The Cubs took two of three from the Reds despite playing much of the weekend with their backups and minor league players. The two wins pushed the Cubs to a 292-193-1 record under Joe Maddon. By the slimmest of margins, he falls back under 100 games over .500. Former regular poster lowercasekyle used to often bring up the bigger picture records of Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts. The Cubs are now 492-479-1 under Theo. I consider Tom’s first season of ownership as 2010 as it wasn’t like he was going to be able to make wholesale changes midseason 2009 when the sale was finally approved. Therefore, the record under Tom’s ownership is 638-657-1. Theo has already cracked .500 despite three years of rebuild under his tenure and Tom has climbed within 19 games of .500 after not only three years of rebuild, but two years of limbo while he sorted out how to move forward and waited for old, bad contracts to run down.
Of course that group has now won back-to-back division titles. They’ve seen the team advance to the playoffs in three consecutive years and of course there was that whole championship thing. On Friday, the team will begin its efforts to reach the National League Championship Series for a third consecutive season as well. These things are always premature, but I’d venture that Theo has likely ticketed himself for the Hall of Fame as the “breaker of curses” winning World Series in Boston in Chicago despite decades of futility. Tom’s book has many more chapters in it, but he will at minimum be viewed kindly in Cubs history. Joe Maddon is also making his own very compelling case for the Hall of Fame after a long run as a very successful manager in small market Tampa and then having a blistering run as Cubs manager.
Much of that is conversation for many years from now, but I like to check in from time to time and to me that is more interesting than the baseball that happened on the north side over the weekend. It is a time for looking forward though and not backwards, but before I can look forward I do have to look back on the weekend series and then we’ll get to the formal crowning of the Superhero of the Year and the unfortunate winner of the Billy Goat of the Year.
With that, we turn our attention to the games of this weekend as we look at what WPA had to say about 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 Friday, September 29 (Cubs win 5-4):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ian Happ (.626). Don’t tell Ian Happ that the games over the weekend don’t matter. Ian played the entire game on Friday. He had two hits and two runs in the game. But most importantly, he had a three run homer (.648) in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two outs to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 5-4 lead. This was the highest WPA game of the year for the Cubs and I’m fairly certain the largest single positive WPA event of the year. (Hector Rondon had the largest negative event of the year at -.737 back in May against the Yankees).
- Hero - Justin Grimm (.161). Justin worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his first save since 2015.
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.094). Tommy also got to play the entire game and had two hits and a run scored. His biggest positive event of the day was his single in the eighth inning with one out and nobody on (.053). An honorable mention in this spot for Jose Quintana who had a successful squeeze bunt in the second inning that scored a run (.097).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jose Quintana (-.175). Jose threw four and two thirds innings and allowed six hits and four runs. He did strike out five and had the nice bunt.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.156). Kyle had one hit in four tries. His largest negative was his strike out in the eighth inning (-.140) with one out and runners on second and third while the Cubs were still down 4-2.
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.123). Ben actually played the whole game on Friday too and went hitless. Ben flew out in the fifth with a runner on second and one out (-.048) and fouled out in the eighth to start the inning (-.043).
Game Chart Saturday, September 30 (Cubs win 9-0):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.283). Kyle hit a two-run homer in the second (.163) and a two-run single in the fourth with two outs and the bases loaded (.115). Those were the first four runs of the game. That’s a nifty feat.
- Hero - Jon Lester (.218). Jon worked five innings of shutout ball while allowing four hits and walking no one. He struck out seven. I’m told he didn’t look all of the way to where we’ve seen him, but much better than he’s been. Maybe he starts game one after all?
- Sidekick - Willson Contreras (.051). Willson had just two plate appearances in this one, but he made the most of them with a hit and walk. He singled in the second ahead of the Schwarber home run (.037) and walked in front of Schwarber’s single in the fourth (.014).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.057). Anthony struck out twice in his two at bats on Saturday. Hopefully, he gets some rest and is in full form on Friday, because the Cubs are going to need his bat against the Nationals. He finished the season with a little bit of a slump.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.039). Addison was hitless in three at bats on Saturday.
- Kid - Jason Heyward (-.018). Clearly, a lot of the regular starters were off their game on the weekend as they got in a few at bats ahead of some time off. Jason had two at bats and was retired both times.
Game Chart Sunday, October 1 (Cubs lose 3-1):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.153). Mike threw the first three innings and allowed only one hit while striking out two. He also gets an honorable mention as he reached on an error with a runner on first and one out in the third inning for a (.072) hitting WPA.
