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Know Your Enemy: Chicago Cubs

The dumbest time of year comes earlier and earlier. 

It’s time for the Crosstown series. I’m old enough to remember when there wasn’t a trophy given out by an oil company that was then hastily replaced by a bank in sponsorship land. Who cares — the entire thing is overhyped by 21-year-olds on Twitter who are finally able to drink legally.

Maybe the legalization of weed will mellow everyone out. For once.

2021 Cubs: 71-91, 4th in the NL Central

The 2021 Cubs began their downslide that we all know has been coming since the 2016 World Series. It was the second time they failed to make the playoffs since 2014, and the baby bears finished 24 games back from first. It was also a notable season as Tom Ricketts gutted the team and sold it for parts at the trade deadline. Javier Baéz was off to the Mets, Kris Bryant to the Giants, and every mom’s favorite Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees. They also dumped Craig Kimbrel in our backyard for Nick Madrigal and Codi Heuer, probably as revenge for the whole Eloy thing.

The 2021 season was notable for a few other reasons, too. It was when the Cubs began to field a veritable lineup of Some Guys(™) and set an MLB record for the most players used in a season by a single team (69, heh); Len Kasper departed for greener pastures of the White Sox radio booth and was replaced by Boog Sciambi; Theo Epstein said goodbye to the Ricketts shenanigans in order to take on MLB shenanigans (what does it say about your organization when Rob Manfred is the preferred choice?). Before the season started, the Cubs parted ways with Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Yu Darvish, and Victor Caratini.

David Ross continues to be their manager. The Cubs appear to have taken their managerial hiring practices from the Wilpons in placing a former player in the role that they can boss around.

2022 Cubs: A veritable group of Some Guys(™)

I was recently in Milwaukee for the Brewers/Cubs game and I have to say there were about five people on that Cubs team whose names I knew. There are only a very few teams that have that kind of low name recognition for me (the Orioles and the Pirates being two) so this tells us that the Cubs are firmly dedicated to 1) rebuilding or 2) using the team as a tax write-off so they can buy a soccer team in England.

Dealer’s choice on the reason.

The regular cornerstones of the Cubs, Kyle Hendricks and Willson Contreras, have been having a rough go of it so far this season. Hendricks finished April with a 5.47 ERA (not the worst he’s had in April) and gave up four home runs in 24 23 innings. Contreras, meanwhile, isn’t throwing anyone out (just two out of 12 attempts), so steal baby, steal.

The addition of Seiya Suzuki was supposed to have been the injection of new talent the Cubs were looking for. Unfortunately for them, he’s having a struggle adjusting to the new ballparks, pitchers, and everything else. Cubs fans shouldn’t be worried there, though. Suzuki is incredibly talented.

The Cubs are 9-13 so far, setting them in a solid third in the NL Central. When all is said and done, they should thank their lucky stars that their division includes the Reds and the Pirates

Pitching Matchup: Two Aces, a Smyly, and Hendricks

Tuesday is going to be Michael Kopech vs. Drew Smyly. Kopech has been cruising along pretty well this season so far. He’s 0-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Smyly is posting a 1-2 record and 2.79 ERA. Both have gone about 19 innings so far this season and have a four-pitch arsenal, Kopech’s including the 4-seam, slider, changeup, and curve while Smyly has a 4-seam, cutter, slider, and curve.

Wednesday will see Lucas Giolito vs. Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks is not having a good start to the season, going 1-2 and posting a 5.47 ERA over 24 23 innings. Giolito is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA over 14 innings. Giolito’s arsenal includes a 4-seam, slider, change, and curve while Hendricks has a 4-seam, sinker, change, and curve. The sinker is Hendricks’ main pitch (33.5%) and if that isn’t working for him this season, it’s a big opportunity for the White Sox offense. If the offense shows up.

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