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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 99

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Cubs win for the ninth time in 11 games following the All-Star break.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Chicago Cubs
Ben Zobrist had a great day at the plate to help lead the Cubs to victory.
Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a wild ride. But in the end, more enjoyable than Monday’s series opener. On Tuesday, we saw a Kris Bryant ejection for arguing what certainly appeared was a pitch well outside the strike zone called strike three against him. John Lackey hit four batters including three in a row leading to Hawk Harrelson saying some pretty stupid things the White Sox throwing at Ian Happ. But in the end, the Cubs mustered seven runs and the White Sox only two.

With the win, the Cubs are once again at their highest number of games over .500 at five above. All four of the teams in contention for the National League Central crown won, so the teams remain bunched. Interestingly, the Diamondbacks and Rockies both lost. So while the wild card still looks unlikely, the Cubs are now within five of the second wild card spot. When people were wondering about the Cubs getting into the playoffs during their early struggles, my answer was always the same. How many of the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Brewers are for real? If all three of those teams were going to win at about a .600 pace, it was always going to be near impossible. As those teams slowly fall back down towards .500 it becomes very possible.

On that happier note, let’s get to the numbers, and see what they say about yesterday’s 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 Tuesday, July 25th:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Carl Edwards Jr. (.270). When last I talked about Carl Edwards, it was following him being brought into the game Friday to hold a close game. He failed to do so and the Cubs went on to lose. Today, he was brought in with runners on second and third and no outs in a 4-2 game. Carl got a strikeout, a grounder right back to the pitcher and another strikeout — the kind of dominant performance that has many Cub fans dreaming on him as a closer of the future.
  • Hero - Willson Contreras (.258). Willson uncharacteristically took three straight strikes looking to end the game on Monday. And so it is that we have our second consecutive bounce back performance on the podium. Willson had three hits and four RBI, including a huge three-run home run in the first inning that turned out to be all of the runs the Cubs needed. Willson is hitting .347/.397/.694 in 78 July plate appearances.
  • Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.197). It’s generally been a tough year for Ben Zobrist at the plate. So I imagine he particularly enjoyed yesterday’s three hit and one walk performance. Ben doubled leading off the game and then again in the second with runners on first and second and one out. Over his last 10 games, Ben is .306/.375/.528 over 40 plate appearances. That’s a pretty small sample, but it appears that he is finally finding a groove at the plate.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Kris Bryant (-.118). Kris had a tough afternoon, striking out three times in three plate appearances. After the last of the three he was thrown out of the game for arguing what appeared to be a very bad call. In all three at-bats, there were runners in scoring position and Kris left four runners on base in total.
  • Goat - John Lackey (-.115). The box score doesn’t look all that bad, five innings, five hits, two walks, five strike outs. Ordinarily that would be a ho hum performance. But he also hit four batters and basically worked through trouble all afternoon up to starting the sixth inning and allowing a walk and a double to start the inning. Thanks to a strong bullpen effort and a good showing by the offense, John Lackey records his second consecutive win.
  • Kid - Javier Baez (-.081). If you read this column day in and day out, you know that Javier has had a couple of cheapie visits to the goat podiums. This was not one of those. Javy had one of the worst days at the plate of his professional career with five strikeouts in five at-bats. Always a streaky hitter, he is currently in a very cold streak with a .133/.188/.133 in 16 plate appearances. And to pile on, he’s struck out in half of those plate appearances and grounded into a double play. With a .286 BABIP, it’s not even exceptionally bad luck doing him in.

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 three points for Billy Goat, two for Goat and one for Kid. Here then are the standings.

Cumulative Standings (Italics indicates no longer with the organization):

  • Anthony Rizzo 32
  • Willson Contreras 24
  • Wade Davis 14
  • Kris Bryant 13
  • Jon Jay 8
  • Mike Montgomery 7
  • Kyle Schwarber 6
  • Miguel Montero 6
  • Tommy La Stella 5
  • Kyle Hendricks 5
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Felix Pena 3
  • Jose Quintana 3
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Brian Duensing 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Pedro Strop 1
  • Albert Almora Jr 0
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Dylan Floro -1
  • Ian Happ -3
  • Hector Rondon -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Carl Edwards -3
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Victor Caratini -6
  • Jason Heyward -7
  • Addison Russell -10
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Jake Arrieta -12
  • Koji Uehara -13
  • Ben Zobrist -15
  • John Lackey -17
  • Javier Baez -27

Willson Contreras moves back under 10 points behind the leader Anthony Rizzo. Carl Edwards jumps multiple spots. John Lackey falls into the second to last place and moves within 10 points of last.

The series moves from the north side to the south side tonight. Jake Arrieta takes the mound for the Cubs. As we covered last time in Heroes and Goats, Jake has been much better over his last 12 starts. He’s still allowing more home runs than is optimal which partially explains an ERA of 3.25. But he’s holding hitters to .208/.291/.359 over that stretch. The White Sox have hit Jake well the last two times they’ve seen him. Though admittedly this lineup is very different than the one he faced last July.

James Shields takes the ball for the White Sox. He threw one of his best games of 2016 against the Cubs last year and has done well in the four times he’s seen them. James has allowed exactly 6 earned runs in three of his last five starts. And those starts don’t exactly come against juggernauts in the Royals (who have in fairness been hot) and the A’s (twice). He did pitch relatively well against the Yankees at the end of June, so he’s still got the ability to put it together occasionally.

Two teams continuing to go in very different directions. Let’s hope that continues to be the trend and not another clunker like Monday. Win or lose, I’ll be here tomorrow morning to recap the game and tell you about Heroes and Goats from the game.

As always, we’ll finish with a poll. Yesterday, we had one of the closest votes we’ve had since I started running this column. In voting on Goat of the game, Jason Heyward received one more vote than Willson Contreras. I don’t think today’s will be quite so close as we vote on Hero of Tuesday’s game.

Poll

Who was the Hero of Tuesday’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Carl Edwards Jr
    (44 votes)
  • 59%
    Willson Contreras
    (73 votes)
  • 2%
    Ben Zobrist
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Ian Happ
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now