This weekend’s baseball played on the north side of Chicago was at times pretty ugly. Ugly wins don’t bother me. I realize that 2017 has largely been a lost season for the Toronto Blue Jays, but I’m guessing their fanbase was none too pleased with the tenth inning of yesterday’s game. That was chaotic, but when the dust cleared the Cubs had completed a sweep. The Cubs now head out on a six game trip into the Eastern time zone to play the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies. A trip where four or even more wins will be possible.
The Milwaukee Brewers took two out of three from the Colorado Rockies and so they now sit in second place, two games back of the Cubs with less than 40 to play. The Cardinals lost two of three to the Pirates and now sit a game and a half behind the Brewers. The Brewers are heading out to California for the remainder of their trip west and will open a series with the San Francisco Giants tonight. The Cardinals have an off day before facing the San Diego Padres in St. Louis. With both teams facing weak competition, the Cubs will need to keep winning if they are going to maintain their lead on the division. Hopefully, the Cubs will not need it, but they are now only half a game behind the Diamondbacks for the wildcard race. Laughable a month ago, it is now feasible that a team from the Central division takes a wildcard spot.
Following a five wins in seven games home stand, things are looking quite a bit more upbeat. To be sure, the Cubs need to get their relief pitching aside from Wade Davis settled. The Cubs are also facing playing without their usual ace Jon Lester and have already been playing without Addison Russell and Willson Contreras. Hopefully Lester and Russell can return this week, but for now the Cubs will have to continue to make due with Javier Baez playing every inning of every game at shortstop and two new catchers. Here’s hoping that the injury bug stops right there.
On that note, we’ll dive into the results from these three games and see what WPA has to say about Heroes and Goats. 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, August 18:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jake Arrieta (.148). Six and a third innings, six hits, two walks, six strikeoouts and only one earned run. Jake remains hot, positions himself as the ace of the staff for the time being and continues to position himself well heading into free agency.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.144). I’ve not peeked ahead at Fangraphs for the rest of the weekend, but I feel comfortable saying that this will not be the last time we talk about Javy. Javy had an RBI single in the second (.070) to give the Cubs an early 2-1 lead and a two run home run in the eighth (.101) that capped the scoring.
- Sidekick - Victor Caratini (.139). Victor had his best game to date as a Cub. In the weirdest irony, Victor has now been sent to Iowa after both his first home run and his first three hit game. Pavlov would not have supported this handling. Victor doubled and later scored in the second (.095), singled in the fourth (.023), was intentionally walked in the fifth (.002), and singled in the eighth (.019).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Pedro Strop (-.097). August 11th in Arizona was the last game in which a Cubs reliever didn’t allow a run. Counting all three weekend games, that is nine consecutive games where the bullpen has allowed at least one run. On Friday it was Pedro Strop. Pedro worked the eighth inning and allowed three runs on four hits. Fortunately, he was handed a 5-1 lead.
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.063). Friday was one of the toughest days of Ian’s young career. Four at bats and four strike outs. Counting all of the three weekend games, August has been good for Ian, as he has a .256/.320/.628 line that would be his strongest month so far if it were to hold up. Friday though was a tough one.
- Kid - Jon Jay (.003). This is one of the tougher Goat podium visits of the year. Jon Jay pinch hit in the eighth inning with the Cubs up 7-4. He drew a walk. Yet here he is. The good news is that the Cubs had this one under control for enough of the game that they get a positive goat. Small solace for Jon Jay’s numbers.
Game Chart Saturday, August 19:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ian Happ (.261). Ian rebounded from his miserable day Friday with two hits and a walk on Saturday. Ian had an RBI single in the first to give the Cubs an early 1-0 lead (.086), a solo home run leading off the fourth to tie the score at 2-2 (.136), and walked and scored to make it 3-2 in the sixth (.051). A well earned Superhero appearance when you have a hand in the first three runs in a game that ends up 4-3.
- Hero - Wade Davis (.161). Wade had a busy weekend with all of the close games. On Saturday he picked up his 26th save in 26 tries with a perfect ninth inning in a one run game.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.150). This guy is on fire. Javy was intentionally walked for the 12th time this season in the fourth (.021) and had an RBI single in the sixth (.165) to make it 3-2. Javy has started the last 17 games for the Cubs at shortstop including 10 straight days. In those games, he’s carried a line of (.297/.338/.625 with a .371 BABIP). Javy is playing some of his best baseball at a time when the team needed him most.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Alex Avila (-.115). Alex grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to end the first (-.123), singled in the fourth (.042), grounded out in the second with a runner on first (-.020), and struck out (-.013).
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.077). Kyle flied out in the first (-.033), struck out in the third (-.015), and struck out in the fifth (-.030). (This is officially the first time I’ve noticed that there is rounding in the Fangraphs numbers as those numbers do not add up.)
- Kid - Jon Jay (-.075). Jon appears in the same spot for the second day in a row. Jon walked and scored to start the game (.035), struck out (-.020), struck out with runners on second and third to end the fourth inning (-.071), and flew out (-.019).
