You’ll forgive me if I use Jake Arrieta for our picture for consecutive columns. No, he didn’t make a surprise appearance on one of the podiums. But if you’ve ever read my signature on one of my comments, you might know that for well over a year my signature has read Sometimes you have to tip your hat to the other guy. As I write this morning and as I was thinking about what to write, that was largely what I came up with for today.
Today I tip my cap to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They dominated the Cubs in every imaginable way in this series. They hit well, they pitched well, they fielded well, they surely scouted well and they definitely managed well. That team when it is clicking is quite a machine. Baseball can humble even the best of teams and there will be no guarantees next week for them in the World Series, but they earned every bit of this series win.
It’s tempting to call them the best team that money can buy. That wouldn’t be wrong. This website shows that the Los Angeles Dodgers spent over $40 million more than the next most, with that team being the New York Yankees who may be their World Series opposition. Looking ahead at next year, they show the Dodgers already having $177 million committed to just 11 players. But, I don’t want to demean what the Dodgers have done. A good number of the guys who were destructive to the Cubs were either home grown or have played most of their significant baseball for these Dodgers. That doesn’t make me less interested in seeing how the Dodgers will navigate a hardening cap and very real penalties going forward for being over the cap.
I also tip my cap to every member of the Cubs organization from the very ground floor all of the way to Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts at the very top. It has been awesome to witness the transformation of this franchise from one of the worse in professional sports to a perennial contender. Of course after tasting the champagne and watching the parade it is disappointing to not get back to that point. But in no way will I ever view this season as a failure. The Cubs made it to the final four and they had a team that was talented enough to win it but just wasn’t playing nearly well enough when it mattered. It happens. So many things have to go right in order to win and when push came to shove this year, not enough things went right for this Cubs team. I hold my head high and remain ever proud to be a Cub fan.
More than ever, I really don’t want to, but this column is about the Heroes and the Goats. Last night wasn’t pretty and this won’t be, but I can’t skip the focus of this column even on a tough day. So we’ll tough it out and take a look at what WPA has to say about Heroes and Goats. As usual, 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 Thursday, October 19 (Cubs lose 11-1):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.026). He had a hit and most importantly, a first inning walk. That was important, because not long after that, all of the leverage left this game. Kyle will be a key focus of 2018, was this the bottom for him? Or just a down season?
- Hero - Brian Duensing (.002). Brian threw two scoreless innings, the only Cubs pitcher last night who didn’t allow a run. Brian will be a free agent this off season, heading into what will be his age 35 season. He was excellent for the Cubs this year and stands to make more than the $2 million he made this year.
- Sidekick - Ian Happ (.001). Ian got to bat once and had a single. I’m sure Ian will be frustrated that he didn’t really see the field this post season. Hopefully it motivates him to work hard getting ready for next year when he should be with the team from day 1. He has a ton of potential and could very well start to ease into more and more of Ben Zobrist’s playing time if Ben doesn’t bounce back from this season.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jose Quintana (-.286). Jose didn’t have it last night. He allowed six runs on six hits while only recording six outs. I’m definitely looking forward to a full off season and then a full season with the Cubs to see if they can nudge a little bit more out of a guy who is already a very strong pitcher.
- Goat - Hector Rondon (-.069). Hector allowed two hits and one run on a home run in his inning of work. Things have never gotten back on track since Hector was injured last summer. As much as I like Hector, I think he probably needs a change of scenery. Something isn’t clicking here anymore.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.038). Anthony was hitless in four at bats. His numbers looked great this year, but it always seemed like he was struggling a little bit. This is the cross that players who are of superstar caliber go through, it never feels like enough. Anthony did not have a good post season after contributions in the first couple of games against the Nationals.
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
- Jake Arrieta 5
- Brian Duensing 4
- Kyle Schwarber 4
- Ian Happ 3
- Willson Contreras 2
- Wade Davis 1
- Jose Quintana 0
- Anthony Rizzo 0
- Carl Edwards Jr. 0
- Pedro Strop 0
- Javier Baez 0
- Jon Jay -1
- Addison Russell -2
- Jason Heyward -2
- Kyle Hendricks -3
- Ben Zobrist -3
- John Lackey -3
- Hector Rondon -5
- Mike Montgomery -5
- Kris Bryant -6
Not much to say about the cumulative standings. The starters were more good than not. The hitters were generally awful. It was a painful couple of weeks and yet the Cubs still won five playoff games and played in a third consecutive championship series.
You aren’t reading the last of me (unless you want to be reading the last of me). I’ve talked with Al about a couple of ideas and will be planning on bringing you Heroes and Goats themed columns over the offseason. One of the columns will look at the top Hero and Goat performances of the year. The other will look at a historic season through the Lens of Heroes and Goats. I’ll write to you more in a week or so about those columns and I hope you’ll come back and read those columns as we pass the time until Cubs baseball is on the air again.
I close this column by tipping my cap to you, the reader, for following along with my ramblings. I try to add something to the mix here and give another voice to Bleed Cubbie Blue. But there is no need for me unless there is you. So thank you all for reading, regardless if you do it once in a while when you are bored or if you consider my column to be an important part of your daily Cubs reading. Thank you.