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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 158

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Cube beat St. Louis 5-1 to clinch the NL Central!

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals
Addison Russell’s home run keys Cubs victory.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been suggesting for over a week that the Cubs wouldn’t leave St. Louis without the NL Central crown (I know, way out on a limb) and yesterday I was fairly confident that the Cubs would finish the job. As it turns out, even if they hadn’t won, the Brewers loss would have also clinched the division for the Cubs. But winning it was a whole lot more fun. The picture I chose today was the moment I knew the Cubs were going to win tonight. Sure, the bullpen has coughed up a lead or two, as all bullpens do, but I was supremely confident the Cubs would hold the line and get it done. They did hold it down. The bullpen allowed three hits and a walk over three innings of relief to nail it down.

Throughout my life as a sports watcher, I’ve always scoffed at the idea that a team could coast and then flip the switch and just be ready when they decide it is time. The Cubs played 88 games before the All-Star Break at 43-45, winning 48.9 percent of their games. They have now played 70 games after the break. They’ve gone 46-24, winning 65.7 percent of their games. The Cubs did turn it on and it did work. Only the Cleveland Indians have had a better second half than the Cubs have.

The Cubs will reach 90 wins before the end of the season and 290 wins in the Joe Maddon era. The Cubs have won 59 percent of their home games and 53.8 percent of their road games. Only two teams in the National League have more road wins than the Cubs. They are the two teams that the Cubs likely have to go through to return to the World Series. The Nationals have won 50 and the Dodgers have won 45. The Cubs have won 66.7 percent of their extra inning games, 58.5 percent of their one-run games and 60 percent of the blowout games (wins by 5+ runs) that they’ve played in. This team is about as ready as a team can be heading into the playoffs.

On that happy note, let’s take a look at last night’s division clinching win and see what WPA has to say about Heroes and Goats. As always the Heroes and Goats 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 27 (Cubs win 5-1):


Source: FanGraphs

THE THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero - Addison Russell (.239). As I talked about yesterday, Addison has been on a roll since coming off of the disabled list. Yesterday he hit a three run home run to give the Cubs the lead (.278). Despite only playing in about two-thirds of the Cubs games, he’s been worth 2.5 bWAR. Surely a disappointing season on and off the field, but still a productive member of the team.
  • Hero - John Lackey (.164). If that was the last start of John Lackey’s career, it was a good one. Six innings of two hit, two walk baseball. God bless him, John to the end was still belly-aching that he was pitching great last night and should have been allowed to go back out for the seventh and not be lifted for a pinch hitter with a 4-1 lead.
  • Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.129). Ben had a single with Anthony Rizzo on first and no outs in the seventh (.174) just in front of the Addison Russell homer. Ben battled through a ton of injuries this season. From the All-Star Break on, he hit .260/.339/.400 (wRC+ of 94).

THE THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat - Kris Bryant (-.116). Kris has been on a roll lately but last night he was hitless in three at bats. He did draw a walk. The ground ball double play he hit into in the first was the big culprit (-.073). Kris has hit .327/.423/.552 (wRC+ of 154) since the All-Star Break and has been a huge part of the Cubs surge.
  • Goat - Rene Rivera (-.034). I’d almost forgotten about Rene Rivera until he started last night. He hadn’t started since September 10 and he was always known as a glove-first guy. He had three strike outs and a walk in four plate appearances. Even with that, he’s had a .325/.400/.525 line in 46 plate appearances with the Cubs, much more than could have been expected.
  • Kid - Brian Duensing (-.015). Brian faced one batter and allowed a single with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth.

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 41
  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Kris Bryant 23
  • Wade Davis 20
  • Kyle Hendricks 18
  • Mike Montgomery 11
  • Jon Jay 7
  • Miguel Montero 5
  • Alex Avila 5
  • Jake Arrieta 4
  • Felix Pena 4
  • Justin Grimm 3
  • Jose Quintana 3
  • Dillon Maples 2.5
  • Matt Szczur 2
  • Taylor Davis 2
  • Rene Rivera 1
  • Brian Duensing 1
  • Eddie Butler 1
  • Tommy La STella 1
  • Mark Zagunis 0
  • Seth Frankoff -1
  • Jack Leathersich -1
  • Mike Freeman -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
  • Addison Russell -9
  • Ian Happ -9.5
  • Jon Lester -14
  • Koji Uehara -14
  • Jason Heyward -18
  • Ben Zobrist -19
  • Javier Baez -20
  • John Lackey -20

Rizzo’s lead remains nine with four games to play. It is looking increasingly likely that he will win this race for the third time in four seasons that this column has run. Kris Bryant slides back and the battle for third place between he and Wade Davis is very much still ongoing. Addison Russell with his last two podium appearances being Superhero performances, has left the negative 10 club and jumped several places in the standings as a result, now moving well away from the bottom five. Ben Zobrist moves out of the negative 20 club and John Lackey sets his final score at exactly negative 20. There are still four players fighting over the last four places including Javier Baez who missed being on one of the goat podiums by one spot thanks to his double in the seventh. That may not be sorted out until the last game of the season.

Tonight Kyle Hendricks makes his last start of the season, perhaps looking to make the case that he should be the starter next week when the playoffs open. He’s certainly pitched well enough since coming off of the disabled list to earn that nod. In 12 starts since coming off of the disabled list he has thrown 73 innings with a 2.34 ERA. Kyle has made two starts against the Cardinals this year. The first was rough allowing four runs in four innings. The last was a 7.2 inning start on 9/16 in which he allowed one run on six hits and a walk.

Lance Lynn has faced the Cubs three times this year. In those three starts, he’s pitched a total of 14⅔ innings and allowed seven runs. The last time out in Pittsburgh he didn’t make it out of the first inning, allowing eight runs while only recording two outs. Overall in his last seven starts he has a 5.15 ERA in 36.2 innings of work. I’d imagine there is some chance that Lance Lynn will be facing a lineup involving a lot of non-regular Cubs starters. While I’d certainly expect to see plenty of the regulars over the weekend as the Cubs wrap up their home schedule, I’d imagine we’ll see most of them get the night off tonight following last night’s celebration.

As always, we finish with a poll. Yesterday 73% of you selected Jake Arrieta as the Billy Goat of the day for the Tuesday night loss. Today you’ll be voting on Superhero of the Game.

Poll

Who was the Cubs Superhero of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Addison Russell
    (74 votes)
  • 44%
    John Lackey
    (60 votes)
  • 0%
    Ben Zobrist
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments below)
    (0 votes)
135 votes total Vote Now