Welcome back for another look at the biggest WPA’s of the 2017 Cubs season. In this week’s version, we go back to September 5. Just like two weeks ago when we last looked at the biggest negative games, the foe was the Pittsburgh Pirates. On the morning of September 5, the Cubs were 74-63 and they had a 3½-game lead in the division. Things were starting to look a lot more certain for a Cubs return to the post season.
The Cubs started the game with two singles off of Pirates starter Steven Brault. After Kris Bryant grounded into a fielder’s choice, Ben Zobrist stepped to the plate and lifted one to right, deep enough for Jon Jay to score and give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. The game stayed 1-0 Cubs into the bottom of the second when Kyle Hendricks surrendered a two run homer to Jordan Luplow, giving the Pirates the lead at 2-1.
That lead didn’t last long though as once again the Cubs started the third with consecutive singles. Zobrist grounded out, moving the runners up to second and third and then Ian Happ followed with a two run single putting the Cubs back ahead 3-2.
The game then took an abrupt turn and what looked like it might be a high scoring affair settled down with both teams failing to score in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Kyle Hendricks left the game having thrown 6⅔ innings allowing five hits, no walks and two runs. For his efforts, Kyle Hendricks was the Superhero in this one. Carl Edwards ended the seventh inning by striking out Jordy Mercer.
The Cubs failed to score in the top of the seventh and Carl Edwards went back out for the eighth inning. Carl Edwards was used in different innings eight times in 73 appearances and this was the seventh of those. I’ll get back in a minute to how he did in them.
Carl started the eighth inning off by walking John Jaso. Starling Marte following with a single and Max Moroff singled to tie the game. Marte was thrown out at second for the first out. Moroff moved up on a wild pitch. But then Edwards bounced back to strike out Andrew McCutchen. He then intentionally walked Josh Bell. But David Freese followed with a go ahead single. Bell was out trying to go to third. So Carl Edwards finished with a line of 1⅓ innings pitched, three hits allowed, two walks (one intentional) and two runs allowed. Some of this is fluky. While he only faced seven batters, five of them put the ball in play and all of those were hits. It’s a small sample, but that’s unusually good fortune for the Pirates that none of those balls found a fielder. The outing was good for a -.482 WPA and the number 7 spot on our countdown.
Carl Edwards threw 13 innings across eight outings where he pitched during more than one inning. He allowed five earned runs, blew a save, picked up two losses but he also won three games. Wins and losses are especially flukey for relief pitchers, but interestingly enough, across his six longest outings of the year, Carl threw 10⅔ innings of scoreless relief allowing just two hits and four walks.
As usual, I can draw no conclusions from Edwards. When he is on, he is almost totally unhitable, but control is an issue. Clearly, he has all of the talent in the world. It is not surprising that Carl is still capable of throwing multiple innings and being effective. He was at times an extremely effective starting pitcher in the minors and for Carl that just isn’t all that long ago. He has a pitch mix that is capable of seeing more than just a few hitters or being used only when he has a platoon advantage. But, some combination of command and confidence departs Carl at times resulting in some horrific outings. Of course, most relievers are up and down and he’s not unusual in that. He frustrates us as Cub fans, because clearly he has the potential to be an elite reliever. Hopefully in 2018 he can harness that, because sadly this isn’t the last time we’ll be discussing Carl in this column as this wasn’t his largest blow up of the season.
Next week, however, we’ll be taking a look at the seventh largest positive WPA of the season as we keep counting down to number one. Later in the week, I’ll also be back with yet another edition of my 1984 look back through the lens of WPA. Thanks as always for joining me.