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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 151

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Cubs lose but Brewers do too; Magic number 8

Lester struggles against Rays in loss.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Realistically, the Cubs were highly unlikely to run the table over the last 19 games heading into the playoffs. It would have been fun to watch, but the probability of that kind of streak is infinitesimal and the Cleveland Indians just had that kind of streak. Given that a clunker was likely to happen at some point, I’m glad it happened against the Rays and not this weekend. Of course there are no guarantees that because there was a clunker last night that this weekend will be free of them. Obviously, the Cubs had three of them the last time Milwaukee was in Chicago.

The upside is that Joe Maddon didn’t have to use any of his high leverage relievers last night and so Wade Davis who was used very heavily in the four previous games and Carl Edwards Jr. had the night off. They should both be rested and ready to go if Jake Arrieta can hand a lead or even a tie game to the bullpen tonight.

The silver lining is that the Milwaukee Brewers squandered a lead they’d gotten by rallying late. Their closer, throwing for the third consecutive game and trying to get a four out save threw the ball away on a grounder and then allowed a walk off home run the next inning. So the Brewers lost and failed to gain any ground. They remain 3.5 games back with 11 to play. Still, if they were to sweep the series they would have first place to themselves heading into the final week of the season.

I’m going to be curious to see if Craig Counsell is going to burn up a young pitching staff heading into 2018. He has his team within striking distance of a playoff spot, at least a year before their presumed window of contention opens. Corey Knebel has already thrown more innings than he has in any professional season with two weeks to go in the season. He’s worked 25 times with no rest, he’s pitched three straight games twice and has been asked to record more than three outs seven times. He’s appeared in 72 games already. Anthony Swarzak (who may not be in their long term plans and is a free agent after the season) has thrown in three straight games as well, including throwing two innings on Tuesday. He too has thrown three straight games twice since being with the Brewers. Swarzak has appeared in 65 games. Josh Hader didn’t make his major league debut until June 10. He’s appeared in 32 games since then, often going more than an inning. He was a starting pitcher in the minor leagues and is approaching 100 innings across his time in the minors and majors. He was one of the Brewers top prospects before losing prospect status.

Time will tell. Before we can fully focus on the Brewers, we need to recap last night’s Cubs loss. There isn’t a lot of positive, so we’ll try to move this along quickly. Let’s 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 Thursday, September 20 (Cubs lose 8-1):


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Willson Contreras (.049). Willson has been the walking man since returning from the disabled list. He’s had 21 plate appearances and he’s walked eight times in them. Overall, his slash line since he came back is .385/.619/.462 which amounts to a 206 wRC+. His BABIP is sitting at .455 in that stretch, so obviously between that and the walks, his numbers have been inflated. But he’s a big piece of the Cubs offense.
  • Hero - Addison Russell (.016). He collected another hit last night and in an even smaller sample than Contreras, in 10 plate appearances since returning, he has three hits including a home run and three walks. If Russell can be productive at the plate, this Cubs lineup gets very deep.
  • Sidekick - Jon Jay (.004). Jon had two hits in three at bats yesterday and drove in the Cubs only run of the night. This was Jon’s third multi hit game in his last five starts.

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Jon Lester (-.291). Jon had been up and down since coming off the DL, not showing his usual command, but being just effective enough to collect three wins in three starts. It’s hard to sugar coat the numbers though. Dating back to his July 4 start, he’s made 13 starts. In those starts he’s thrown 67.1 innings and allowed 77 hits, 25 walks, 13 home runs and 54 runs. His ERA is 5.88 and his run average actually jumps to 7.22. His FIP does show at 4.98 suggesting that there is some bad luck in there (such as a 58.8% strand rate - league average is usually around 70%. He also has an usually high home run to fly ball ratio at 20.3% which is beyond awful). Jon is going to have to be better if the Cubs are going to have much chance at another deep run in the playoffs.
  • Goat - Ian Happ (-.110). Another tough night at the plate for Ian with two strike outs and a very costly ground ball double play (-.090) in the fifth inning when he batted with first and second and no outs.
  • Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.061). Ben was hitless in three tries. The Cubs just haven’t gotten enough production from Ben this year. It has been even worse lately as has just one hit and one walk in his last 21 plate appearances.

