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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 130

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Cubs win 6-1 behind strong pitching from Mike Montgomery; lead up to 2½ games.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Chicago Cubs
Javier Baez makes another amazing defensive play.
Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

I loved the Mike Montgomery trade the minute it was made. A talented pitcher who had shown some effectiveness for a hitter who though I believe he will hit at the major league level, had no real chance of ever getting any meaningful playing time with the Cubs. That said, I think I may have been late to the game of really being in Mike’s corner. If you’ve followed this column and my comments on other people’s columns, I’ve been a John Lackey supporter. I’m not necessarily getting of John’s bandwagon. He is a pretty effective fifth starter. Some outings are garish, of course, but he virtually always gives you at least five, generally gives you six innings and has kept his team close enough to win some games. That’s all you ask for out of your fifth starter.

I tap the brakes slightly because the Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates aren’t the cream of the crop offensively, but Mike is giving the Cubs much, much more than John Lackey has at any point this season. At minimum, I’m convinced that Mike should be an effective member of the Cubs rotation for next season, but right now with the division hanging in the balance, I’m wondering if Mike should be in the rotation for the remainder of the year. The lead isn’t comfortable enough for a six-man rotation. I don’t have my own conclusion on this thought, but I think it is a good question.

For now, if it were me, I’d slide Jon Lester in to start on Saturday if he feels like he is good to go. That would be the next game when Mike Montgomery is scheduled to pitch. I’d then let Mike start on Sunday. That is actually a fairly normal rest pattern for starters (similar to five games and an off day between starts). That stalls the decision for a little while longer anyway. The whole discussion is moot if Jon feels like he would benefit from a rehab start on Saturday and then coming back next week.

Interestingly, in his swing man role, it looks like Mike Montgomery will get between 120-130 innings of work this year depending on how many starts he makes between now and the end of the year. Counting the post season, he got just shy of 125 innings last year, so that stays in the same range. The Cubs would surely be comfortable if counting the post season, he gets up into the 130+ range. They generally look at keeping a guy within 30-40 innings of what he did the year before. And that puts him to where he cold throw 160-170 innings next year. That is manageable for a first time full time starter.

With that, let’s turn our attention to the heart of our column and look at 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 Monday, August 28:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.404). Most of you are surely aware that Mike’s last three starts have been very good. But going back to the first of those starts on July 19, Mike has made 11 appearances (3 starts) covering 35⅓ innings. In those innings, he’s allowed 24 hits (.192 opponent batting average), allowed eight runs (seven earned), while striking out 25 and walking nine. His ERA over that span is 1.78. Pitching is weird and unpredictable, but I think Mike might finally be unlocking his full potential.
  • Hero - Kris Bryant (.058). I know a fair portion of the Cubs community dislikes Kris Bryant batting second. But it does play to the skill set Kris has shown this season. For whatever reason, Kris has struggled with runners in scoring position throughout the season. But he runs the bases very well and is sixth in the league in run scoring. He did bat third last night, but he is on this podium as a table setter. Kris took a one out walk in the third with Jon Jay on first (.032), took a one out walk with runners on first and third in the fifth (.023), and singled with Jon Jay on first in the seventh (.015). He scored following the single.
  • Sidekick - Jason Heyward (.027). I documented yesterday the struggles Jason had in his last three starts. Last night, he looked much better at the plate. Jason singled in the second with two outs (.011) and then stole second (.009), and doubled in the sixth with one out (.025). Jason’s glove is so good in right, hopefully he can get a little momentum at the plate to provide some value with his bat.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.024). Javy had another terrific night in the field, the play he made in the third inning was the picture I selected for this article. Stopping that ball was already phenomenal, getting the out blew my mind. Javy has now played 24 consecutive complete games at short. I keep expecting to see that he is wearing down, but he has carried a .300/.357/.533 line over that time (there are eight walks, four intentional in there).
  • Goat - Alex Avila (-.011). On a day where the Cubs grab an early lead and hold it throughout, there are going to be some tough luck goats. Alex actually had a single and an RBI on a play that scored three. If you haven’t seen the highlights of that play (and the Javy one) they’re available in Al’s recap. Alex lands here primarily because he grounded into a double play in the second inning (-.065) following Ian Happ’s RBI single that scored the first run of the game.
  • Kid - Jon Jay (-.007). Jon was one for five in the game and scored a run after reaching on an error in the seventh. August has not been kind to Jon (.220/.319/.305). I wonder if it is a coincidence that he’s had the most plate appearances in this month by 26 and counting (94 versus 68 in June and July). Hopefully, it is a silver lining that Jon’s worst month by OPS was May (.578) and it was followed by two pretty good months in June and July.

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.

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

  • Anthony Rizzo 39
  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Kris Bryant 17
  • Wade Davis 16
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jon Jay 9
  • Kyle Hendricks 8
  • Jake Arrieta 7
  • Tommy La Stella 6
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Kyle Schwarber 3
  • Felix Pena 2
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Brian Duensing 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Justin Wilson -1
  • Jose Quintana -2
  • Alex Avila -3
  • Rene Rivera -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Pedro Strop -4
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Ian Happ -7
  • Albert Almora Jr. -7
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -9
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Ben Zobrist -10
  • Jason Heyward -10
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Javier Baez -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Addison Russell -15
  • John Lackey -21

Mike Montgomery makes his first appearance in the positive 10 club. Jason Heyward moves closer to the exit from the negative 10 club. Javier Baez hits a speed bump, but at least provided us some thrills with the glove.

Tonight the Cubs continue their series against the Pirates. Jake Arrieta takes the ball for the Cubs and I’m feeling very good about him finding his way to the Superhero podium to follow Mike Montgomery into the positive 10 club. The Cubs had good approaches to Pirates hitters not named Jordy Mercer last night and Jake is sporting a 1.85 ERA over his last 10 starts (there are 5 unearned runs in there). A stretch in which he has thrown 63⅓ innings, struck out 56 and walked 19, and allowed 43 hits (opponent batting average .189). This is as close to 2015 Jake as we’ve seen since that stretch I think. Jake has seen the Pirates three times this year and they’ve scored 10 runs against him in 16 innings of work after scoring seven runs on him in five innings of his last start against them last year. So the Pirates have figured a little something out against him.

Chad Kuhl has thrown very well for the Pirates despite not getting a ton of run support. The last time out, he allowed two runs in four innings against the Dodgers, but they managed to run his pitch count up to 93 in those four innings. The Cubs have seen Chad twice this year, with one of them being a three-inning, one-run outing and the other being a game in which the Cubs trashed him for nine runs in an inning and two thirds. I expect the offense to be effective again against Chad who has allowed left handed hitters to put up an .872 OPS (.694 against right handed hitters). The Cubs will likely throw a line up of almost entirely left handed and switch hitters with Kris Bryant and Javier Baez in it since Addison Russell and Willson Contreras remain out.

As always, we end with a poll. Yesterday, Anthony Rizzo nudged out Tommy La Stella 55 votes to 48 votes for Player of the Week. This is the second consecutive week where we voted Anthony that award. Today we’ll vote on Hero of last night’s Cubs victory. I suspect this one will be a landslide.

Poll

Who was the Hero of last night’s Cubs win?

This poll is closed

  • 94%
    Mike Montgomery
    (130 votes)
  • 0%
    Kris Bryant
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Jason Heyward
    (0 votes)
  • 1%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (6 votes)
138 votes total Vote Now