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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 131

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Cubs win 4-1 behind strong pitching from Jake Arrieta.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Chicago Cubs
Jake continues another stellar second half run.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Following his start on May 14, Jake Arrieta had a nice looking 4-2 record. But he also had a 5.44 ERA that was unsightly, even in a year when the National League ERA average climbed to 4.34. After last night’s start, Jake now has a 14-8 record. Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Zach Davies all have 15 wins. Jake is now up to 13th in the National League in strikeouts, 12th in innings pitched, 10th in WHIP out of qualified pitchers and seventh in ERA among qualified pitchers.

The previous paragraph tells me two things. The first is that if Jake can have a decent month of September, he’s going to finish in the top 10 in National League Cy Young voting for the fourth consecutive year. The second is that Jake Arrieta is going to make a lot of money this offseason, a whole lot more than people were expecting him to make a few months ago.

Last night, both Alex Avila and Jake commented that he didn’t really have command of his arsenal of pitches, but he battled through six scoreless innings against the Pirates. It was an important night that he do so. For one reason, the offense struggled to get starting last night. And of course in the bigger picture because the Cubs are in the home stretch now, trying to close out their second consecutive division title. The Cubs have won back to back division titles once, that was in 2007 and 2008. This would also be a third consecutive post season appearance. That last happened in 1906-1908.

On those happy thoughts, let’s move on to the heart of this 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 Tuesday, August 29:


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Jake Arrieta (.354). Six innings, two hits, two walks, four strikeouts. Most importantly no runs. In his last 11 starts, Jake has thrown 69⅓ innings, struck out 60 batters, walked 21, allowed 45 hits and has an ERA of 1.69 (including unearned runs, his average would be 2.34).
  • Hero - Ben Zobrist (.171). Ben Zobrist had two hits last night, but there is no question that he is here because of his sixth inning home run (.168). It opened the scoring and really turned the tide in the game. It has been frustrating to watch Ben struggle and Joe just keep running him out there this year, but this team is much better when Ben is doing well. From August 9 through last night (64 plate appearances), Ben has a line of .288/.344/.492. It’s a pretty small sample size, but maybe we are finally seeing a healthy, productive Ben.
  • Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.102). I was really surprised when Anthony didn’t make the podium Monday night (he was 4th place) as he had another decent night at the plate. He continued it Tuesday with three more hits. Like Ben, the big contribution was in the sixth inning when he had a one out double with Kyle Schwarber on first (.078). July 26 to present (136 plate appearances), Anthony has a .362/.449/.621 line (BABIP of .402).

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Javier Baez (-.087). Javy finally seems to be cooling off. He was hitless in three tries last night. It is possible he is finally wearing down. He’s played every inning of 25 consecutive games at shortstop in August with only two days off. Get well soon Addison. The biggest negative last night for Javy was a pop out to second in the fifth following a Jason Heyward leadoff single (-.044). Back to back games in this position for Javy.
  • Goat - Tommy La Stella (-.078). Joe’s been riding the hot bat with Tommy but last night Tommy was hitless in three at bats. He did draw one walk. The biggest negative at bat was a groundout with runners on second and third and two outs in the second (-.057). I suspect Tommy will get tonight’s game off.
  • Kid - Kyle Schwarber (-.058). Kyle had only one walk to show for three plate appearances, but he did score a run following the walk that was the second run of the game. Kyle is here largely because of his second inning double play following a Ben Zobrist lead off single in the second (-.072).

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 40
  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Kris Bryant 19
  • Wade Davis 16
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jake Arrieta 10
  • Jon Jay 8
  • Kyle Hendricks 8
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Tommy La Stella 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Kyle Schwarber 2
  • 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
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Pedro Strop -4
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Ian Happ -7
  • Albert Almora Jr. -7
  • Ben Zobrist -8
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -9
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Jason Heyward -10
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Addison Russell -15
  • Javier Baez -17
  • John Lackey -24

Anthony Rizzo adds to his lead. Jake Arrieta joins the plus ten club, giving the Cubs six current members. Ben Zobrist escapes the negative ten club, leaving six current members there as well. Jason Heyward has been swinging the bat very well lately, let’s see if he can escape that club tonight.

In that game tonight, the Cubs will wrap up the series with the Pirates. Jose Quintana will take the ball for the Cubs. He’s was knocked around a bit in his last start against the Phillies. He hasn’t started a game against the Pirates since 2015. Ivan Nova will be on the mound for the Pirates. He was also knocked around in his last start by the Reds when he allowed seven runs, five earned in just five innings of work. He has faced the Cubs twice this year and beaten them both times. Ivan is the third consecutive starter the Cubs will face who has pronounced splits. Right handed hitters have a .715 OPS against him while left handed hitters have an .843. Obviously Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are going to remain in the lineup. I have to wonder if Joe will start Rene Rivera anyway to keep Avila from having three straight starts behind the plate.

As always, we wrap up the column with a poll. Yesterday, 94% of the votes for Hero of Monday night’s game went to Mike Montgomery for his outstanding performance. Today we’ll vote on Hero of Tuesday night’s game.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Jake Arrieta
    (115 votes)
  • 5%
    Ben Zobrist
    (8 votes)
  • 7%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    Pedro Strop
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now