Kilian and Swarmer Make Me Happy, Oh and Morel Too, and Other Cubs Bullets

The Cubs can win this five-game series by beating the Cardinals today, and while I know that would logically be a “you did a good job” outcome, I realize now that I’d let my stupid self hope the Cubs could take four or even all five. I didn’t think that was LIKELY. I just thought it would be really cool to see in a season where, yes, I’m just searching for things to enjoy.

Then again, we definitely got some things to enjoy yesterday throughout the double-header …

• I was able to talk a good bit about Caleb Kilian’s debut last night in the EBS, but if you just wanted to watch the good stuff:

• Much more on Kilian coming soon. One thing to note is that, although he got really wild in that three-run 4th inning, that inning also featured the only two bits of hard contact he gave up in the entire outing (one of which was on the ground). So, in addition to showing strikeout stuff, he also didn’t get squared up all night except for the inning when he lost the release point. That inning still counts, and shows him something he has to work on, but I find the contact management (something he’s done very well in the minors) to be another point of encouragement.

• In the meantime, though, can we talk about how good Matt Swarmer was again?

• Once again, Swarmer worked with essentially just two pitches: a fastball that, on its own, appears to be pretty pedestrian, and a slider that gets fantastic vertical drop. Pairing those two together seems to really give batters fits – they don’t seem to be able to distinguish between the two pitches – and somehow Swarmer is making it work multiple times through the order. I still have a hard time seeing how it holds up in a starter’s role, but I don’t want to ignore that he’s been fantastic as a starter going on 12 months now at Triple-A, and is two for two in great starts at the big league level.

• Here’s how David Ross described the pitches (NBC): “(The slider is) on the same plane as the fastball and then it just disappears. You get real fastball swings from hitters. Not like, ‘Oh, there’s a slider and I try to adjust my swing.’ They swing through it, which means it looks just like a fastball out of hand and goes straight down.” That’s why it isn’t as simple as telling batters to spit on the slider and sit on the fastball. If they truly cannot distinguish between them when he’s executing, then they have to do a lot of guessing. Also, Tommy Hottovy suggests that Swarmer actually throws two distinct shapes with his slider, which is something I’ll have to dig in on.

• Dude got 13(!) whiffs on the slider yesterday, which he threw 44 times.

• I expect that Swarmer will stay up with the big league team and make starts while Drew Smyly and Wade Miley are out. The other spot goes to Keegan Thompson for now, I expect, with Caleb Kilian returning to Iowa. Miley, by the way, is already throwing bullpens and “feels great,” so he might be back pretty soon.

• A credit to Swarmer and a … not so credit to the rest of the staff:

• The Fox broadcast last night told the story of Christopher Morel’s bad accident:

• I love watching him play so much:

• Bonus fun from the games? They were showing a highlight from the Dominican Winter League, where Morel made a nice play to get Albert Pujols at second base, even after temporarily losing the ball, and apparently Pujols asked Morel how he pulled it off. Morel told Pujols that he was able to do it because Pujols is slow. I cracked up.

• Morel, who has reached base in all 19 of his big league games so far, is now hitting .297/.391/.486/145 wRC+. What I can’t quite wrap my head around is that he’s striking out as little as he has at any level of the minors (21.8%), and he’s walking way more than he has at any point in the minors (12.6%). You would assume that changes as the league adjusts, but he’s approaching 100 plate appearances with these discipline numbers. It’s really, really impressive. The good news is that his production could go way down from here, and he’d still be an extremely valuable big leaguer thanks to the versatility. Also, he’s 22, has tools out the wazoo, may have done a whole lot of developing behind the scenes in 2020-21, and we might just be seeing him pop.

• Hey, did you see Rowan Wick touch 98 mph yesterday? That was interesting.

• David Robertson is down to a 1.66 ERA over 21.2 IP. The peripherals are also stellar. The guy is just pitching like an elite closer this year, which obviously will make late July interesting if he stays this healthy and effective.

• Max Scherzer’s dog bit his hand, which is not “literally” a non-story, but is apparently not a big deal:

• Speaking of bizarre injuries:

• Albert Almora did what:

• It’s only 67 plate appearances so far this year, but Almora is hitting .308/.318/.446/108 wRC+. Good for him.

• The timing, given what we just saw with Brendan Donovan’s old tweets, makes it all the more frustrating – the Tampa Bay Rays were having their players wear Pride colors incorporated into their logo, but some players chose not to participate:

• The recent run by Iowa outfielder Greg Deichmann, who homered AGAIN last night, has been unbelievable:

• I don’t know what to make of the 27-year-old prospect who was all projection before last year’s deadline trade brought him to the Cubs, whose age was excused by an earlier injury and then the pandemic, and who didn’t hit *at all* after the trade … until a few weeks ago. You’d love to believe something clicked, because the raw power was always there, but it is understandably hard to buy in when it’s over such a short period of time after a long period of looking like it wasn’t going to happen for him . The flip side is that he WAS a well-regarded prospect (and a second round pick for a reason), and he WAS hitting with the A’s before the trade. Still, this is a guy who was outrighted in April, and no team claimed him on waivers. That means he’s going to be a free agent at the end of the season if the Cubs don’t put him back on the 40-man roster.

• Can we get a time lapse like this for a day at Wrigley Field? Because this is amazing:

• Just a reminder that the new rule is that position players can’t come into the game in the 9th inning or earlier unless there’s a 6+ run spread in the score:

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