- Hero - Felix Pena (.035). Felix threw two scoreless innings allowing only one hit while striking out three. Felix is a guy that intrigues me probably more than he should. I’ll be interested to see if he can stick in a bullpen role next year.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.028). Javier sneaks into the last spot as his final at bat of the season was a single in the third inning. It was the only at bat he had on the day, but on a day where the Cubs didn’t muster any offense, it was good enough to get here.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Rob Zastryzny (-.135). He threw two innings and allowed five hits and two runs. He did strike out two. Rob is the 45th player to appear on one podium of the other. I appreciate that he waited until the last day so that I didn’t have to type is name more than once.
- Goat - Taylor Davis (-.124). He had three at bats and did not record a hit. His largest negative event was his first one, he batted with runners on first and third and only one out in the third and he popped out to second (-.074). Whatever happens next for Taylor Davis in his career, I hope he treasures these few weeks with the Cubs. Oh and I hope they get him a ring.
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.086). Ben missed the memo about the regulars not playing and played a good portion of the weekend. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t get hits. He was hitless in four tries on Sunday to finish the season.
This ends the regular season. There was actually movement all of the way down to the last batter of the season effecting the final standings. 162 games are in the books and we have tabulated your cumulative podiums for each of our awards. We will start with the positive podiums. There was no change in standings over the weekend as most of the guys at the top of the list saw little action over the weekend.
Sidekick of the Year - Kris Bryant. Kris scored 23 points on the heels of his MVP season last year. He didn’t see as much traffic on the bases in front of him as last year and in the first half of the year struggled with runners in scoring position. It is quite possible that kept him from making a serious run at his first Superhero of the Year award.
Hero of the Year - Willson Contreras. Willson scored 34 points. It is easy to wonder what might have been for him had he not gotten hurt. He had a blistering July and actually lead the season standings at the time he got hurt. Had the starters been pressed into action, this might have gone down to the wire as well as he falls just four points short.
Superhero of the Year - Anthony Rizzo. With 38 points, Anthony has won this award now three times in the four years of this column. Last year he finished third place with a total of 34.5 points, 17! points behind Jon Lester after winning the previous two years. Anthony continues to be the granite foundation to this organization. Congratulations Anthony! Well deserved.
I hate to make much adieu about the guys who fought it out for the three cellar spots, because these guys have made some very important contributions to the Cubs. This race literally went down to the last at bat of the entire season for the Cubs. If Ben Zobrist had gotten a hit in his last at bat, these standings would look entirely different. But he didn’t and so here we go.
Kid of the Year (tie) - Jason Heyward and Javier Baez. These two ties at -19. Jason was looking to avoid repeating as the Billy Goat of the Year. He did just enough to avoid that outcome. Javy had the single on Sunday to avoid finishing lower in these standings.
Goat of the Year - John Lackey. John pitched in relief on Sunday and was occupying the Kid spot on the podium for Sunday until Ben made the last out. That would have made John the Billy Goat of the Year. As it is, he finished one ahead of that spot with a -20 score.
Billy Goat of the Year - Ben Zobrist. Ben Zobrist finishes with -21. Had he missed the podium on Sunday, he’d be flipped with John Lackey. Ben was hurt a lot this year and ineffective at times as he tried to play through it.
The full final standings look like this:
- Anthony Rizzo 38
- Willson Contreras 34
- Kris Bryant 23
- Wade Davis 20
- Kyle Hendricks 20
- Mike Montgomery 14
- Jon Jay 7
- Felix Pena 6
- Miguel Montero 5
- Alex Avila 5
- Jake Arrieta 4
- Dillon Maples 2.5
- Matt Szczur 2
- Tommy La Stella 2
- Justin Grimm 2
- Taylor Davis 1
- Rene Rivera 1
- Brian Duensing 1
- Eddie Butler 1
- Jose Quintana 0
- Mark Zagunis 0
- Jen-Ho Tseng 0
- Kyle Schwarber 0
- Seth Frankoff -1
- Jack Leathersich -1
- Mike Freeman -1
- Leonys Martin -3
- Pedro Strop -3
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Rob Zastryzny -3
- Hector Rondon -3
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Brett Anderson -5
- Justin Wilson -6
- Ian Happ -6.5
- Carl Edwards Jr. -8
- Albert Almora Jr. -9
- Victor Caratini -10
- Addison Russell -11
- Jon Lester -12
- Koji Uehara -14
- Jason Heyward -19
- Javier Baez -19
- John Lackey -20
- Ben Zobrist -21
That wraps up the season. I will be bringing Heroes and Goats to the post season. This is a very busy time of the year in my house, so I do not know what the schedule will be. I will also have columns this off season, so you haven’t heard the last of me by any stretch of the imagination. But this is a good time to thank all of you who follow my column regularly. It’s been a lot of fun for me to bring you my thoughts throughout the week during the season.