baseball

Keegan Thompson Looked Incredible, Next Steps for Estrada, Mexican Talent Pipeline, Girardi, and Other Cubs Bullets

It’s Hayden Wesneski Day! I guess I missed the announcement that he would be starting today’s series opener against the Pirates. We knew at least one more start was coming, but I wasn’t sure exactly when it would be. Today it is! We’ll see if he can keep up the momentum from his dominant outing against the Rockies.

  • Keegan Thompson came off the Injured List WITH A JOLT last night. That’s as good as he’s looked all year, getting six strikesouts in his three scoreless innings of work (one walk, one hit). He had a 42% CSW over his 43 pitches, which is just exceptional.

  • It’s not news at this point that, for as much as everyone WANTS Thompson to be a starting pitcher, he has shown his best this season in those kinds of pre-planned, multi-inning relief appearances. It just seems like when he’s facing the order one-ish times, for 50-ish pitches, the pitches all play up so much.
  • Thompson’s splits this year, which are definitely skewed by a few blow-up starts*, are really stark:

Starting Pitcher: 78.1 IP, 4.83 ERA, .272/.345/.485 opponent slash, 19.1% K, 8.4% BB
Relief Pitcher: 29.0 IP, 1.24 ERA, .175/.266/.227 opponent slash, 28.2% K, 8.2% BB

  • The samples are small, but they definitely pair with the eye test. The relief outings have just been Thompson coming out attacking hitters, nasty as all get out. This isn’t to say he can’t work toward starting next season, and have a shot to win a starting job in Spring Training and/or work in some starts again throughout next season. He could take that next step. He obviously has the talent. But, much like with Adbert Alzolay, you want to be careful not to forsake the valuable (but limited) piece you COULD have, while forever chasing the more significant usage. Always a tricky balance. I’m just glad the Cubs finally have lots of options!
  • *(But the question is whether some of the blowing up in those starts was tied to the fact that, as a starting pitcher, he’s trying to pitch in a way as to conserve and get through 6+ innings, and maybe that’s just not where he’s going to be at his best. So maybe the blow-ups aren’t just a flukey aberration, but are a specific concern.)
  • With Thompson’s return, Jeremiah Estrada was the odd man out of the bullpen for now. Like I said yesterday, I think that has less to do with his big league performance thus far (which has been hot and cold), and more to do with the Cubs preferring to evaluate some other guys with the remaining two weeks – everything on Estrada has already been decided, in my opinion (he’s staying on the 40-man roster this offseason, he’ll have a chance to earn a full-time gig in Spring Training, but is most likely going to be introduced next year as more of an up-down guy at first). You also have to be getting close to an innings limit on Estrada, who has pitched so little the last few years.
  • David Ross spoke on Estrada before the option, and I think you get a true sense of how Estrada is viewed at the moment – ​​more development is needed to really reach his impact ceiling:

“The fastball is real, maybe one of our best fastballs in our organization,” Ross told Taylor McGregor Tuesday night. “What excites me is that he’s still very unpolished. The breaking ball hasn’t really shown up yet. It’s not a weapon for him yet. He’s still got a lot of improvement that’s ahead of him that he’s capable of doing. … That swing-and-miss is real and hard to find. When you have a fastball like he does with real carry and at the velocities of 97, 98 – he gets above the barrel for a lot of those hitters. A lot of bad swings [Monday]. He’s exciting just ’cause I don’t even think he’s touched his potential.”

  • That, too, is a good point from what we’ve seen: the fastball frequently looked big league ready (plus-plus potential), but the breaking balls (mostly sliders, a few curveballs) had far more often looked totally unavailable to him on a given day.
  • It’s incredible that the Cubs currently have four players on the roster who have Mexican roots, because for a long time, as rich as the baseball history was in the country, you just didn’t see that many players making it to the big leagues. Keep up that pipeline!
  • I’m really respecting the plainspoken honesty here:
  • I wonder what happens with the White Sox this offseason, assuming they don’t pull off some miracle comeback in the AL Central (6.0 games back with two weeks to go). They went very all-in the last couple years to pair with the emerging young core, but that core is less emerging now, a lot of guys have regressed or been injured, and without some impactful additions this offseason, it’s hard to see them being much better in 2023 (even after ditting Tony La Russa). They are currently just three games over .500 with a negative run differential.
  • I don’t immediately see any significant fits between the White Sox and Cubs, by the way (ie, I don’t see an obvious guy the White Sox might want to dump in a process of turning over parts of the roster, that the Cubs would want to acquire). I’m very much getting into that mode where I start combing over every roster to think about possible fits or inefficiencies where the Cubs – a club with TONS of payroll space and TONS of prospect depth – could slide in and take advantage.
  • Ken Rosenthal writes about the Phillies’ big turnaround this year and how he was mistaken in previously saying that simply firing manager Joe Girardi would not make a difference:

Dombrowski and the players still speak highly of Girardi, but the combination of the manager’s lame-duck contractual status and the team’s high expectations created additional pressure in the early part of the season. Girardi looks ready to burst with tension even in the best of times. Nearly two months into the season, the Phillies were 22-29. Segura had just gone on the injured list with a fractured right index finger. And the discussion about Girardi’s job security, in one of America’s most demanding sports cities, grew louder.

When Dombrowski made the change, the players responded as if it was a wake-up call.

“I know that there was a lot of speculation with Joe. Once it happened, it was kind of a tap on the shoulder to the players, and they got it going,” Thomson said. Nothing to do with Joe. Just all that speculation (being over), they kind of relaxed.”

  • We’ll see if the way that all played out will inhibit Girardi’s ability to get another managerial job if he wants. For now, he’s showing up periodically on Cubs broadcasts on Marquee, like last night. I know that the three-person booths really bug some folks, but I’ve gotta say, I have found Girardi to be a solid addition (and, honestly, ditto Ryan Dempster when he shows up as the third man). I just like getting that additional layer of perspective, carefully doled out so as not to step all over Boog and JD.
  • Good lord these pitches tunneled for so long:
  • This is wild – the story doesn’t change:

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