Contreras Plays Hero, Future Role Flexibility, Steele is Nasty, Madrigal Hits, and Other Cubs Bullets –

I’m not sure how I’ve avoided it all summer so far – I don’t think I’ve done anything better or smarter – but I finally woke up to mosquitoes last night. The itches are definitely satisfying when you scratch, but I don’t particularly want to do it all day for several days.

  • Willson Contreras played hero yesterday with the game-winning homer in his “return” to Wrigley Field, which was just perfectly scripted. You could tell how happy he was to be back:
  • I said it earlier in the week, but let me say it even more bluntly: if the Cubs truly love everything about Contreras and what he brings *EXCEPT* his catching ability (and the idea of ​​committing to a catcher long-term in his 30s) . ), 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, the play calling, the adjustments, whatever (the things that seem to concern the league about Contreras behind the plate ), and they are your main catchers. Contreras is turning into that old imagined 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 first base locked in as it is, and with Patrick Wisdom playing there this week, it’s clear the Cubs are thinking ahead about infield options. In turn, I just think out loud.
  • A couple more bits of Willson love:
  • Obviously the performance wasn’t quite there, but Justin Steele was just bad yesterday. Tied his career high with 10 strikeouts, this time in just 4.2 innings:

  • Not sure what, if anything, drove it, but Steele threw his pitches (1) much faster than usual, and (2) with much more spin than usual. The two are correlated, so it’s possible that he figured something out with his mechanics to get a sail boost (which helped boost the spin), or maybe it was just one of those days where he really felt his body. But it’s cool when you can see that kind of performance, see how bad the batters were doing, and then check the data and see a 1.7 (!) mph outing on the slider, and a 200+ RPM bump on the spin rate. That was just a crappy, crappy slider yesterday.
  • It wasn’t a save situation when he came into the game, so we still don’t know for sure that he’s the guy who’s going to get the call, but Rowan Wick pitched the 9th to end the game. He was my guess as to the guy the Cubs would prefer to take over the closer’s role for the rest of the season, and I do think that’s who we’ll see if everyone is rested. He’s obviously had his rough patches, but my sense is that the Cubs believe the *best* version of Wick is their best guy for the 9th inning. Whether he can be that best version of himself consistently enough to hold the role, say, next season is a very open question. (Could the Cubs try to fix free agent Craig Kimbrel again…?)
  • Meanwhile, Brandon Hughes is really turning it on. If you remember, he looked fantastic out of the gate, but then actually struggled a bit through his first 18.0 big league innings (4.50 ERA). Over his last 13.0 innings, since the beginning of July, his ERA was just 0.69.
  • Nick Madrigal had some hits yesterday, and it capped his best ten-game stretch of the season. A few big “howevers” there: (1) the ten-game stretch goes back to May 31st because he missed so much time, and (2) even in this “good” stretch, he only hit . 294/.333/ .294/79 wRC+. I’m fine with him getting a decent amount of playing time the rest of the way so the Cubs can have more information for the offseason. But there isn’t a realistic final two months that make it so the Cubs feel like they have second base locked down by Madrigal.
  • The Rocket City Trash Pandas, like every other minor league team, can’t get Cubs outfield prospect Yonathan Perlaza out. But unlike the others, the Pandas are, well, it’s in their name, and they did it:
  • The Rockies claimed Dinelson Lamet off waivers from the Brewers, and since the Cubs would have priority over the Rockies, that means the Cubs passed.

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