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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 145

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Cubs pummel depleted Mets 17-5

MLB: New York Mets at Chicago Cubs
Contreras return continues to spark offense.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

This Mets team is so bad right now, I don’t think they could even get arrested for impersonating a MLB team. It’s really hard to see from watching this team play to understand how it is winning any games. If the Cubs lose tonight, that will certainly frustrate me as a result. From my eye test, the Cubs have struggled quite a bit in these first two games. I think if they were playing a better team, they’d have struggled to win. It’s hard to be sure, because of course the Cubs have now scored 25 runs in two games. They’ve exhibited patience at the plate and their power has returned. Those are good things going forward. They haven’t pitched particularly well and their base running has been suspect. Hopefully those parts get out of their system before we enter a stretch where 11 of 13 games will be against the Cardinals and Brewers who are breathing down the Cubs’ necks.

To be sure, a lead of three in the loss column with 17 games to play is a good position to be in. It is just a bit more uncomfortable when there are a bunch of games left against the two closest competitors. The Brewers are pulling out all of the stops with bullpen games and starting guys on short rest and it is working for them. If they don’t run out of gas before the end of the year, they figure to take things right down to the wire. For a team potentially moving into the start of a contention window, I’ll be interested to see if any of their good young pitching show and signs of arm problems next year. That is the risk of their approach.

The Cardinals lost Wednesday night, but they are providing consistent pressure as well. They arrive in Wrigley this weekend for their final three-game visit of the season. The Cubs play them again on their upcoming road trip four times in St. Louis. It’s hard to imagine those seven games not having a huge impact on the N.L. Central. But, before we can get to that point, the Cubs have another game with the Mets this evening and I’ve got a wacky game from last night to unpack.

So with that, let’s see what WPA has to say about Heroes and Goats on a night when seven different Cubs had hits, nine different Cubs reached base and seven different Cubs drove in runs. 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 Wednesday, September 13 (Cubs win 17-5):


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Willson Contreras (.164). For the first time since August 8, Willson returns to the podium and in so doing, he announces that the race for Superhero of the Year is not over. Willson had two hits and a walk and drove in three runs. The biggest contribution on the night was a two run single in the fourth with the bases loaded and one out (.105).
  • Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.157). Anthony was hitless on the night. That usually won’t land you on the hero podiums on a night when your team wins. But, Anthony actually managed to get here by way of four walks and two RBI. Anthony’s biggest contribution was a bases loaded walk in the fourth ahead of Contreras’ single (.101). That one gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead that they’d never relinquish.
  • Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.100). Ben had two hits and three walks at the top of the order and scored four times. Ben singled in the fourth with out out and a runner on second as the inning was building (.058). August 24 to present (70 plate appearances), Ben has a line of .339/.420/.542. That equates to a wRC+ of 151. If I go back further, to August 1, the sample includes 139 plate appearances over which he has a .297/.391/.432 (120 wRC+). Ben appears to finally be healthy. His bat is a super important one for the Cubs as it really balances out the lineup when he is hitting from both sides of the plate.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.114). I have no idea what to make of Kyle anymore. He still looks to have pretty good command of the strike zone, but he just isn’t making enough contact. Of course I realize I say that a day after he had a strong day at the plate, perhaps his strongest of the year. But such is the bounce back after a guy goes hitless in four at bats with three strikeouts. Kyle’s strikeout in the third inning with runners on first and second and one out (-.049) was the biggest negative.
  • Goat - Jason Heyward (-.093). Jason did have a hit and draw a walk. But during the meaningful part of this game, Kyle and Jason were the ones making outs in the biggest situations. For Jason, that was compounded by what should have been an RBI single ending up as the end of a rally when a base running gaffe resulted in an out and the run not scoring (-.048). There really should be a way for him to give one of his goat points to each of Contreras and Ian Happ for not being heads up in this situation.
  • Kid - Justin Grimm (-.003). If this was an old fashioned game and Jon Lester was pitching better where a starter might have thrown most of the game, this had a chance to have a goat with a score in the (.050) neighborhood. Through five innings, Kyle, Jason and Lester as a hitter had all of the negative for the Cubs. Alas, Justin Grimm came into this game and had a terrible inning. He allowed three runs on three hits including a home run. He did strike out two. I finally conclusively absolutely don’t want Justin on the playoff roster. I just don’t trust him anymore.

Next, we take a look at the cumulative standings through the Sunday game. 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 35
  • Kris Bryant 22
  • Wade Davis 18
  • Kyle Hendricks 14
  • Mike Montgomery 8
  • Jake Arrieta 7
  • Jon Jay 6
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Felix Pena 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Brian Duensing 3
  • Rene Rivera 3
  • Dillon Maples 2.5
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Alex Avila 2
  • Jose Quintana 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Kyle Schwarber 0
  • Tommy La Stella 0
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Pedro Strop -2
  • Justin Wilson -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Ian Happ -6.5
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Albert Almora Jr. -10
  • Jon Lester -11
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -11
  • Ben Zobrist -13
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Addison Russell -15
  • Javier Baez -19
  • John Lackey -19
  • Jason Heyward -23

Contreras cuts the lead of Rizzo to five. With 15 games to play, that’s very much still a competition. Kyle Schwarber drops down to even for the season. Jason Heyward slides further into the basement and moves closer to repeating the dubious distinction of Billy Goat of the Year.

Jen-Ho Tseng makes his major league debut this evening as the Cubs look for a sweep. Josh had a nice write up on Jen-Ho elsewhere, so I won’t step on that too much. The cliff notes are that Jen-Ho is a little bit similar to the Kyle Hendricks mold where he relies more on location and sequencing than overwhelming stuff. Jen-Ho has pitched in Double-A, Triple-A, and now will throw in the big leagues this year. Having won the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year for 2017, he is a two time winner (2014). He comes from the international free agent class that also yielded Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres. Quite a year for the Cubs international scouting.

The Mets will counter with Seth Lugo. By Mets standards, Seth is having a fantastic season with a 4.64 ERA (the Mets starters have a collective ERA over 5). Seth has never started a game against the Cubs. He’s got a 5.40 ERA over his last seven starts, but he did throw six scoreless innings against the Reds his last time out. Seth is fairly split neutral (.775 RH OPS, .757 LH OPS). The Cubs have scored 25 runs in two games, I imagine we’ll see largely the same batting order only with Alex Avila catching a day game following the night game unless Joe wants to go outside of the box and have Victor Caratini who worked with him a bit in Iowa to catch him. I’m feeling good about a sweep with how ravaged this Mets team is right now.

As always, we’ll finish with a poll. Yesterday, 64% of you voted Kris Bryant as the Cubs Hero of the Game. Today we’ll be voting on Cubs Hero of the Game again.

Poll

Who was the Cubs Hero of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Willson Contreras
    (39 votes)
  • 2%
    Anthony Rizzo
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Ben Zobrist
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    Jon Lester
    (6 votes)
  • 4%
    Javier Baez
    (5 votes)
  • 2%
    Kris Bryant
    (3 votes)
  • 41%
    Albert Almora
    (42 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
102 votes total Vote Now