Ouch. The Cubs played well in Milwaukee last weekend and none of the baseball experts gave the Pirates much chance of being competitive in 2018 after trading many of their most well-known players away. That and coming home for the first time for the Cubs seemed like a recipe for two out of three for the Cubs.
The Pirates have been one of the best teams in baseball in the early going. Division titles are certainly not won in April, but some teams will bury themselves in a hole they are unable to climb out of. The Pirates with their win yesterday won two out of three in the series and are now 9-3. They are playing well and the Cubs clearly caught them at the wrong time.
Early season stats are fun to play with. The Pirates are on pace to win 121 games. Will that hold up? Of course not. They won’t even win 100 games. Could they win 90? Possibly, but probably not. My CBS Sports App tells me that even with the 9-3 start, it only expects them to win 83 games and have a 29 percent chance of reaching the postseason. I’ll safely assume that those numbers have both climbed in the early going.
For reference, they figure the Cubs to win 92 games and have a 70 percent chance of reaching the playoffs. 70 seems low, but I imagine with 150 games to play that there are so many variables that it’s hard to be too certain. Though there are six teams they do project with better chance than that, lead by the Boston Red Sox who are closing in on 90 percent. Given that they were supposed to be one of the best teams and then jumped out to a 10-2 record, I’d imagine that about 90 percent is pretty fair.
With that, we turn our attention to yesterday’s game as we look at what WPA had 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 12, April 12 - Cubs lose 6-1 to Pirates, drop two of three in series (6-6)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.138). Schwarber had three hits yesterday. His teammates combined for four. One of those hits was a home run. Kyle is now hitting .270. He was never that high last year after the first three games. It’s early, it’s a small sample, but it certainly isn’t a bad sign.
- Hero - Kyle Hendricks (.073). It appears that the Cubs needed more Kyles yesterday. Hendricks had a start that I can’t decide how to classify. He threw six innings allowing five hits, three walks, and two runs while striking out seven. Strike out number? Good. Hits number? Good. Walks? Not great, but didn’t hurt at all. Two runs? Eh, that’s not really bad at all. Should give your team a chance to win. But two home runs. That’s not great.
- Sidekick - Ian Happ (.061). Ian singled and doubled in his first two at bats yesterday. After homering in his only at bat Wednesday that meant three straight plate appearances were hits. That’s pretty good. He’s up to .216. That’s not so good.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Justin Wilson (-.276). Whoa. That wasn’t good. He actually retired two of the first three hitters around Gregory Polanco’s second home run. That didn’t seem so bad. But then walk, walk, homer doomed the Cubs game. He allowed another single and walk before mercifully being sent to the showers. The 5.68 ERA is whatever, I don’t worry about it too much. The 1.895 WHIP is scary though. Why does Justin not like wearing Cubby pinstripes?
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.138). Addison was hitless in three at bats. In both the first and sixth innings he batted with two outs and runners in scoring position and failed to get the run in.
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.135). Zobrist cooled down a bit yesterday and was hitless in four at bats. He’s a notch lower because the outs he was making were generally the second out and not the third. Also Russell was hitting behind Schwarber who was the primary person on base.
WPA Play of the Game - With two outs in the seventh inning, Justin Wilson issues walks to Josh Bell and Corey Dickerson. Francisco Cervelli finished a fantastic series against the Cubs with a three run homer. (.155)
*Cubs WPA Play of the Game - Kyle Schwarber hit a home run leading off the fourth to tie the game at one.
The top five plays by WPA yesterday were all home runs.
Superhero - Kris Bryant 5
Hero - Ben Zobrist and Tommy La Stella 4
Up Next: The Atlanta Braves come to town for three games. They are off to a 7-5 start that is better than many expected. They’ve split six games in the early going with the Nationals and also took two out of three in Colorado to start their road trip. These and the seventh, eighth and ninth games on a road trip for them that saw them fly from Atlanta to Colorado to Washington and now to Chicago. So they’ll have played in three different time zones on this trip. They were off yesterday.
Yu Darvish takes the ball for the Cubs. He was masterful last time out in Milwaukee. He’ll be making his home debut at Wrigley Field for the Cubs this afternoon. Yu has never started a game against the Braves. Annibal Sanchez is his opponent for the Braves. He’s thrown just eight innings so far this year allowing eight hits, five walks and two runs. He hasn’t started a game against the Cubs since 2015 so there are no meaningful stats for him against the Cubs either.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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