I have tried almost every single day as a columnist here and before that as a poster here to be positive. This year was challenging and I admit I lost the faith for a while there in midseason. Being a fan of a team does give us the right to question our team when it struggles, to be mad or sad or frustrated or whatever. Those are all reasonable fan experiences, especially when we don’t channel those frustrations (or other emotions) into being rude or hurtful to other fans or the players themselves (the Twitter treatment of Carl Edwards Jr. is reprehensible).
I couldn’t even watch last night’s game all of the way until the end and likely won’t watch the remainder of the season. I’m done with it. Because that is part of how I process things. I sincerely hope I miss the greatest comeback in the history of this organization. From what I’ve witnessed for three games, that would be well beyond whatever the odds makers would tell you the normal odds are for a team to win four straight times in the NLCS. Right now, this team is totally overmatched.
That said, I won’t for a minute stop being proud of this organization. Theo and his crew tore the team down and built it back up from the ground up. In the last three years, the team has won more than 290 regular-season games. It has won a Wild Card game, three National League Division Series, one National League Championship Series and one World Series. Nothing can take that away from any of us. Yes, one could certainly choose to look at this series and say that twice in the last three years the team has been completely dominated in the NLCS. Of course that is true and no doubt it is frustrating. But take a deep breath and a step back. Don’t let those two outcomes diminish the remainder of the body of work.
It is always frustrating when the end of the season comes. Of course it is frustrating to come up empty on the second biggest stage. But the core of this team remains largely intact going forward. There are many core pieces that will be here that can be built around. As always, there will be holes to fill and some decisions to be made. But those are thoughts, ideas and suggestions for another day. I encourage you though to not let one bad series tarnish your Cubs experience.
And so with that, I’ll recap the mess that was last night’s game through the lens of WPA as we look at Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added — here’s a good explanation of how WPA works) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. Also note, for the purposes of Heroes and Goats, we ignore the results of pitchers while they are batting and hitters while they are pitching. With that, we get to the results.
Game Chart Tuesday, October 17 (Cubs lose 6-1):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.071). It is never a good sign when your superhero is under (.100). It’s hard to imagine how you could win a game without a single player above that line. And of course the Cubs didn’t win. Kyle Schwarber had a home run to briefly give the Cubs the lead in the first and walked later.
- Hero - Albert Almora Jr. (.027). Albert had a ground-rule double in the ninth inning. The Dodgers kindly started the ninth inning with their mopup man. Unfortunately, after allowing consecutive hits, Dave Roberts realized that he could just go ahead and use Kenley Jansen because if the Dodgers complete this sweep, Jansen will have almost a week off after it.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.020). Pedro Strop rarely is mentioned as a positive in the Cubs bullpen, but he’s been one of the few pretty effective relievers this post season. He pitched one inning and did walk a batter, but was otherwise unscathed.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kyle Hendricks (-.162). Kyle threw five innings (and started the sixth) and allowed six hits, two of which were home runs. He struck out five and walked one and allowed three earned runs and four runs total.
- Goat - Jon Jay (-.116). One of these two managers has had just about every button they pushed go well and the other is having them all go poorly. Jon Jay has probably had more good at bats this post season than any other Cub. So Joe decided to stick him in the sixth spot in the order. Jon struck out looking with two on and two out to end the first (-.036) on what wasn’t even a borderline pitch. He grounded out to second with one out in the fourth (-.021). He grounded into a double play to end the sixth (-.058).
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.089). While I will defend Joe in many regards, he is like so many other managers in having too much faith in a player who in present-day terms just hasn’t justified it. Ben lead off last night and was hitless in four tries. Ben Zobrist didn’t have enough plate appearances this year to qualify for the batting title. If he had, he’d have had the sixth-lowest OPS among qualified hitters in all of MLB. Not that he’s alone, but his post season OPS is over 200 points lower than that already bottom of the barrel regular season OPS (.693 v .469).
Next, we take a look at the cumulative standings for the playoffs. As a reminder, we award three points for Superhero, two for Hero, and one for Sidekick. And we deduct three points for Billy Goat, two for Goat and one for Kid.
- Jon Lester 6
- Albert Almora Jr. 5
- Anthony Rizzo 3
- Jose Quintana 3
- Willson Contreras 2
- Jake Arrieta 2
- Ian Happ 2
- Brian Duensing 2
- Kyle Schwarber 1
- Wade Davis 0
- Carl Edwards Jr. 0
- Pedro Strop 0
- Jon Jay -1
- Addison Russell -1
- Jason Heyward -2
- Javier Baez -2
- Kyle Hendricks -3
- Ben Zobrist -3
- Kris Bryant -3
- Hector Rondon -3
- John Lackey -3
- Mike Montgomery -3
Tonight Jake Arrieta faces Alex Wood. I’d not be surprised if Jake throws a great game in an elimination game. I’d be a bit more surprised if the Cubs mustered a ton of offense at this point, but they certainly have some chance of stretching this one more day given this matchup. Obviously at this point, the Cubs can’t worry about future games and rematches with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish who all stymied the Cubs bats. They have to throw everything they have at this one and just look to stay alive one more game.
As always, we finish with a poll. On Monday, Kris Bryant nudged out John Lackey for the Goat of the weekend. It is probably fitting that the offense take more blame than the pitching which hasn’t been as good as hoped for, but certainly kept the Cubs in the first two games until late. Today we’ll be voting on the Goat of last night’s game.
Who was the Goat of Game 3?
This poll is closed
Carl Edwards Jr.
Other (Please leave your suggestion in the comments below)