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 43
  • Willson Contreras 38
  • Wade Davis 22
  • Kris Bryant 19
  • Kyle Hendricks 17
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jake Arrieta 7
  • Jon Jay 6
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Alex Avila 5
  • Felix Pena 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Brian Duensing 3
  • Rene Rivera 3
  • Dillon Maples 2.5
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Taylor Davis 2
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Jose Quintana 0
  • Tommy La Stella 0
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Kyle Schwarber -1
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Mike Freeman -1
  • Pedro Strop -2
  • Justin Wilson -3
  • Pierce Johnson -3
  • Jen Ho Tseng -3
  • Hector Rondon -5
  • Brett Anderson -5
  • Jeimer Candelario -5
  • Albert Almora Jr. -8
  • Victor Caratini -9
  • Carl Edwards Jr. -11
  • Ian Happ -11.5
  • Addison Russell -12
  • Jon Lester -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Jon Lackey -20
  • Jason Heyward -20
  • Ben Zobrist -21
  • Javier Baez -21

Willson Contreras moves back within five of the lead with 11 games to play. The top spot is very much up for grabs. Ian Happ drops into the negative 10 club. Addison Russell jumps past a sliding Jon Lester and Ben Zobrist moves into a tie for last place. With four players within one point of last and two other players just seven back, there are at least six different players who could come in last. It’s looking like a photo finish at both ends.

The Cubs move to Milwaukee for a four game set with the Brewers starting tonight that will go a long way towards settling the National League Central crown and could have an impact on the Wild Card race. Every game the Cubs win this weekend will be exponentially devastating to the Brewers chances of winning the division. To feel confident about their chances, the Brewers would need to sweep the series. They would have to feel strongly positive about their chances of one of the two post season berths if they win three games. If they split, they are going to have to do a lot of scoreboard watching over the rest of the season as they’d be 3.5 back in the division with only 6 games left on their schedule.

Jake Arrieta makes the start for the Cubs. He is starting for the first time since September 4. As you know, he was very strong leading up to the injury. Even including his brief start when he left with an injury having allowed three runs in two and a third innings, he has a 1.82 ERA in his last seven starts. He has made two starts against the Brewers this year covering 13 innings and allowing just four runs. He made three starts against them last year and counting all five starts, he has a 3.64 ERA in 29.2 innings. Jake has had trouble with Ryan Braun, so that will be a matchup to watch tonight. Ryan has 3 home runs in just 27 plate appearances against Jake with a 1.037 OPS overall. That’s going to be one of the key matchups. Jonathan Villar has been especially adept at getting on with a .533 OBP against Jake.

Zach Davies is having a fantastic season and will get the start tonight for the Brewers. He is 17-9 with a 3.89 ERA on the year. He’s just 4-3 over his last seven starts, but has a 2.28 ERA in that time. He’s made four starts against the Cubs, winning two against the Cubs in Milwaukee and losing two against him in Chicago. That is contrary to Zach’s season numbers as an opponent OPS of .838 at home and .665 on the road. He’s allowed 11 runs in 25 innings across those 4 starts. Kris Bryant has a 1.025 OPS against Davies. Davies is fairly split neutral with a .727 OPS against righties and .764 against lefties. Joe will surely be looking at best lineup tonight. I expect a tight close game tonight.

Before we go, we’ll vote on Goat of the game for last night. Yesterday 93% of you voted for Mike Montgomery for Superhero of the Game.

Poll

Who was the Billy Goat of last night’s Cubs game?

This poll is closed

  • 95%
    Jon Lester
    (114 votes)
  • 0%
    Ian Happ
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Ben Zobrist
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    Albert Almora Jr.
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your choice in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
119 votes total Vote Now