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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 78

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On a chaotic day, the Cubs lose again; back to .500 (again).

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t have research to back it up, but I feel like the Cubs are the most .500 team in baseball this year. It is almost unfathomable to me that this team has played their entire season between four games above and two games below .500. They even managed to fit a six game losing streak in. Of course dropping from four above to two below to end the month of May. They were two over in April, four under in May and with two games to go, are two over in June. That’s a whole lot of averages. Last night’s game was the 15th time they won or lost a game to finish at .500.

As for what happened during the game, John Lackey once again continued to have trouble keeping the ball in the park. in 2015, we watched the end of Dan Haren’s career. He was proudly proclaiming he topped out at 88 miles an hour and was trying to get through games on guile. We watched him go 4-2 with a 4.01 ERA (4.57 FIP). Those numbers were not a wild departure from his career numbers. This year, John Lackey appears to have a bit more life than that, but his numbers after last night have fallen to 5-9 with a 5.24 ERA (5.88 FIP). This is largely based on the 2.33 HR/9 he has to date. That is more than double his career average. Despite his surly personality, I’ve defended him, but he looks every bit and more the roadkill that Dan Haren did at the end of his career.

Lackey’s woes dug a six-run deficit in three innings before the Cubs bats showed any signs of life. The Cubs did add four runs, but never got closer than three runs back as the bullpen also surrendered two runners inherited from John Lackey in the sixth. To top matters off, Kris Bryant appeared to have suffered a fairly significant ankle sprain and had to be helped off the field. It seems possible that the Cubs have yet another player headed to the disabled list. Assuming he goes to the DL, the Cubs face the prospect of entering today’s game with eight players (32 percent) of their Opening Day roster not being on today’s roster. When that happens, it is usually a team going through a rebuild. And that assumes Addison Russell, who can apparently hit but not throw, doesn’t also go on the disabled list.

And with that somber notes, we’ll move on and take a look at what WPA says about Heroes and Goats last night. As a reminder, 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 Wednesday, June 28:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Mark Zagunis (.037). Ok, I did a double take when I saw this one. Hitless in three at bats with two strikeouts (0-14 now to start his career). Today’s superhero got here by reaching on an error with Albert Almora, Jr. on second. Almora would score and cut the deficit to 6-3.
  • Hero - Albert Almora Jr. (.030). And I didn’t even spoiler alert this. Almora was on by way of his double. He also walked in last night’s game. He is now at .275/.347/.399. The double came off of one of the better right handed pitchers in the National League. I hope the training wheels start to come off for Albert. The kid can play.
  • Sidekick - Kris Bryant (.018). A single, a double, a run scored. He was having a very good game against Stephen Strasburg before the injury happened. Get well soon Kris, this lineup needs your MVP bat.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - John Lackey (-.347). There was no question about this one. Nine hits, two walks, three home runs, and eight runs before the book was closed on him.
  • Goat - Javier Baez (-.068). People get irritated seeing him in last place in the season Heroes and Goats standings. But last night hitting sixth in the lineup his at bats were as follows: strike out, grounded into double play, strike out, ground out. This one was no cheapie.
  • Kid - Ian Happ (-.056). Happ was in the three spot. He fouled out with a man on first, struck out with a man on second, struck out leading off an inning, and singled with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth. But for the single, he’d have been a step higher on the ladder.

At least with the anemic offense, we can point to a number of contributors who are either limited or out with injuries. I realize for a stretch in June the pitching was better, but it certainly doesn’t help when the team is running uphill all day every day because more often than not the starting pitching simply isn’t good.

Let’s move on to 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 34
  • Willson Contreras 11
  • Kyle Schwarber 10
  • Mike Montgomery 10
  • Wade Davis 10
  • Kris Bryant 8
  • Miguel Montero 6
  • Justin Grimm 5
  • Kyle Hendricks 4
  • Felix Pena 3
  • Tommy La Stella 2
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Eddie Butler 2
  • Jon Jay 1
  • Brian Duensing 0
  • Albert Almora 0
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Carl Edwards -1
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Ian Happ -2
  • Hector Rondon -2
  • Pedro Strop -2
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Jason Heyward -4
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Addison Russell -6
  • Ben Zobrist -8
  • Koji Uehara -9
  • Jon Lester -10
  • Jake Arrieta -12
  • John Lackey -15
  • Javier Baez -24

Lackey and Baez drift further into the cellar while Almora and Zagunis even their ledgers. There appears to be a gravitational pull for guys who’s first name begin with the letter J that only Jon Jay is able to ward off.

Jon Lester will look to reverse that trend as well as put an end to the two game losing streak when he takes the mound today in the finale of this four game series with the Nationals. For some unfathomable reason, some people around here still don’t think of Jon as an ace despite his steady, strong performance. This is the kind of game where you look to your ace to lead you out of what feels like a tailspin because of the turmoil around the team even though it is really only two losses to one of the best teams in the league with their two best pitchers on the mound. I’ll have a recap of that one tomorrow. After that, I won’t have another column until at least Tuesday and maybe Wednesday because of the holiday and the fact that I am going to the game on Tuesday.

As regulars of this column know, we always end the column with a poll. Removing my vote from yesterday’s poll results, I’m declaring yesterday a tie. Very fitting, Jake Arrieta and Miguel Montero can share the Goat of the game distinction for that stinker of a game. Today, we’ll surely have little trouble finding the Goat of this game.

Poll

Who was the Cubs Goat of the game?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    John Lackey
    (91 votes)
  • 1%
    Javier Baez
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Ian Happ
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (2 votes)
94 votes total Vote Now