I’m not going to take a victory lap for predicting something that I thought was fairly obvious and certainly not before the team has reached the finish line. But I’ve tried to consistently reassure people for months that this team would win the division, that it would do so early enough that rest or lining up starters or whatever is a need, that they’ll have time to do it. This team should leave St. Louis as National League Central champions. They’ll be able to play the last three games against Cincinnati as spring training games if they feel so inclined.
If I can reassure you one more time, I’d like to say again these aren’t those Cubs. These aren’t the Cubs that you grew up waiting for them to let you down. This team is talented and well prepared. In theory, this team will not be roadkill for anyone in the playoffs. In actuality, we can’t know. The 2015 team was supremely talented and red hot and the Mets totally buzzsawed them. It can happen to this team. But it will not be because they don’t have enough talent or because they choked. It will be because sometimes in a very short run, all or most of the breaks can run in one team’s direction. As we saw in that Mets series, sometimes a few pitchers and a few hitters get hot and then even when your guys square up a ball it ends up hit right at someone and a few times when their guy hits it off the end of the bat, that ball finds a hole. Baseball can be cruel.
This is the golden era of Cubs history. It isn’t often that you get to know early on in the making of history that you are watching it happen. I can’t tell you how many division titles, how many World Series titles this team will run up. Things change, sometimes all to quickly. But this team is looking at its second consecutive division title, its third consecutive post season and at least has a chance to be the first team to defend it’s title since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. They are already the first team since 2009 to even get back to the post season after winning it all. To get there, this team would have to beat three very worthy capable opponents. They have a chance. Enjoy this. Never before in any of our lifetimes has this team been in the playoffs three straight years. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so enjoy every minute of this.
Before we can move ahead to the playoffs, we need to recap this past weekend and then get one more week of regular season played. So let’s take a look at what WPA had to say about Heroes and Goats from this weekend. 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, September 24 (Cubs win 5-4 in 10 innings):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Carl Edwards Jr. (.295). You don’t see a guy like Carl up here very often. Carl was last up here on 7/25. Friday he got here by facing the last six Milwaukee Brewer hitters of the game, striking out two of them and only allowing one walk. He held the game tied in the ninth and then nailed down the win in the tenth.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.252). It is also unusual to appear this high on the podium with no runs batted in during a game that goes extra innings. On a night where he had two hits and a walk, he is here for his 10th inning single that sent Kris Bryant to third with no outs (.225).
- Sidekick - Kris Bryant (.202). Kris had a hit a walk, two runs scored and an RBI on the day. Kris is here almost equally for his RBI single in the third that cut the Cubs deficit to 3-2 (.088) as his walk leading off the tenth (.082)
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.242). Willson lands here after coming into the game late by way of grounding into a double play in the ninth inning (-.190).
- Goat - John Lackey (-.146). John wasn’t great on Friday. He pitched four innings, allowing back to back home runs in the second and three runs overall. He allowed six hits and two walks in just four innings.
- Kid - Leonys Martin (-.122). Leonys had one at bat in the game and it came with the bases loaded and no outs in the tenth after he’d come in as a defensive replacement. He struck out.
Game Chart Saturday, September 23 (Cubs lose 4-3 in 10 innings):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jon Jay (.299). Jon had two hits on the day. The one that lands him here was his RBI single in the tenth inning that gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead.
- Hero - Ian Happ (.276). Ian had two hits and a walk, scored two runs and drove in one. All three of the times he got on base were good chunks of WPA. His RBI single with two outs in the second (.094) knotted the game at 1-1 early, he doubled and scored a run in the eighth to make it 2-1 (.130), and he walked and scored leading off the tenth (.082).
- Sidekick - Kyle Hendricks (.263). Kyle has been fantastic since returning from the disabled list and Saturday was no exception. He threw six innings, allowing eight hits and one run while walking one and striking out six. Unfortunately, the Cubs bats had trouble getting started and Kyle was unable to record a win.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Wade Davis (-1.079). There was no question on this one, and with this performance Davis surpasses Carlos Marmol for the worst single-game WPA in Cubs history (Marmol did it in this 2013 game). Relievers just aren’t used this way anymore. Wade blew a save in the ninth, allowing a home run to Orlando Arcia of all people. He got out of that inning with no more damage, the Cubs gave him a lead in the top of the tenth and Davis was given a second chance to close out the game. But it was not to be. Ryan Braun doubled and Travis Shaw homered and Davis blew his first save as a Cub in epic fashion.
- Goat - Javier Baez (-.129). Javy was hitless in four plate appearances with two strike outs. The largest negative at bat was his strike out with one out and runners on first and third and the Cubs down 1-0 (-.070).
- Kid - Willson Contreras (-.102). Willson did have a hit, but was 1-5 on the day. He made the last out in both the eighth and the tenth innings with runners in scoring position both times.
