Brutal weather conditions in Chicago (and around the country) is one of the stories of the early 2018 season. In about three weeks, the Cubs have had five games rescheduled already. Two were rescheduled to the next day and played, but two others were added to the same calendar week in May. I suspect that was one of the reasons the Cubs so badly wanted to get a game in last Saturday and played in flat out brutal conditions. They would otherwise have added three games onto their schedule for that week in May. What was once six games in eight days with off days on consecutive Mondays will now be 11 games in 10 days.
On the field, the Cubs product has been a rerun of the early season of 2017 with the team hovering at .500. Oddly, the Cubs are closing in on the “most” .500 start to the season in decades. 88 years is the exact number. The Cubs have so far been 0-0, 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7 and now 8-8. The last team to do so was the 1930 Cubs. That team finished 90-64. That’s a 95-win pace, so the two teams could have something in common.
The Cubs have played a lot without Anthony Rizzo. Even when he’s been on the field, with yesterday’s three hit game he’s now up to a line of .171/.310/.257. Of course he’s been one of the most consistent Cubs for a few years now, so we know he’ll hit. But his bat has been noticeably absent in the early going. The pitching staff that was expected to be one of the best Joe’s ever had has been uninspiring as a whole.
Circling back though to that 1930 team, they went on to win 95 games. This is your perspective. Were the Cubs to win the next four games, they’d be at 12-8. That’s a 97-win pace. Exactly what I predicted this team would win. Now to be fair, I don’t expect that the script will flip that quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if this team is 11-9 or even the dreaded 10-10 at the 20 game mark. But, I do expect this team to be the type of team that will have some stretches were they win eight of 10, 15 of 20 or 22 of 30. The types of stretches that let a team get well above .500. With this team, it won’t require inferior competition or a long stretch at home. This team can go off at almost any time.
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 16, April 19 - Cubs pile up early lead and hold on for 8-5 win (8-8)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kyle Schwarber (.133). Kyle finds his way to the top spot without the benefit of a home run. That’s a good sign from where I sit. He had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. Kyle has a .373 on base percentage in the early going. He had RBI singles in the first and second innings as the Cubs were jumping out to a 6-1 lead after two.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.101). Javy had two more hits in five at bats yesterday including a triple in the first. He scored both times. Baez leads the team in hits, runs, triples, homers, and RBI.
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo (.098). Anthony had three hits and a walk in five plate appearances. He drove in the Cubs’ first run. Rizzo’s bat balances the Cubs lineup a good bit. Getting him going will be a big lift to this team and you know it is only a matter of time.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Eddie Butler (-.072). This would have been a much larger negative score if it hadn’t already been 8-1 Cubs. Of course Eddie probably wouldn’t have been in the game otherwise. Bad Eddie showed up. He allowed two hits and two walks before leaving and was charged with four runs (three earned) without recording an out.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.049). Addison did have a hit, a single in the fifth and score on a Jason Heyward home run. But he made the last out in both the first and second innings with runners on first and second.
- Kid - Willson Contreras (-.047). Willson also had one hit and was also hit by a pitch in his five plate appearances. His strike out in the first with first and second and one out was what landed him here (-.043).
WPA Play of the Game - After the Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first tied the game at 1-1, Anthony Rizzo followed with a single of his own. Willson Contreras struck out and Kyle Schwarber stepped to the plate with two out and singled in the go ahead run (.097).
Cardinals Play of the Game - With two outs and a runner on third, after a Javy Baez throwing error that could have gotten the Cubs out of the first unscathed, Jon Lester threw a wild pitch. (.073)
Cumulative Standings: Bold = returned to minors (change since last update)
- Javier Baez 11 (12)
- Steve Cishek 5 (2)
- Ben Zobrist 4 (-2)
- Tommy LaStella 4 (0)
- Kyle Schwarber 4 (6)
- Brian Duensing 3 (3)
- Kris Bryant 2 (-1)
- Kyle Hendricks 2 (2)
- Efren Navarro 2 (2)
- Carl Edwards Jr. 1 (1)
- Pedro Strop 0 (-1)
- Tyler Chatwood 0 (-3)
- Victor Caratini 0 (0)
- Justin Wilson -1 (-3)
- Jason Heyward -1 (-2)
- Brandon Morrow -1 (0)
- Albert Almora Jr. -1 (1)
- Ian Happ -2.5 (2)
- Anthony Rizzo -2.5 (1)
- Eddie Butler -3 (-6)
- Jon Lester -3 (-3)
- Jose Quintana -3 (-3)
- Addison Russell -4 (-4)
- Mike Montgomery -4 (-1)
- Willson Contreras -6 (0)
- Yu Darvish -6 (-3)
With the rescheduled game, we lost our usual off day look at the full standings, so let’s look at them now. Javier Baez has been scorching hot since the last update, has jumped out to a large early lead and is the first player to reach +10 territory for the year. It would be a shocking reversal for Javy to go from flirting with last place all of last year to winning this year. But it would be a whole lot of fun to watch.
Another top performer in the eyes of Heroes and Goats over the period was Kyle Schwarber at +6 to move not only into positive territory but into a tie for third place. Kyle is going to get a ton of opportunity this year to be one of the leaders in this statistic batting behind Rizzo and Contreras most days.
Eddie Butler saw the biggest drop (-6), but no one can take away his one night in Miami. Addison Russell had the next biggest drop at (-4). Overall, the Cubs aren’t going to take off until three fifths of the starting rotation stops residing near the bottom of this list. To make things worse, Chatwood has walked a tightrope to be as high as he is on this list.
Up Next: The Cubs are scheduled for three games in Colorado this weekend. The Rockies are 11-9 in their first 20 games. They are coming back from a seven-game road trip to Washington and Pittsburgh where they won five of seven. I’m certainly jealous of the fact that they have been able to stay on schedule. Yesterday was an off day for them.
Kyle Hendricks will start game one of the series for the Cubs. He’s 0-1 with a 3.71 ERA on the season. Last year he pitched in Colorado in a start in May. He lasted 6⅓ innings allowing four hits, two walks, and three runs (two earned) while striking out seven. He took the loss that day. He also faced them twice in 2016. Over three years he’s faced them five times, with an 0-2 record and a 4.88 ERA. Last time out he pitched reasonably well against the Pirates but did take a loss as he allowed five hits, three walks, and two runs while striking out seven in six innings of work.
Jon Gray will start for the Rockies. He’s never started a game against the Cubs. He’s made four starts on the year and has a 1-3 record and a 6.23 ERA. He’s pitched 21⅔ innings, allowing 28 hits, five walks, and 15 runs while striking out 23. He can’t even point to Coors entirely as he’s only made one start there, though it was his worst start of the year. In that one, he went five innings allowing 10 hits, one walk, and allowing seven runs while striking out six. Last time out was in Washington. In that one he went 5⅔ innings allowing eight hits, one walk and five runs while striking out six. From those numbers, it is pretty clear that Jon is going to throw strikes but that the Cubs should be able to square a number of those strikes up. Let’s hope when they do they find some gaps as they were doing yesterday.
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