7 observations about the Cubs’ series loss to the Dodgers

The Chicago Cubs took two of three from the Los Angeles Dodgers last weekend, but now the Dodgers have returned the favor by taking three of four and taking the season series from the North Siders.

The series came with a wide variety of highs, such as Drew Smillie’s flirtation with perfection, and lows, as the Cubs coughed up late and found themselves unable to come back multiple times.

Here are seven things that stood out to us about the four-game series at Wrigley Field.

Marcus Stroman finds good, bad in his start

Before Sunday’s loss, Marcus Stroman had pitched 24 innings this season for the Cubs, allowing zero home runs and posting a 63.2 percent ground ball percentage, his best since his 2015 stint with the Blue Jays.

On Sunday, he mostly managed to keep that trend going, with seven ground balls against three fly balls. The problem was, he ended up allowing three home runs in the loss.

His first rough start of the season did come with a nice consolation prize, as he picked up his 1,000th hit of his Major League Baseball career.

James Outman and Max Muncy crush the Cubs

Cementing his status as a Rookie of the Year candidate, Outman went 7-for-17 in the series with four home runs and nine RBIs, including two on Saturday.

Max Muncy went 4-for-12 and all four of his hits were home runs. He also drove in six RBIs and drew three walks.

He now has 11 home runs this season in 89 plate appearances after hitting just 21 in more than 550 plate appearances last season.

Michael Fulmer can’t quite find his footing

Fulmer has had a rough streak for the Cubs, entering Thursday tied and giving up four earned runs.

He then pitched into a two-run game on Sunday and allowed two earned runs.

Couple that with the fact that he blew a save and gave up two runs to those same Dodgers on April 15, and it’s clear that David Ross may have to change his usage pattern until he finds his way again.

Ian Happ left to watch the Cubs lose on Sunday

Happ had his batting gloves on during a potential rally in the ninth inning of Sunday’s 7-3 loss, and as Luis Torrence, who was 0-for-3 at the time, lined up in left field, Nick Madrigal watched a diving catch with one out and the bases loaded, then grounded into another sinking into a game-ending double play.

While there is an argument to be made that Madrigal is a superior contact hitter and that putting the ball in play is a much higher percentage play than striking out, another argument can be made that scoring a run at the expense of a strikeout would still be cost less than Happ’s power at the plate.

The other key component: Happ’s success against sinkers this season, as Statcast has him at a .737 expected batting average against the pitch. He also made hard contact on two-thirds of the sinkers he faced this season.

To that end, Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol throws sinkers on almost 40% of his pitches.

Hayden Wesneski’s effectiveness remains elusive

Even after a strong game against Oakland, Hayden Wesneski struggled again against the Dodgers on Saturday. His fastball has been crushed this year to a 0.481 batting average, according to Statcast. Teams are hitting .815 against the field, and his whiff rate has dropped from 24.2% to 15.5%.

His cutter last year had a stocking rate of 30.8% and this year it is 6.7%. His XBA for the field is .420, compared to just .266 last year.

His saving grace has been his sweeper with a .143 batting average, and as a result, he’s throwing it even more than he did last year. He has eight hits on that pitch this season.

The Cubs’ offense has been dormant in the cold weather

Saturday and Sunday saw freezing temperatures at Wrigley Field and the Cubs offense remained relatively quiet, losing both games.

In fact, when the temperature is below 45 degrees on first pitch this season, the Cubs are 2-3, with 14 runs scored, or 2.8 per game, for the math buffs.
When the temperature is above 45 degrees, the Cubs have scored 107 runs in 16 games, at a rate of 6.7 runs per contest.

Drew Smiley’s Flirting with Perfection

Drew Smyly had one of the best pitching performances in recent memory for the Cubs, pitching a perfect game in the eighth inning of Friday’s contest, and only a hit with Yan Gomes might have prevented history in the Friendly Confines.

Even without that feat, Smyly has looked strong since his rough first start of the campaign, going 18.1 innings and striking out 20 batters while walking just three. He scattered seven hits in those outings and gave up just two earned runs.

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