Before the homestand, we looked to this as a time to see the Cubs start making some progress in the National League Central. With three straight wins over the Reds, we saw a fantastic start to the homestand. With the first-place Brewers coming in, the series looked just a little bigger than your ordinary May series.
Friday’s game ended up being a rain-soaked mess. It was one of those days where you certainly understood that both teams were playing in miserable conditions, so you were hesitant to use it as an excuse. But it sure did seem like the rain picked up intensity during the top of the fifth inning after the Cubs had battled back from an early deficit to take a 3-2 lead. The Brewers put two runs on the board to take the lead and then when the rain got really silly in the sixth the Brewers were able to tack on two more runs around a very long delay and put the game out of reach at 6-3.
On Saturday, with more rain in the forecast, the Cubs elected to postpone the game and make it up in July. There was some murmuring out of the Brewers clubhouse that the Cubs may have had other reasons for canceling the game. It will be interesting to see if this story grows at all and if there ends up being any animosity between the two front offices.
On Sunday, the sun finally returned to Wrigley Field and with it, the Cubs bats woke up, putting 13 runs on the board on 15 hits, four walks and four home runs. Jake Arrieta looked better than he has with an encouraging sign of getting a number of ground balls. Through five games of this homestand, the team looks markedly better than it has for the most part this year.
As usual, we’ll do a quick look at the Heroes and Goats for the two weekend games that were played. As always, the Heroes and Goats themselves 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, May 19:
THE THREE HEROES FOR GAME 41:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.091). Willson had the two run single that briefly gave the Cubs their only lead in this game.
- Hero - Ben Zobrist (.063). Zobrist has had a nice homestand at the plate, showing signs of putting a rough first 30 games or so the plate behind him.
- Sidekick - Brian Duensing (.035). It is almost never a good sign when one of the guys at the back of the bullpen is on one of the hero podiums.
THE THREE GOATS FOR GAME 41:
- Billy Goat - Pierce Johnson (-.180). A very auspicious major league debut. Hopefully the next time Pierce gets a chance at the big league level, he gets a better spot than pitching on both sides of a two-hour rain delay. He was on the mound for the two runs that put this game out of reach in the sixth.
- Goat - Mike Montgomery (-.144). Mike was on the mound for the two runs that tied and put the Brewers ahead. A guy who seems to always struggle with the strike zone is in a tough spot trying to pitch through the rain.
- Kid - Kyle Schwarber (-.124). Four times up, three strike outs and twice made outs with a runner on base. That all adds up to a spot on the podium in this one.
I suspect if there was polling on this game, someone completely different would end up as the least valuable player for game 41. Probably rightfully so as Eddie Butler (-.112) put the team in a big hole early with his lack of command.
Game Chart Sunday, May 21:
THE THREE HEROES FOR GAME 42:
- Superhero - Jake Arrieta (.183) - Six innings, five hits, one walk, six strike outs, no earned runs. One big step forward. When he’s on, he changes the complexion of this team.
- Hero - Kris Bryant (.129). I’ve not seen the updated numbers, but I know that if Jake Arrieta leaves Chicago at the end of this season, he’ll miss Kris Bryant being in the lineup. Kris has done a ton of his damage in his career in games that were started by Jake and yesterday was no different. Three hits, four runs, two home runs.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.082). Seemingly every game right now Ben is ending up on the podium. He only reached base one time, but it was a home run leading off the game. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of Sunday’s lineup.
THE THREE GOATS FOR GAME 42:
- Billy Goat - Jason Heyward (-.012). It was good to see Jason back in the lineup. A hit and two walks on a lot of days has a chance of getting onto the positive podiums as a table setter. Unfortunately for Jason, last year’s reoccurring nightmare reared its head when he grounded into a double play to end the third inning while the game was still relatively close.
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.004). When the WPA numbers are this close to zero, you know that someone or someones are getting some tough luck podium appearances. Rizzo had a two run home run to make it 12-1. But, the two on, nobody out fly out in the first and then the game getting lopsided in a hurry put him behind early on.
- Kid - Addison Russell (.000). And here we had a game that by WPA standards had no effect on the game at all. Addison did have a hit and drive in a run. But his line out in the first with runners on first and second dug him a hole early as well.
When a team puts up a big crooked number early and then goes on to a comfortable win, the first inning is overly magnified in WPA and that’s what we see here for sure. The lead was so comfortable that Dylan Floro allowed five runs in the ninth inning and doesn’t even end up with a negative WPA for his efforts.
Year to Date Standings (italics means player no longer in the organization):
- Anthony Rizzo 16
- Wade Davis 9
- Tommy La Stella 8
- Kyle Hendricks 7
- Kyle Schwarber 4
- Ian Happ 4
- Jon Jay 4
- Kris Bryant 4
- Eddie Butler 3
- Matt Szczur 2
- Miguel Montero 2
- Mike Montgomery 1
- Albert Almora 1
- Felix Pena 1
- Justin Grimm 1
- Hector Rondon 0
- Brian Duensing -1
- Ben Zobrist -1
- Willson Contreras -1
- Carl Edwards -2
- Jason Heyward -3
- Jon Lester -3
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Brett Anderson -5
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Pedro Strop -5
- Jake Arrieta -5
- John Lackey -6
- Koji Uehara -7
- Addison Russell -8
- Javier Baez -12
A lot of movement in the middle for the weekend with most of the people gravitating towards the middle.
Next game is tonight, opening a four game series with the San Francisco Giants. John Lackey will be on the mound. Next column will be tomorrow morning.
We usually like to end the column with a poll, on Friday you chose Javier Baez as the player of the game for game 40, and today I’m going to try something new. I’m going to do a player of the week poll and see how this goes. I’ll highlight a couple of performances and let you guys choose among them or someone of your own.
- Kris Bryant - The reigning National League MVP hit .333 for the week with an OPS of 1.367 as he had three homers, a double and seven runs scored.
- Anthony Rizzo - The other half of Bryzzo had a quieter week, but also hit .333 and had an OPS of 1.145 and two home runs of his own.
- Ben Zobrist - Ben only played in four games, but he made the most of it hitting .400 with an OPS of 1.104.
- Ian Happ - Happ continued the fast start to his MLB career with .316 average, three doubles, a homer and an OPS of 1.066
- Jake Arrieta - Six innings, no earned runs, five hits, one walk, six strike outs and one win, because pitcher wins are super cool.
- Kyle Hendricks - Six innings, two earned runs, six hits, two walks, four strike outs and one win.
Who was the Chicago Cubs Player of the Week?
This poll is closed
Other (please note in the comments below)