Saturday’s honorable mention on the Goat side is Hector Rondon who worked the eighth inning and allowed one unearned run to cut the Cubs lead to 4-3. Because he technically held the lead late in the game, he ended up with a WPA of (.002).
Game Chart Sunday, August 20:
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Alex Avila (.469). Alex had two plate appearances, he walked in the ninth (.005), and he had the game winning single (.464) scoring (who else?) Javier Baez with the winning run (Ben Zobrist also scored ahead of Javy). Alex has one of those stat lines you only see when a player hasn’t had a lot of plate appearances. In his first 40 plate appearances with the Cubs, he has eight hits (good for only a .235 average), but 10 RBI. Fun with numbers, if you projected that out to a 400 plate appearance season you might see from a catcher, he’d drive in 100 runs.
- Hero - Jason Heyward (.168). Jason had no official at bats in the game. He walked to lead off the ninth (.074) and then stole second (.099). Unfortunately, the Cubs offense stranded him on third after he got there with only one out. Jason was hit by a pitch in the 10th which for a reason I can not explain is indicated as a (-.005) in Fangraphs. I think something is type in incorrectly though, because it also shows as runners on second and third after he was hit after he came up with them on first and third.
- Sidekick - Kyle Schwarber (.140). In a game with a weird finish, it is fitting that someone is here stemming from one of the weird occurrences. Kyle did have a double in the fifth (.033) that put runners on second and third with two outs (the Cubs did not score either run), but his big contribution here is (.091) for reaching on a dropped third strike. Kyle also gets credit as the lead runner for the (.081) wild pitch on which he scored from third. I believe when Russ was doing this column, he’d have had Kyle sending fruit baskets to Roberto Osuna for the two wild pitches that landed him just ahead of Wade Davis who worked a scoreless ninth despite two walks.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Koji Uehara (-.343). Koji was only able to record two outs in his return from the DL. He also allowed a walk, two hits and two runs (with some help from two walks by Justin Wilson).
- Goat - Kris Bryant (-.124). Kris got part of a day off ahead of today’s day off. He was hitless in his two at bats. Kris struck out in the ninth inning with runners on first and second and one out (-.096), and he also flew out in the seventh (-.028).
- Kid - Ian Happ (-.111). It was a three podium weekend for Ian. He had just one at bat in this one, he followed Kris Bryant’s strike out in the ninth with one of his own, stranding runners at first and second (-.111).
Next, we take a look at the cumulative standings. 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)
- Willson Contreras 32
- Anthony Rizzo 31
- Kris Bryant 17
- Wade Davis 16
- Jon Jay 9
- Kyle Hendricks 8
- Mike Montgomery 6
- Jake Arrieta 6
- Miguel Montero 5
- Tommy La Stella 4
- Alex Avila 4
- Justin Grimm 3
- Kyle Schwarber 2
- Felix Pena 2
- Matt Szczur 2
- Jose Quintana 1
- Eddie Butler 1
- Brian Duensing 0
- Mark Zagunis 0
- Pedro Strop -1
- Seth Frankoff -1
- Jack Leathersich -1
- Justin Wilson -2
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Hector Rondon -4
- Ian Happ -4
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Brett Anderson -5
- Albert Almora Jr. -6
- Carl Edwards Jr. -9
- Victor Caratini -9
- Jon Lester -11
- Jason Heyward -11
- Koji Uehara -14
- Javier Baez -14
- Addison Russell -15
- Ben Zobrist -15
- John Lackey -18
Jon Jay drops out of the positive 10 group, Victor Cartini moves out of the negative 10 group and Pedro Strop drops into negative territory. Oh and Javier Baez has now added 17 to his total since taking over the starting shortstop job due to Addison Russell’s injury and has passed three people now (including Addison).
Today the Cubs will be off. Tomorrow night they open a series in Cincinnati. John Lackey takes the ball for the Cubs against Homer Bailey of the Reds in a rematch of last Wednesday’s game that the Cubs won 7-6. The Cubs were able to plate six runs in five and two thirds innings for Homer. The Reds only managed one earned run off of John Lackey who sports a 3.29 ERA over his last seven starts. Homer Bailey has an 8.44 ERA in 53.1 innings on the year. You have to feel good about this one, though it reasonable to expect the Reds to hit at least one home run in a home run friendly stadium against Lackey who continues to be plagued by long balls.
As always, we end with a poll. On Friday, Jon Lester was voted Goat of the game for his rough outing. Today we’ll look at the Cubs Player of the Week.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Week?
This poll is closed
Anthony Rizzo (.429/.484/.750)
Kyle Schwarber (.389/.522/.611)
Ian Happ (.250/.316/.813)
Albert Almora (.500/.500/.571)
Wade Davis (2 saves, 4 games, 4 IP, 2 BB, 0 H, 3 K)
Jake Arrieta (1 win, 6.1 IP, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 R)
Other (please leave your answer in the comments below)