I have to admit, on Friday afternoon I was starting to wonder if this season would be the Charlie Brown season. You know, the old feeling where Lucy would hold the football for Charlie to try to kick a field goal. Only every time he went to kick the ball, she’d pull it away and he’d land on his butt.
While that Friday game was happening a guy who have been reliable almost all season (Carl Edwards Jr.) and a guy who’s been great lately (Hector Rondon) and a guy who had a pretty strong stretch a little while back (Justin Grimm) all struggled to find the strike zone and get outs. While that was happening, I wondered if this was going to be that season. After six straight wins took us from two under .500 to four over .500, moving straight from our lowest point of the season to our highest, we lost again. And once again we had failed to create escape velocity and once again failed to escape are current orbit around the .500 mark.
When Jon Lester pitched amazing for seven innings and then hiccuped just enough in the eighth to allow back to back home runs, I was sure that was happening. And then the Cubs bats came to life. Aided by a peculiar decision by Mike Matheny to leave Adam Wainwright who came into the game with a 5.08 ERA to try to throw and eighth inning and face Cubs for the third and fourth time in the game. Perhaps his decision was informed by the three saves the bullpen has blown since the All-Star break. For whatever reason, he decided to keep Wainwright in the game, the Cubs bats came to life and stole another game late.
And then on Sunday, the teams had a back and forth game. The game was tied at three in the bottom of the sixth when Willson Contreras stepped to the plate with a man on. A two run homer followed and the Cubs had a two run lead heading into the last three innings. One of the reasons the players love Joe Maddon is because when they fall off the horse, he almost always immediately gets them right back up on the horse. And so there were Hector Rondon and Carl Edwards to try to protect the lead. And they did, as did Wade Davis. And finally, these defending World Champions reached five games over .500. And they moved into a tie for first place.
On these happy thoughts, let’s look at what WPA had to say about the Heroes and Goats for this game. 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 Friday, July 21st:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jake Arrieta (.150). Good, not great. But left the game leading 3-2. Over his last 12 starts, Jake has held opposing hitters to a .208/.291/.359 line. He has a 3.25 ERA over that stretch. He’s still giving up about a home run for every nine innings pitched, but he’s certainly giving the team a chance to win.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.106). One hit in four tries isn’t flashy. But the one hit was a big one as it came with two outs and runners on first and second in a tie game. He drove in the go ahead run.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.095). Okay, I love Pedro but it made me laugh. I did not expect to see a hero out of the bullpen remembering back to Friday, but here we are. Pedro did allow a leadoff walk and a wild pitch and a ground out had that runner all of the way to third base, but he did work a scoreless inning to preserve a 3-2 lead.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.375). This we knew was coming. Two walks and a double, no outs recorded. He left the game with the Cubs still leading, so I wondered if he’d finish up top.
- Goat - Hector Rondon (-.346). Two hits and two walks, no outs recorded after coming in with the bases loaded.
- Kid - Javier Baez (-.117). Most of this comes from grounding into a double play in the second inning after Addison Russell lead off with a single. Javier had a tough day against Carlos Martinez.
Game Chart Saturday, July 22nd:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kris Bryant (.285). After missing most of the two previous games with a finger injury, Kris returned to the lineup and continued his recent surge at the plate. Counting the Sunday game, Kris has a .415/.489/.732 over his last 47 plate appearances. His single after Ben Zobrist had doubled in Jon Jay tied the game after two.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.218). There is no one I want up more on this team when the game is on the line and Anthony came through again on Saturday with a double that scored Kris Bryant all of the way from first with the go ahead run.
- Sidekick - Wade Davis (.161). It wasn’t clean, but it was effective as he nailed down another save to preserve the victory.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Addison Russell (-.110). Hitless in four tries, the biggest one here was a fly out to end the seventh inning in a scoreless game with a runner on second.
- Goat - Willson Contreras (-.092). Hitless in his first three at bats, then was intentionally walked following the Rizzo double and was caught stealing.
- Kid - Ian Happ (-.055). Struck out in his only at bat as a pinch hitter with a runner on first ahead of all of the heroics.
Game Chart Sunday, July 23rd:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kris Bryant (.186). And for the second time in this column I was surprised. Kris had two more hits and a walk. The biggest one here was an RBI single in the third to tie the game at two.
- Hero - Willson Contreras (.170). Just one hit, but it was a big one. A two run homer in the sixth inning that provided the margin of victory.
- Sidekick - Kyle Schwarber (.113). Also just one hit, but it wasn’t too shabby either. A long home run in the fourth to tie the game at three. Nowhere near what we were hoping for this season, but plenty productive since he returned to the majors at .237/.326/.553.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.096). Hitless in three tries, the big one here becing a fly out in the sixth after Kris Bryant had lead off the inning with a double.
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.087). No hits in three tries. Similar to Anthony, his biggest one was a fly out in the third after Addison Russell had lead off the inning with a double.
- Kid - Ian Happ (-.037). Ian is in a rough stretch. Over his last 13 games, he is .196/.245/.304 in 49 plate appearances.
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.
Cumulative Standings (Italics indicates no longer with the organization):
- Anthony Rizzo 32
- Willson Contreras 23
- Kris Bryant 16
- Wade Davis 14
- Kyle Schwarber 8
- Mike Montgomery 7
- Miguel Montero 6
- Jon Jay 5
- Tommy La Stella 5
- Kyle Hendricks 4
- Justin Grimm 3
- Felix Pena 3
- Jose Quintana 3
- Matt Szczur 2
- Brian Duensing 2
- Eddie Butler 1
- Albert Almora Jr. 0
- Mark Zagunis 0
- Seth Frankoff -1
- Dylan Floro -1
- Pedro Strop -1
- Ian Happ -3
- Hector Rondon -3
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Jason Heyward -4
- Brett Anderson -5
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Carl Edwards Jr. -6
- Victor Caratini -6
- Addison Russell -10
- Jon Lester -11
- Jake Arrieta -12
- Koji Uehara -13
- John Lackey -15
- Ben Zobrist -16
- Javier Baez -26
A weekend of big moments saw all five of the top players in the standings make at least one podium visit. Anthony Rizzo manages to add to his lead despite a couple of home runs for Willson Contreras. Javier Baez falls further into the basement with a rough weekend at the plate after his recent hot stretch.
This afternoon the Cubs face the White Sox who have lost nine in a row. Kyle Hendricks finally returns to the mound. This is the first of four with two each at Wrigley and then Guaranteed Rate Field. Hopefully the Cubs can keep it rolling against a team that has its eyes firmly set into the future ahead of a looming matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee next weekend.
As always, we end with a poll. On Thursday, Mike Montgomery received 77% of the vote for Hero of the Wednesday game. Today, we’ll look at Player of the Week. I’ll have the results of the poll and a recap of today’s game tomorrow morning.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Week?
This poll is closed
Javier Baez (.421/.421/.842)
Addison Russell (.350/.350/550)
Kris Bryant (.353/.421/.471)
Jon Lester (2 wins, 15 innings, six hits, one walk, six strike outs)
Jake Arrieta (6 innings, five hits, no walks, six strike outs, and a single)
Mike Montgomery (6 innings, two hits, one walk, five striked outs, and a home run)