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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 101

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The Cubs continue to roll; win Crosstown Classic

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox
Kyle Schwarber busts out; slugs Cubs to victory.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

When people were wondering in the first half of the season if the Cubs would get back to where most of us expected them to be, I asked them two questions. 1) How many of the Brewers, Diamondbacks and Rockies would continue winning at the pace they were winning? and 2) Do you believe the Cubs can have a stretch where they win eight of 10 or 15 of 20? Through the 80 some odd games the Cubs played prior to the All-Star break, I started believing those answers were all three and no. There are times when I love to be wrong.

The Cubs won again last night. They did have that eight of ten stretch. Now they are at 11 of 13 and could be well on their way to 15 of 20. Of course, there are no guarantees as we are always reminded. Surely the Brewers will fight to the last out for three games this weekend. Their very nice season is slipping away and they were just annihilated by the Nationals. It is easy to hope that the wheels have fallen off of their bus and that they’ll just roll over and play dead. But we all saw how they played the last time we saw them up close. Of course that was just one game. But I expect them to play well this weekend. And then the Diamondbacks and Nationals come in. The Diamondbacks are adding players for what they hope will be their first playoff run in quite a few years (I didn’t look it up, but surely that involved sweeping a series from the Cubs?) and the Nationals are rolling again on offense.

But for now, we are in one of those periods were everything is sunshine and rainbows. The pitchers are showing their dominant form from 2016. And the bats are providing plenty of runs to support their efforts. Whatever comes next, this has been a fantastic run. This team wiped out the five and a half game deficit it had in the standings following the All-Star break and now has a one and a half game lead two weeks later. I kept calling for this to happen in June, but I was off by one month.

On that happy 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 Friday, July 28th:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.292). What a welcome sight! I know he wasn’t facing the cream of the crop. But this game needed to happen. You certainly couldn’t see what was coming when he fouled out with runners on first and second and two outs his first time up. The next three times up he drove in runs. A two-run homer in the fourth, an RBI triple in the sixth and a solo home run in the eighth. From June 3 to now, he has a .245/.355/.617 line. And that still includes a .246 BABIP. Slowly, we are starting to see the player we thought we would see.
  • Hero - Jon Lester (.160). In three starts since the All-Star break, he is 3-0 with 22 innings pitched, ten hits and two walks allowed while striking out 20. He’s held opponents to .135/.169/.297 over that stretch. The last two seasons have seen a Cub pitcher get insanely hot, will it be Jon this year?
  • Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.129). Anthony singled and stole a base in the first inning before being stranded. He finished the job himself the second time up, hitting a solo home run. With 24 home runs in the Cubs’ first 100 games, Anthony is on pace for 39 home runs, his career high is 32. He’s also got 67 RBI and is on pace for 108, one less than his career high last year. And he’s actually still a little below the slash line he’s had over the last few years. So there could still be some acceleration to his numbers.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Addison Russell (-.084). Hitless in four tries, the biggest of which was grounding into an inning ending double play in the second while the game was scoreless. Addison keeps showing signs of life, but just can’t quite get over the hump.
  • Goat - Jon Jay (-.081). Jon did reach base once on a hit by pitch, but the subsequent caught stealing cost him more WPA than getting on base did.
  • Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.061). Ben managed to go hitless in five at bats and place lower than two guys who had fewer plate appearances. This is because he was largely up in low leverage spots. Timing is a key element of WPA.

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 35
  • Willson Contreras 24
  • Wade Davis 14
  • Kris Bryant 13
  • Kyle Schwarber 9
  • Mike Montgomery 7
  • Jon Jay 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
  • Hector Rondon -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -3
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Ian Happ -6
  • Victor Caratini -7
  • Jason Heyward -7
  • Jake Arrieta -9
  • Jon Lester -9
  • Koji Uehara -13
  • Addison Russell -15
  • Ben Zobrist -15
  • John Lackey -17
  • Javier Baez -27

Kyle Schwarber moves back into the top 5 for the year. Jon Lester follows Jake Arrieta out of the double digit negative club. Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist sink into a tie for third from the bottom.

The Cubs take the long bus ride to Milwaukee to open a three game set with the Brewers. I’d love to see the Cubs get some payback from that last game against the Brewers at Wrigley Field. On the hill will be Jose Quintana who’s last road start was a gem. Jose’s last start against Milwaukee was in 2015, though that was a very good one. Jose is 4-0 with a 2.32 ERA in his last seven starts. Let’s hope he can keep that rolling.

For the Brewers, Brent Suter, who sounds like he played for the Hawks in the 80’s and 90’s will be on the mound. He’s never started a game against the Cubs. He’s thrown pretty well in his last four starts, though he only has one win to show for it. Making his sixth start of the year, this is oddly only his second at home. He won the other one. Brent throws lefthanded, so expect more Almora and Baez today. The Cubs have hit lefties much better than righties this year, so I like their odds.

And finally, we finish with a poll question. Yesterday you selected Jake Arrieta with 70% of the vote for Hero of Wednesday night’s game. Today we’ll vote for the Hero of Thursday night’s game.

Poll

Who was the Hero of Thursday night’s Cubs game?

This poll is closed

  • 87%
    Kyle Schwarber
    (153 votes)
  • 11%
    Jon Lester
    (20 votes)
  • 1%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now