For 88 games, this team stayed in neutral, never moving higher than four games above .500 and never below two under .500. Now in the 17 games that followed the Cubs have played 11 games over .500. I did not think this team could continue to find ways to amaze me, but I was wrong.
I suppose the signs were there. Coming from behind after the seventh inning is a rare thing. Coming from behind after the eighth is not something every team does in a year. The Cubs have done both multiple times this year. They are a defending champion. They have talented players not only through all 25 roster spots, but down into the Triple-A roster where guys like Tommy La Stella and Justin Grimm who have contributed at the big league level have been forced due to the depth this team has.
Last night, the Cubs crushed a very good Diamondbacks team 16-4. To be sure, the Diamondbacks have been down a bit lately, but even in stumbling a bit out of the gate, most of the losses for them have been one run losses. But the Cubs dominated this game from start to finish. Often times, I’m discovering the heroes and goats as I’m writing them and so I’m sometimes sharing my surprise with you as I’m reading them. For this one though, I checked in on it during the seventh inning. So I’ve been spoled.
And so, I’m going to provide a warning right here. *If you are prone to being upset at who ends up on the goats podium, you might want to skip over the next section. *End of warning. If you are still reading, you were warned.
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, August 1st:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ben Zobrist (.095). To date, it’s been a tough year for Ben. He says he is feeling the best he has all year. Ben singled and scored in the first to get things rolling. He ended up with two hits, a walk, reached on an error and scored three times. A great table setter day.
- Hero - Kris Bryant (.085). Kris Bryant followed Zobrist with a single in the first. His sacrifice fly in the second actually resulted in a negative WPA event. He did end up with two RBI and two runs scored despite having only one hit. Kris is in one of those grooves he gets into, hitting .347/.402/.597 over his last 19 games (82 PA)
- Sidekick - Ian Happ (.076). Ian has been struggling lately and Joe Maddon dropped him down to eighth in the lineup. He’d previously not batted lower than sixth. Ian responded with two hits including a home run, two runs scored and an RBI.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.059). The good: a three run home run late in the game. The bad: grounded out with runners on second and third to end the first inning (-.040 WPA), grounded into a double play in the third inning (-.016). Sadly the home run made the game 15-3 and was thus worth (.000) WPA.
- Goat - Mike Montgomery (.001). I gave all of the hype to a guy with a two-homer game making the goat side. It is at least as implausible if not more so that a guy could earn a save and be on the goat side. Yes, it was a garbage save in a blow out game for throwing three innings to close out the game. But he allowed three baserunners and no earned runs in those three innings. He got the last (.001) for recording the 27th out. And yet, that was the second lowest WPA.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (.002). And the third lowest went to Anthony Rizzo. Three hits, two home runs, three runs, three RBI should get you a superhero award in most games. Anthony has a lot of those. Not tonight. By at bat he struck out in the first with runners on first and second (-.058), homered with a man on in the second (.058), struck out in the fourth with the bases empty and one out (-.001), singled in the sixth with runners on fist and second (.003), homered leading off the seventh (.000). Fun stuff.
If you’ve been a follower of Heroes and Goats since the beginning, you know that we at times discussed the possibility of a game where everyone was positive by WPA. Last night, we saw a game that gave a glimpse of what that would look like. Jon Lester retired the side in order in the top of the first and then the Cubs jumped on the Diamondbacks and never let them back into the game. Every Cubs player who played in the game had a positive WPA except for Javier Baez. Swap Javier Baez’ last at bat with his first and this would have been a full team positive WPA. And with that, we have a feat that will probably never be duplicated. Anthony hit two home runs and made into onto the goat side of the ledger.
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.
If you pay close attention to the cumulative standings, you will notice some shifts today. Several weeks ago interbret filled in for me while I was on one of my vacations. He left me with a spreadsheet that showed his work while I was gone just like he did when I first started writing the column. And he let me know that the math was off on my standings. The net total of all of the points was not 0. The ledger should balance as we give out an equal number of hero and goat points each day. I had been keeping track of H&G on a shorthand spreadsheet. As it turns out, there were multiple errors. I have a much more detailed spreadsheet now and in one or two cases, there was a fairly significant change. I’m fairly certain at some point I gave Jake Arrieta a -3 when he should have received a +3. So thank you Bret and bad Tom. I went through every game twice and so literally I’ve now made a list and checked it twice. Buh dum ching.
Cumulative Standings (Italics indicates no longer with the organization):
- Anthony Rizzo 35
- Willson Contreras 24
- Wade Davis 16
- Jon Jay 8
- Mike Montgomery 5
- Kyle Schwarber 5
- Miguel Montero 5
- Justin Grimm 5
- Kyle Hendricks 5
- Tommy La Stella 5
- Jose Quintana 5
- Brian Duensing 2
- Pedro Strop 2
- Felix Pena 2
- Matt Szczur 2
- Eddie Butler 1
- Al Avila 0
- Justin Wilson 0
- Mark Zagunis 0
- Seth Frankoff -1
- Jack Leathersich -1
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Jake Arrieta -3
- Carl Edwards Jr. -3
- Hector Rondon -3
- Albert Almora Jr. -3
- Ian Happ -3
- Victor Caratini -4
- Brett Anderson -5
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Jon Lester -9
- Jason Heyward -9
- Koji Uehara -13
- Addison Russell -15
- Ben Zobrist -15
- John Lackey -17
- Javier Baez -31
Joy of joys, one of the changes in the standings dropped a Dylan Floro in favor of a Jack Leathersich. One of those is quite a bit easier to type. Last night, Kris Bryant moved into a third place tie while Ben Zobrist moved out of second to last. Anthony Rizzo with his tough luck loses a point on his lead and Mike Montgomery falls into a seven way tie for sixth place. Crazy. I am terrible a standard deviation, but I’m going to guess that it is somewhere around 5 for this since nearly everyone falls between +5 and -5.
There are two remaining games in this series. The next one is tonight when Jake Arrieta takes the mound against Zack Godley. Zack has a nice looking 3.06 ERA on the season, and he was very good in his last outing when he shut the Cardinals out for seven innings. The two starts before that he was knocked around a bit. The Cubs have faced Godley once and that was in 2015 and they plated six runs in less than four innings against him. Jake Arrieta has a 2.93 ERA over his last seven starts as he’s looked increasingly dominant. That number will look even better when a start against the Nationals in late June rolls off of his recent starts. They’ve hung crooked numbers on just about everybody.
The final game will be Thursday afternoon and will feature Zack Greinke against Jose Quintana. Greinke has had an excellent season featuring a 13-4 record and a 2.84 ERA. He’s 5-1 with a 2.53 over his last seven. The Cubs did score four against him last April in a start and beat him. Quintana has been very good over his last seven dating back to his White Sox days, with a 3-1 record and a 2.38 ERA. He did face the Diamondbacks this May while with the White Sox and that one didn’t go well. He allowed 8 runs in just four and a third innings.
I will be going to both of these games and as a side effect, there will be no Heroes and Goats column tomorrow. Friday morning I will have a recap covering both games and looking ahead to the weekend.
Before we go, we will finish with our customary poll. Yesterday 81 percent of you selected Willson Contreras as player of the month for August. Willson was a very worthy choice indeed. I always love pitching and so I went with Jake Arrieta as I think he could be a huge key in getting this team back where it wants to be. Today we’ll vote on the Hero of the game for last night’s game. It’s so hard to pick one when everyone contributes. For this one, I’m listing one of the goats as a choice for the first time ever.
Who was the Cubs Hero of the Game Tuesday night?
This poll is closed