Contreras Plays Hero, Flexibility Of Future Roles, Steele Is Villain, Madrigal Hits, And Other Cub Balls

I don’t know how I’ve been avoiding it all summer so far – I don’t think I was doing anything better or smarter – but I finally got stung by some mosquitoes last night. The itch is certainly satisfying when you scratch, but I don’t particularly feel like doing it all day for several days.

  • Willson Contreras played the hero yesterday with the winning home run on his ‘return’ to Wrigley Field, which was perfectly scripted. You could tell how happy he was to be back:
  • I said this earlier in the week, but let me say it even more explicitly: if the Cubs really love everything about Contreras and what he brings *EXCEPT* his catching ability (and the idea of ​​s long-term commitment to a receiver in his thirties), then there is still a sensible arrangement to bring him back. Basically you get the two catchers you want – the guys you’ve decided are the best at receiving, calling the play, making adjustments, whatever (the things that are apparently concerns in the league about Contreras behind the plate), and they are your main catchers. Contreras becomes this old fantasy version of what we thought Kyle Schwarber might be for a minute: a guy who catches about once a week (which has added value!), and otherwise splits his time between first base, DH , and maybe left field on a very rare occasion.
  • The Cubs don’t have a locked first base as it is, and with Patrick Wisdom playing there this week, it’s clear the Cubs are thinking ahead to inside options. In turn, I just think out loud.
  • Some other pieces of Willson’s love:
  • Obviously the efficiency was not quite there, but Justin Steele was just mean yesterday. Tied his career high with 10 strikeouts, this time in just 4.2 innings:

  • I don’t know what, if anything, drove him, but Steele was throwing his pitches (1) much faster than usual and (2) with much more spin than usual. The two are correlated, so it’s possible he found a little something with his mechanics to get a bike boost (which helped increase spin), or it’s possible it’s just one of those days when he really felt his body. But it’s cool when you can see a performance like that, see how bad the batters are doing, and then check the data and see a 1.7 (!) mph bump on the slider and a bump of more than 200 rpm on the rotation rate. It was just a mean, mean, mean slider yesterday.
  • It wasn’t a save situation when he entered the game so we still don’t know for sure he’s the one to get the call, but Rowan Wick threw in the 9th to end the game. He was in my opinion the guy the Cubs would rather take on the role of closer for the rest of the season, and I think he’s the one we’ll see if everyone is rested. He obviously had his tough moments, but I feel like the Cubs believe the *best* version of Wick is their best guy for the 9th inning. Whether he can be that better version of himself regularly enough to keep the role, say, until next season, is a very open question. (Is there a chance the Cubs will try to fix free agent Craig Kimbrel again…?)
  • Meanwhile, Brandon Hughes really turns it on. If you recall, he looked fantastic from the start, but actually struggled through his first innings of 18.0 in the big league (4.50 ERA). In his last 13.0 innings, since early July, his ERA has been just 0.69.
  • Nick Madrigal had a few hits yesterday, and it capped his best ten-game streak of the season. Some big “however” there: (1) the ten-game streak goes back to May 31, since he missed so much time, and (2) even in that “good” streak, he only hit .294 /0.333/ .294/79 wRC+. I’m okay with him having decent playing time the rest of the way so the Cubs can have more information before the offseason. But there’s no realistic past two months that make the Cubs feel like they have a Madrigal-locked second base.
  • The Rocket City Trash Pandas, like every other minor league team, can’t get Cubs prospect Yonathan Perlaza out. But unlike the others, the Pandas are, well, it’s in their name, and did this:
  • The Rockies claimed Dinelson Lamet from the Brewers waivers, and since the Cubs would have had priority over the Rockies, that means the Cubs passed.

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