Welcome to the 2018 incarnation of Heroes and Goats. If you are new to this column, please check out my earlier article which explains what Heroes and Goats (and WPA) is.
On paper, it was plain to see that this series was a total mismatch. The Cubs spent their offseason loading up for a year that sees them looking for their fourth consecutive trip to the National League Championship and hopefully beyond. Meanwhile, the Marlins under new ownership spent their offseason looking for homes for almost all of their top players. They didn’t get a lot of major league talent back in those trades and so there team is, to put it kindly, in transition.
One pitch into the game, it looked great as Ian Happ connected on the first pitch for a home run. At the end of the first inning it was already 3-0 Cubs and it looked like maybe the rout would be on. But then the Marlins started to show signs of life. Three innings in, it was 4-4. Jon Lester didn’t last long enough to get the win, but fortunately there was a win to be picked up. The Cubs plated five runs against Marlins starter Jose Urena and three more against the Marlins pen and won 8-4.
It was a very solid start to the year. Despite a few hiccups, the team largely looked like one that was ready to take care of business. Let’s take a look at how the game shaped up from the perspective of Heroes and Goats.
Game 1 - March, 29 - Cubs win 8-4 (1-0)
THE THREE HEROES
- Superhero - Steve Cishek (.230). Steve came into this game with one out and runners on first and third in a 5-4 game. He was facing the two men who will likely battle it out to be the Marlins All-Star game representative in Starlin Castro and Justin Bour, both of whom are more or less products of the Cubs farm system. He struck out the first and got a ground out from the last. For good measure, he stayed in, got an at bat and worked around a double and a walk to pitch 1⅔ scoreless innings and pick up the win and the Superhero.
- Hero - Jason Heyward (.134). It was an eventful day for the Cubs right fielder. He had a bases loaded walk in the first (.088), doubled in the third (.049), and reached on catcher’s interference in the seventh (.022). All together, he reached three times in five plate appearances, drove in a run and scored one.
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.119). Tommy had a clutch pinch hit two run double with two outs in the seventh to give the Cubs a four run lead.
THE THREE GOATS
- Billy Goat - Jon Lester (-.356). Lester was prone to clunkers last year and actually had two of the worst 10 worst WPA games by any Cubs in 2017. This looked a little like that. He threw 4.1 innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and four runs (three earned). He wasn’t locating his pitches well and as a result wasn’t getting any of the calls just off the edges of the plate. Joe Maddon did a good job getting him out and saving bullets from the big lefty on a day when he wasn’t at his best.
- Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.002). This is quite a bit of bad luck. Yes, it was technically a negative WPA score. But, not only would Jon Lester the hitter have finished second, but Steve Cishek the hitter would have been third. But, we don’t count pitchers hitting, so Almora gets into a game as a defensive replacement (in left field), goes hitless in one at bat and take the tough luck Goat podium.
- Kid - Javier Baez (.014). Javy did have an RBI in that crazy first inning where the Cubs scored three runs on one hit. He was hit by pitch with the bases loaded. He was later intentionally walked. So good start for the on base percentage. He also struck out with runners on later in the game. Baez has in the past been a strange magnet for the Goat podiums. Hopefully that will not continue on into this year. He was on the day positive for WPA, but in a slightly unusual day for WPA he winds up here.
WPA Play of the Game - Jon Lester on the mound, Cubs leading 4-2, one out and a runner on second. Brian Anderson lines a single to left. Kyle Schwarber misplays the ball in left and it goes all the way to the wall. The run scores and Anderson ends up standing on third in a 4-3 game (.147).
- Steve Cishek 3
- Jason Heyward 2
- Tommy La Stella 1
If there were odds on such a thing, that trifecta would be somewhere in the vicinity of a billion to one.
Up Next: Game two of the season sees the Cubs and the Marlins again in Florida at 6:10 PM. Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs against Caleb Smith. Hendricks has been one of the best pitchers in the National League for two years. Caleb pitched in nine games for the Yankees last year, two of them starts and had a 7.71 ERA. I had a vague memory that turned out to be right, that Caleb pitched in spring training for the Cubs after having been a Rule 5 pick by the Cubs (by way of the Brewers) last year. Caleb came over to the Marlins in the totally unheralded trade of Smith and Garrett Cooper for Michael King and International Bonus Pool money. That one totally flew under the radar. Who knew the Marlins were getting their second starter in the deal?
Poll: As usual, we end with a poll.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Tommy La Stella