After getting swept by the Dodgers, the Cubs and their fan base had to hope that having Kyle Hendricks on the mound and the San Diego Padres as opponents would be the cure for what ails them. Alas, that was not to be. Once again the Cubs struggled with men on base and once again, a starter got knocked around. The current skid has reached four and the team has dropped back to even on the season at 25 and 25.
Certainly, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you should be excited about how this team has played through 50 games. That would be disingenuous. A few weeks ago, we talked about it being early. I’d definitely not call it early anymore. There have been enough at bats and enough innings to establish some pretty decent sample sizes. And by and large, this team is underachieving top to bottom. But here is what you need to know. Despite the struggles, the team sits tied for second just a game and a half behind the Brewers. It’s likely at least one year early for the Brewers to remain in contention down to the wire. The Cardinals remain tied with the Cubs and have a whole host of their own problems. There is without a doubt plenty of time for the Cubs to right the ship and win the division. And given how close the teams are, it’s actually still entirely possible that the Cubs could get hot and win the division by a large margin.
Most people felt that the Cubs were going to win about 60 percent of their games. While it’s hard right now to imagine this team playing that well, that pace would give the Cubs 92 wins. I suspect that would win the division by four or five games. Let us not forget that many of the guys on this team not only played on a 103-win World Series team last year, but also on a team that was only 25 and 22 on this date two years ago and went on to win 97 games.
Bottom line, it ain’t over by any stretch of the imagination, but this team is obviously going to have to play better if any of that is possible. Right now, this team is struggling in pretty much every aspect of the game. Here’s hoping they can salvage a couple of wins to end this nightmare and then get back home and back to playing well.
Before we close the book on this one, let’s turn our focus to the main purpose of this column, Heroes and Goats. 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 Monday, May 29:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Addison Russell (.112). A hit and a walk, with the big WPA positive being his leadoff triple in the second that was worth .091. A very small sample, but over the last six games, five of which he started, Addison has a slash line of .333/.529/.500. Hopefully his bat is heating up.
- Hero - Willson Contreras (.078). Just one plate appearance, but it was a walk to load the bases in the seventh inning when it looked like maybe the Cubs could claw their way back into this one.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.059). Walked three times in the first four innings on Monday. Hitting first in the order, Ben now has a .294/.385/.676 line. In fairness, Ben was moved to the top of the order during one of his long hot streaks. But he is certainly doing a good job in the lead off spot.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kyle Hendricks (-.375). Five runs allowed in five innings is almost never going to give your team a chance to win. One of the lone bright spots is that he didn’t walk anybody. Walks have been an issue at times for Kyle, but not on this day.
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.106). Hitless in four at bats with three strike outs. Left four men on base. Not a good day at all at the plate for Javy.
- Kid - Kyle Schwarber (-.081). Did draw a walk, but otherwise an empty five trips to the plate. Also left four men on base. The line is down to .173/.294/.339 as the nightmare continues. (For reference, Jason Heyward hit .230/.306/.325 during his own nightmare last season).
It is so hard to imagine that this offense isn’t going to break loose at some point and go on a tear. But right now, almost every Cubs hitter is hitting below their career averages, at least to some extent. On the plus side, despite playing just about as bad as I can imagine this group of guys playing, this team is still winning half its games and is still within striking distance of first place. There is still plenty of time to turn it around.
Before we go, we’ll look at our year to date standings for Heroes and Goats. As a reminder, we award three points for Superhero, two for Hero, and one for Sidekick. And we deduct -3 points for Billy Goat, -2 for Goat and -1 for Kid. Here then are the standings.
Year to Date Standings (italics means player no longer in the organization):
- Anthony Rizzo 22
- Wade Davis 9
- Tommy La Stella 8
- Kyle Hendricks 6
- Jon Jay 6
- Eddie Butler 5
- Mike Montgomery 4
- Ben Zobrist 4
- Miguel Montero 3
- Felix Pena 3
- Kyle Schwarber 2
- Kris Bryant 2
- Matt Szczur 2
- Justin Grimm 1
- Hector Rondon 0
- Brian Duensing 0
- Albert Almora 0
- Willson Contreras 0
- Carl Edwards -2
- Jon Lester -3
- Jason Heyward -3
- Ian Happ -3
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Brett Anderson -5
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Pedro Strop -5
- Addison Russell -5
- Koji Uehara -7
- Jake Arrieta -8
- Jon Lackey -12
- Javier Baez -15
Addison Russell moves up a couple of spot, putting some space between he and the cellar. Meanwhile fellow middle infielder Javier Baez drops further into the basement.
For this one, we’ll end with our usual poll. The Cubs lost and so today we will vote on the Goat of the Game. On Friday you voted on the Hero for game 46 and selected Mike Montgomery for his four inning save.
Who was the Goat of the Game in your opinion?
This poll is closed
Other (leave your answer in the comments below)