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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 79

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The Cubs snatch victory from the jaws of defeat and split their series in Washington.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals
Jon Jay delivers clutch two out double to push Cubs to dramatic victory.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll start this piece will full disclosure. I found out the Cubs won last night when I checked my phone for the first time in a couple of hours to see how the Brewers were doing. I had listened to the Cubs bullpen cough up the lead in the seventh and I’d listened to the Cubs go quietly in the eighth. Then my daughter had softball practice, I made dinner and sat down with my family disappointed that the Cubs had let one slip away.

So I looked down at my phone and said holy ****! when I saw Cubs 5, Nationals 4. Totally crazy. I found myself glad that I’m not a Nationals fan. Losing is awful most days, but I always find it exponentially worse when victory seemed all but assured. And what a great story Nationals writers were getting ready to write. Not only one of the best teams in baseball, but pretty effectively dismantled the defending world champions with the only loss being a game that the Nationals battered the Cubs closer (after your own bullpen showed many of its weaknesses). But alas, the Nationals couldn’t hold the lead, the Cubs split the series and are 4-4 on the road trip. That’s so fitting for a team that is more identifiable by injuries and mediocrity than anything else this year.

We’re here to look at what WPA has to say about the Heroes and Goats. Without looking, I suspect that this one will be a tale of three segments. There is the first six innings where the Cubs looked like they would squeak out a win in a pitchers duel. Then there were the two innings where the Nationals looked like they had authored a come from behind win. And then there is the ninth inning as the Cubs tore up the script. Let’s see what that looks like.

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 Thursday, June 29:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Jon Jay (.558). By a wide margin, the highest WPA since I’ve been writing this column. A two out, two run double in the ninth inning. In case you wondered, that event was worth .666. His number for the day was lower because he was hitless in four tries earlier in the day. In fact, heading into that at bat, Jon was hitless in nine tries in the series with just one walk. Baseball can turn on a dime.
  • Hero - Jon Lester (.255). Until that Jon Jay at bat, Lester looked like he would be the hard-luck superhero, pitching just well enough to win, escaping trouble several times and battling while hoping the offense would put some runs on the board. This was just the kind of performance you hope for out of your ace. You hope for this all of the time of course, but especially when your team has had a rough series.
  • Sidekick - Wade Davis (.202). Wade bounced back from his rough outing Monday with a perfect ninth inning. Wade has been awesome this year. He is one of the things about this team that gives a glimmer of hope.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.429). Ouch. Carl has been one of the more steady and dependable relievers in baseball this year. In the mess that was Monday night’s last four innings, he threw a very strong inning. Every now and then he just doesn’t have it though and this was one of those. Walk, home run, line out, walk and that was it for Carl. All three of those runners scored. His ERA ballooned from 1.72 to 2.56.
  • Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.083). Ground out, fly out with a runner on second and one out, strike out. Ho hum. Not much to talk about here. Albert continues to have a much higher OPS against lefthanders (1.035) than righthanders (.596). But he plays solid defense and hopefully will find some footing against righties over time.
  • Kid - Ian Happ (-.076). Ian amuses me, because it seems like even when he has a tough game he almost always gets a hit at some point. To that end, he’s just 4-for-23 over the last five games, but he had hits in four of the five games and 14 of 16 overall. I expect a big series out of him over the weekend against the Reds. It will be his first appearance in the city where he played college baseball.

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

Wade Davis moves back into a tie for second on the list while Jon Lester takes a step away from a couple of his fellow rotation mates.

The Cubs will open a new series against the Cincinnati Reds tonight, the first of three straight to finish this 11-game road trip. After a very much needed off day Monday the Cubs will then see the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday and Wednesday. I will be away from the column until Thursday morning. At that time, I’ll give you a quick overview of all five games between now and then. In the interim, I hope all of you and your families enjoy a happy and safe July 4th weekend. One more week until the All-Star break and a reset that should serve this team well.

Before we go, we’ll do our poll. Yesterday John Lackey got 97 percent of the vote for Goat of Wednesday’s game. We’ll see if today’s result tops that as we vote on the Hero of the game for Thursday’s game.

Poll

Who was the Cubs Hero of the game?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Jon Jay
    (93 votes)
  • 9%
    Jon Lester
    (12 votes)
  • 1%
    Wade Davis
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    Javier Baez
    (2 votes)
  • 6%
    Tommy La Stella
    (8 votes)
  • 2%
    Jeimer Candelario
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (4 votes)
124 votes total Vote Now