Game Chart Sunday, September 24 (Cubs win 5-0):
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.474). From the worst WPA score in Cubs history on Saturday to one of the best on Sunday, this weekend had it all for the Cubs. Jose went the distance, allowing just three hits and one walk while striking out 10. This was Jose’s finest game as a Cub with Fangraphs showing his game score at 96. With this game, Jose has made 13 starts as a Cub, he has a record of 7-3 with an ERA of 3.50 (FIP 3.38). He’s averaged 10.51 K/9 and 2.37 BB/9. And he’ll be a Cub for at least three more seasons.
- Hero - Kris Bryant (.160). Kris Bryant had two hits, a run and an RBI, and a walk on the day Sunday. The RBI double in the fourth (.139) was what landed Kris here and ultimately was all of the offense Jose Quintana would need on the day.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.122). Ben had two hits including a two run home run in the seventh (.164).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Addison Russell (-.126). Addison was hitless in four at bats on Sunday and struck out twice. The big negative on the day was a strike out with runners on second and third and two outs in the fourth (-.061).
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.079). Anthony had one hit and two RBI and somehow ends up here. How? well, he did have a two run single in the eighth inning (.035), but before that he grounded into a double play in the first (-.051) and lined out for the first out in the fourth after Bryant’s double had made it 1-0 (-.043).
- Kid - Albert Almora Jr. (-.048). Albert had one hit in four tries on Sunday. The single was late in the game after it was 5-0. None of the outs were in key situations, but on a day where the Cubs took the lead and kept building, it didn’t take much to be here.
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 32
- Kris Bryant 25
- Wade Davis 20
- Kyle Hendricks 18
- Mike Montgomery 11
- Jon Jay 9
- Jake Arrieta 7
- Miguel Montero 5
- Alex Avila 5
- Felix Pena 4
- Justin Grimm 3
- Brian Duensing 3
- Rene Rivera 3
- Jose Quintana 3
- Dillon Maples 2.5
- Matt Szczur 2
- Taylor Davis 2
- Eddie Butler 1
- Tommy La Stella 0
- Mark Zagunis 0
- Kyle Schwarber -1
- Seth Frankoff -1
- Jack Leathersich -1
- Mike Freeman -1
- Leonys Martin -1
- Pedro Strop -3
- Pierce Johnson -3
- Jen Ho Tseng -3
- Hector Rondon -5
- Brett Anderson -5
- Jeimer Candelario -5
- Justin Wilson -6
- Carl Edwards Jr. -8
- Albert Almora Jr. -9
- Victor Caratini -9
- Ian Happ -9.5
- Jon Lester -14
- Koji Uehara -14
- Addison Russell -15
- Jason Heyward -20
- Ben Zobrist -20
- Javier Baez -21
- John Lackey -22
Anthony Rizzo broke even for the four game series with the Brewers, but Willson Contreras was -6 for the weekend, so he is now 11 points back. Not insurmountable, but looking more unlikely. Kris Bryant was +6 for the weekend and is now solidly in third, especially given the -2 weekend for Wade Davis following his rough day on Saturday. Jose Quintana moved into positive territory with his gem on Sunday, Leonys Martin is the 44th Cub to appear in H&G this season. Carl Edwards left the negative 10 club as did Ian Happ. Addison Russell dropped to fifth from the bottom and is now seven off of last. Jason Heyward didn’t appear on any podium all weekend long. Ben Zobrist was +1 for the weekend to move into third from the bottom. Javy Baez was -2 for the weekend and is in second to last. John Lackey’s -2 weekend puts him in last. Still looking like a very close finish for the bottom spot.
Next up the Cubs travel to St. Louis, looking to clinch the division as early as possible. Jon Lester will be starting for the Cubs and looking to bounce back from a tough start in Tampa last week. I’ve been tough on Jon and would love for him to make me look silly with a dominant start that we haven’t seen in months.
Luke Weaver will be the starter for the Cardinals. He hasn’t started against the Cubs this year, but he’s been extremely effective lately for the Cardinals with a 7-0 record and a 1.69 ERA in his last seven starts (42⅔ innings). This looks like a tough matchup, but hopefully it will bring out the best in Jon.
On Friday, 44% of you voted Javier Baez as Superhero of Thursday’s game. Today we’ll vote on Superhero of the Week in a week that saw the Cubs firmly take control of the division winning four of six games.
Who was the Superhero of the Week?
This poll is closed
Kris Bryant (.412/.522/.647, 4 R, 5 RBI)
Kyle Schwarber (.200/.273/.800, 2 HR)
Jon Jay (.417/.440/.500, 6 R, 3 RBI)
Mike Montgomery (7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 ER)
Carl Edwards Jr (3.2 IP, 1 BB, 5 K)
Jose Quintana (9 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 10 K)