3 ½ games back of the Cardinals in the NL Central. And the Cubs and Giants lead the wild card standings in the Senior Circuit. While there is still a lot of work to do between now and the end of the season, it has been a fun start to a season filled with a lot of promise.
Jorge Soler has been in the news of late because of the perception he is not producing at the plate. Yes, he is doing a lot of swinging and missing, but not every player is Mike Trout, Bryce Harper or even Kris Bryant, it takes time for young players to adjust to the big leagues.
The ‘struggling’ Soler completed an 8-for-25 road trip. During the six games, Soler started using the right side of the field again. Soler hit four doubles and scored three runs. Soler’s game tying double on Saturday night was forgotten about as soon as Anthony Rizzo hit the three-run homer in the ninth inning.
In 43 games, the player that many are starting to view as a disappointment, is hitting .280/.342/.411 with 11 doubles, a triple and three home runs for a .753 OPS. And over his last 23 games, Soler is batting .310/.365/.425 with seven doubles and a home run for a .790 OPS.
Jorge Soler has been inconsistent at the plate and in the field. Soler is not happy with the way he’s played, and that is a positive. Soler wants to do more and is working to improve every day.
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have preached patience with the Cubs’ young players. And Soler is a prime example. Not every player the Cubs bring up is going to succeed and only one or two of them might meet expectations. But that doesn’t mean those players are not good big leaguers that can’t help the Cubs win games and reach the goal.
When asked about Kyle Schwarber, who is putting up Kris Bryant-like numbers for Double-A Tennessee, if he could be called up to the majors this season, Joe Maddon did not rule out the possibility of a September call-up happening.
Schwarber impressed Maddon and the coaching staff during Spring Training. He is a mature hitter for his experience level and age. Schwarber still has work to do defensively but he is getting better.
The Cubs are committed to Schwarber catching, so it is hard to see how he could help the big league team this season. Schwarber would seem to be on the Kris Bryant timeline offensively.
Schwarber is batting .310/.438/.605 with six doubles, a triple and 10 home runs for a 1.043 OPS. Schwarber has 31 walks and 37 strikeouts in 40 games. Schwarber bunted for a hit Sunday to beat the shift the Biscuits were using.
The Cubs do not have any plans in place to call-up Kyle Schwarber and nothing is imminent according to the Sun-Times.
Buster’s Top 10
The Cubs slipped in Buster Olney’s weekly power rankings but still remained in the top 10. After reaching No. 6 last week following a 6-1 homestand, the Cubs ended up at No. 8 this week following a 3-3 trip out west.
Buster Olney’s Top 10: Royals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Astros, Tigers, Giants, Nationals, Cubs, Twins and Rays.
The Cubs have an incredibly challenging week ahead of them with three against the Nationals and three with the Royals.
OF Matt Szczur left Saturday’s game after being hit on the hand by a pitch. X-rays came back negative and he is officially listed as day-to-day.
Szczur continues to put up numbers for Iowa in between the call-ups. Szczur is hitting .310/.373/.483 in 16 games with two doubles, a triple, two home runs and a .856 OPS. In nine games this month, Szczur is 10-for-30 with two doubles, a triple and two home runs (.333/.432/.667) for a 1.099 OPS.
Albert Almora Jr.
Albert Almora Jr. returned to the starting lineup Sunday. Almora had been sidelined since the collision with Bijan Rademacher.
Almora played center field, batted second and was 0-for-4 with a strikeout in Double-A Tennessee’s 4-0 loss to Montgomery.
Kris Bryant – Bryce Harper
Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper square off at the big league level for the first time this week. The Cubs host the Nationals for three games and it will be the first of what should be years of the two competing against one another in the majors.
Bryant and Harper grew up together in Las Vegas, were teammates and played against each other. Bryant was very complimentary of Harper when he was asked about him over the weekend.
