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Cubs Heroes and Goats biggest WPA countdown: No. 1 negative

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One of the most consistent Cubs in 2017 has the worst WPA game of the year.

Chicago Cubs v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

As we near the end of this series, we have reached the biggest WPA score of the year for the 2017 Cubs. Unfortunately, this one was the worst score of the year. The surprising thing about this one is that today’s subject is Wade Davis. Wade finished with the fourth highest Heroes and Goats score for the 2017 season. That by itself isn’t what makes it shocking that we’re talking about Davis in this spot.

What is shocking is that Wade had a +20 season score and that he put that score up despite reaching the podium just 19 times all year. Really, looking back across the season, his whole line is very weird. He had no Superhero appearances all year long. How do you put up +20 when you never have a Superhero and only appear 19 times? (remember that Superhero appearances are worth +3, Hero +2 and Sidekick +1 with Billy Goat -3, Goat -2 and Kid -1.) Wade only had two outings all year in which he appeared on any negative podium. Both of those were Billy Goat outings. One was on 8/3 against the Diamondbacks when he warmed up before a rain delay then came in after the rain delay and gave up back to back home runs in a ninth inning 8-8 tie. Some of us think of that as the Contreras game despite the rough outing for Davis.

The other game is today’s subject. This one comes from September 23. The Cubs were in the middle of a three-city, 10-game road trip. They started the trip with just a three game lead and had the Brewers and Cardinals on the schedule. The Cubs started the trip b y splitting two games in Tampa against the Rays and then traveled to Milwaukee to face the second place Brewers. The Cubs won the first two games of the trip in 10 innings with Davis picking up the win in the Thursday game. With that, the lead was up to five games with just nine games to play. One more win would pretty much ice the division.

Brent Suter started the game for the Brewers and Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs. Eric Thames gave the Brewers the first lead of the game with a two out RBI single in the first. The Cubs answered back with a two out RBI single by Ian Happ in the second. From there, the pitchers settled into an old fashioned duel. After Brett Phillips singled and stole second in the bottom of the second, neither team had a runner reach second base until the bottom of the fifth. In that inning, the Brewers managed both a single and a walk off of Hendricks, but were unable to plate the go ahead run.

Both teams were into the bullpen before the next runner reached scoring position. Ian Happ was in the middle of that again with a double leading off the inning. Jason Heyward followed with a walk and Jon Jay sacrificed the runners to second and third with just one out. Kris Bryant then followed with a sacrifice fly and the Cubs had a 2-1 lead.

Justin Wilson retired the first batter in the bottom of the eighth, the fourth straight batter he retired in a perfect day for him. Pedro Strop then retired the final two hitters and the Cubs moved to the ninth with a 2-1 lead. The Cubs went down in order in the top of the ninth and then it was on to the bottom of the ninth and Wade Davis on the mound.

Wade had thrown 56 games as a Cub prior to this outing. He had finished 53 of them. He had 55⅓ innings pitched and had allowed just 33 hits and 13 runs (12 earned). He’d allowed four home runs, two of them in the same outing in his other Billy Goat performance. He had 73 strike outs and 28 walks allowed. He was a perfect 32 for 32 in save opportunities. He was the picture of perfection for the Cubs.

When Orlando Arcia stepped to the plate to start the inning the Cubs had a 79% chance of winning the game. Arcia stepped in with a .272/.322/.403 line and 14 home runs on the year. And he took Wade Davis deep for Davis’ first blown save of the season.

But the game didn’t end there. Davis retired the next three hitters, striking out two of them. The game went to the tenth tied at 2-2. Ian Happ’s big day continued as he drew a lead off walk. Jason Heyward bunted him over to second and Jon Jay singled in the go ahead run.

Davis went back out for the 10th with a 3-2 lead and the Cubs once again had a 79% chance of winning. When Neil Walker struck out in the bottom half of the inning, the Cubs were up to an 88% chance of winning. Wade had struck out three of the last four hitters. Ryan Braun stepped to the plate and launched a line drive double to right to give the Brewers hope. Travis Shaw followed with a long fly ball to left center that left the yard. The Brewers won the game in walk off fashion, 4-3.

Amazingly, Wade Davis came into this game having not blown a single save all year. He essentially blew two saves in the same game on September 23. Baseball can be crazy and there weren’t too many crazier games than this one. In all, Wade Davis recorded a WPA of -1.085. Recall that each team starts at .500 and one team loses .500 to lost the game while the other gains it. Wade lost the equivalent of two games in one.

Davis is a member of the Colorado Rockies in 2018. I suspect he may see some more crazy games. But if that team can carry on where it left off in 2017 he may get a chance to pitch in the post season yet again. Davis’ 2017 season with the Cubs has to be one of the best single seasons and Cubs reliever has had. There have been some gaudy save numbers at times, but he was as dominant as anyone I ever saw for the Cubs. Replacing him has to be one of the few questions the Cubs have heading into the 2018 season.

Next week, we’ll look at the biggest positive WPA game of the Cubs season. That game actually occurred even later in the season than this one. I’ll also have another installment of the series on the 1984 Cubs later this week as we tick ever closer to real live Cubs baseball.