High-powered Cubs offense means fewer save chances for Hector Rondon

High-powered Cubs offense means fewer save chances for Hector Rondon

Hector Rondon saved 59 games over the course of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

And with the Cubs boasting baseball’s best record with 22 wins in 28 games, you’d think Rondon would again be looking like one of baseball’s best closers.

Problem is, he’s had little opportunity to show it.

The Cubs’ offense has been so good — with it’s out-of-this-world plus-98 run differential — that Rondon has gotten just five save opportunities on the year. He’s converted all five, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Cubs as a team rank near the bottom in the big leagues when it comes to saves. One of just two teams in the majors with at least 20 wins, the Cubs rank only ahead of the Cincinnati Reds and Minnesota Twins when it comes to saves. No team has had fewer save opportunities than the Cubs’ mere six.

Rondon did get a save opportunity Friday, setting the Washington Nationals down 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth inning to lock down an 8-6 win.

And he has been dominant. He’s appeared in 11 games, throwing 10 1/3 innings and allowing just four base runners and one run, striking out 17 hitters in the process.

But manager Joe Maddon said Saturday that he needs to be careful with Rondon. He’s discovered the closer pitches better when he has regular work, as opposed to just pitching when a save opportunity presents itself — which with this Cubs team hasn’t been often.

“My take on Hector is the more you pitch him, the better he throws,” Maddon said. “I thought early on when we just threw him out there once in a while he wasn’t nearly as sharp. Yesterday he was very sharp. So there’s that fine line between resting somebody and giving them enough work to be sharp.

“With him I think we have to be aware of that because I gave him that long period in between where I was talking about a lot of times closers don’t need that and are still able to throw a strike. But I think with him there’s a certain amount of feel involved and I’ve got to get him out there even when there’s not a save situation, maybe three days max just to maintain the feel because he looks much sharper when he plays on a consistent basis.”

Of course, this is a good problem to have. No one thinks they can win by too many runs, and that’s another point of emphasis for Maddon.

“We have this concept, you go for the jugular late in the game,” Maddon said Friday. “When you have a lead in your last at-bat, I love for us to push another run across. It really takes away from the believability on the other side, the momentum on the other side. So if it takes away a save opportunity, so be it. It’s a contrived notion anyway. I know you get paid for it and all that, which I love that guys make their living. But for me it’s about us winning, so let’s go ahead and add on at the end and not worry about the saves.”

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu Darvish suffering another setback puts his 2018 season in jeopardy

Yu have to be kidding me (Sorry, couldn't resist). 

The Cubs were expecting Sunday's rehab start to be the beginning to an end of what has been an extremely disappointing 2018 season for their $126 million man Yu Darvish. Darvish was scheduled to start Sunday for the Cubs single-A affiliate in South Bend, IN, but after just one inning Darvish was checked on by the trainers and eventually pulled before the 2nd inning started. 

According to Steve Greenberg, Darvish asked for an MRI on Monday which likely closes the door on him returning to the Cubs in 2018.

The frustrating thing about Darvish's rehab is that in his two rehab starts, the 32-year-old pitcher has had excellent stuff, touching 95 mph in Sunday afternoon's game before being pulled. 

At this point in the season, it seems unlikely Darvish will be able to return to the Cubs rotation for the regular season. And it would be incredibly risky to roll with Darvish in the playoffs, who even when healthy hasn't shown he's deserving of a postseason roster spot. The Cubs do have options at starter in the minors like Duane Underwood or James Norwood, and despite his shortcomings, Tyler Chatwood is an option out of necessity now.  

Drew Smyly, who looked like a possibility as a late-season addition, is still not quite ready to come back and be an effective rotation piece at the moment. And with Mike Montgomery heading to the disabled list earlier this week, the Cubs were hopeful Darvish would be healthy by the time rosters expand in September. 

Luckily, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, and Kyle Hendricks have all looked stellar recently and hopefully can continue their success on the mound as the Cubs continue to fight past injuries to maintain their grasp on the NL Central. 

But Theo Epstein said himself last week that if Darvish didn't perform well during his rehab stint, that was essentially his 2018 season. Don't expect to see Darvish returning to the mound until 2019, Cubs fans. 



Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 48th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 48th homer of the season came off of the St. Louis Cardinals on August 19, 1998, in a 6-8 loss.

With two-outs, Sosa sent a deep shot off of Kent Bottenfield.

The home run was even more special for Sosa, due to it coming against the Cardinals and Mark McGwire, his home run adversary for the year. 

In the game Sosa went 2-for-4 with two RBI, the exact same stat line McGwire finished with.