Bryce Harper is younger than Bryant and has been on fire at the plate all season. Harper enters play Monday with a .333/.471/.728 line that includes eight doubles, a triple, 16 home runs and a 1.198 OPS. And even with Bryant’s hitting streak coming to an end Sunday, Bryant is batting .273/.391/.445 in 35 games with five doubles, a triple and five home runs for a .836 OPS.
News, Notes and Rumors
• The Cubs are 12-9 in 21 one-run games this season, 5-7 on the road in games decided by one-run.
• RHP Neil Ramirez and INF/OF Mike Olt were able to spend time with their teammates over the weekend at Chase Field. Joe Maddon told the beat writers both players are making progress, right now there is not a timetable on when either player will be able to return from the DL.
• According to a report from Comcast SportsNet, the Cubs will see what they’re made of against the Nationals.
• The Cubs won’t have to face Paul Goldschmidt again until September. Maybe then, the pitching staff will just walk him instead of trying to pitch around him. Goldschmidt torched the Cubs again (5-for-10 with two home runs, six RBI, four walks, four runs scored and two stolen bases) and arguably the most underrated player in baseball steps it up against Cubs’ pitching, especially at Chase Field. In 22 career games hitting Cubs’ pitching, Goldschmidt owns a .383/.500/.741 line with six doubles, a triple, seven home runs and a 1.241 OPS.
• LHP Daniel Schlereth was placed on the 7-day DL on Sunday. Schlereth is attempting to pitch his way back to the majors and appeared in two games for the Iowa Cubs prior to landing on the disabled list. Schlereth has not allowed any runs or hits in 1 1/3 innings. Schlereth has walked two batters with a strikeout.
• OF Mark Zagunis is quietly batting .364/.474/.519 in 20 games this month with five doubles, two triples and a home run for a .993 OPS. In 37 games this season, the Cubs third round pick from a year ago is hitting .316/.438/.434 with seven doubles, three triples and a home run for a .872 OPS.
And last, but not least, former Cubs catcher, relief pitcher and all-around good guy, John Baker was released by the Mariners. When he decides his playing career is over, it would be great to see him back in some capacity with the Cubs organization.
This Day In Cubstory
2014 – Cubs signed free agent Manny Ramirez
2012 – Cubs signed free agent Diory Hernandez
2001 – Kerry Wood gave up a leadoff single to Mark Loretta to start the seventh inning. The only hit allowed by Wood in a 1-0 victory over the Brewers. Wood struck out 14 batters in the one-hit gem.
1993 – Cubs released Mike Dyer
1989 – Neil Ramirez, born
1984 – The Cubs traded Bill Buckner to the Red Sox for Mike Brumley and Dennis Eckersley
1981 – Behind 8-0 in the middle of the fourth innings, the Cubs rallied and beat the Pirates 10-9 in 11 innings at Wrigley Field.
1982 – In the third inning of a game against the Padres, Ferguson Jenkins struck out Garry Templeton, the 3,000th strikeout of his career. Jenkins was only the seventh pitcher at the time to record 3,000 strikeouts.
1982 – Brad Snyder, born
1980 – Scott Hairston, born
1977 – Cubs released Tim Ireland
1975 – Randall Simon, born
1973 – Todd Walker, born
1971 – Angel Echevarria, born
1962 – Ernie Banks was beaned by Moe Drabowsky and taken from the field on a stretcher. The Cubs lost to the Reds 2-1.
1931 – Jim Marshall, born
1908 – Joe Tinker hit one out of the park but is only credited with a double under ground rules of the time; the winning run was on first base as the Cubs beat the Giants 8-7 at the West Side Grounds
In non-Cubs related notes from history, on this day in 1935, Babe Ruth hit three home runs in the Boston Braves 11-7 loss in Pittsburgh. Ruth’s seventh inning home run off Gary Bush, a blast that cleared the roof at Forbes Field, was the last home run of his career. No. 714 And on this day in 1951, Willie Mays made his big league debut at Shibe Park in Philadelphia