The Cubs pitching has been remarkably consistent recently. The last four games they’ve allowed exactly five runs. Before that, they allowed 10, 4, 6, 5 and 8 runs in the previous five games. So in the last nine games, they’ve allowed five runs five times. One time each they allowed four and six. So that’s a pretty narrow range. That’s not the range you want your pitchers to land in. Five runs allowed per game is going to result in a lot of losses in the long run. The Cubs have won four and lost five of those games.
If this were a science experiment, we’d call the pitching a constant. It’s in that fairly tight range. And of course the lowest runs allowed was a loss (4-0) and the highest runs allowed is a win (13-10). Thank God this isn’t a science experiment, because those results are confusing. So where is the pattern in the early going? Well, I’ve already told you the obvious pattern a few days ago. The Cubs split each odd/even pair of games. So the Cubs won game 17 and of course they lost game 18. The Cubs have neither a three-game winning streak nor a three-game losing streak yet. They’ve won three of four on a couple of occasions, but of course to even things out they’ve lost three of four on a couple of occasions.
It’s early, but there is another pattern. As I said, if this were a science experiment the pitching would be the controlled element, generally speaking. The offense is the variable on a given day. When the Cubs score at least three runs, they are already 9-3. They’ve yet to win a game and are 0-6 when scoring two or fewer runs. Fortunately, the Cubs are fourth in the majors at 5.61 runs per game. We expect them to score at least three on most nights. Especially as the weather warms and a bat or two that hasn’t left the starting gate gets started.
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 18, April 21 - Cubs allow five unanswered runs to lose 5-2 (9-9)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Albert Almora Jr. (.099). Albert continued his hot streak with two hits and a walk in four at bats. Albert was not only the Cubs only base runner in the last six innings yesterday, he was actually in scoring position following a lead off double in the fifth. Unfortunately, his base running aggressiveness cost the Cubs a chance to add to what was at that time a 2-0 lead.
- Hero - Pedro Strop (.070). Pedro came into the sixth inning with runners on first and second and no outs. He wiggled his way out of that jam. Then went back out to start the seventh. He walked the first hitters but then retired the next two. 1.2 scoreless innings to keep the Cubs hops alive.
- Sidekick - Willson Contreras (.055). Contreras hit a two-run double in the first inning that just missed being his first home run of the year. Willson has continued to provide value at the plate due to seven doubles and a triple already this year. But you know it is only a matter of time before a few of those balls reach beyond the wall (and some well beyond it).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Yu Darvish (-.268). After being lit up in the World Series a couple of times, I know there were some people who strongly felt that the Cubs should stay away from Yu. Those people are surely emboldened in their opinion after four starts that have shown flashes of dominance, a lot of meh, and flashes of train wreck. Yesterday he lasted 4⅔ innings and allowed five hits, four walks and five runs. He did strike out four. It’s been a rough start to his Cubs career.
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.178). Yu isn’t the only one off to a really slow start. Anthony was hitless again yesterday in four at bats. Through 52 plate appearances he has a line of .136/.269/.205.
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.082). Russell is also off to a rough start. He was hitless in three at bats yesterday and his season line stands at .226/.333/.290. He’s also still looking for his first home run.
WPA Play of the Game - Yu Darvish recorded two outs sandwiched around a walk to start the fifth inning. No big deal there, he had the pitcher up and was sailing along. But then he walked the pitcher. A ground rule double followed to cut the Cubs lead to 2-1 and that’s when Gerardo Parra stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs. Parra singled to center field driving in two runs (.201).
Cubs Play of the Game - Albert Almora and Javy Baez had singles to start the game. A Kris Bryant fly ball moved them up. Anthony Rizzo struck out and Willson Contreras cracked a two-out, two-run double that just missed being a three-run homer (.136).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 14
- Hero - Steve Cishek 5
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist, Tommy La Stella, Kyle Schwarber 4
Up Next: The Cubs and Rockies finish up their three game series with an afternoon game. Jose Quintana will be on the mound for the Cubs. He’s 1-1 with an unsightly 8.16 ERA in the early going. He was, of course, the starter in that mess that was last Saturday’s game in which he allowed seven hits, four walks and seven runs in just 2⅓ innings. He did pitch in Colorado once last year. He went 5⅓ innings, allowing five hits, two walks and three runs. He had a gaudy 10 strikeouts though.
Righty German Marquez will be on the hill for the Rockies. He is 1-1 with a 4.34 ERA in four starts. Last time out he was pretty good over six innings in Pittsburgh. Allowing two hits, two walks and two runs. He left the start before that after only three scoreless innings. He started two games against the Cubs last year and was 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA. In one of those starts, he also only lasted three innings (and made 81 pitches).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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