This Cubs team has suddenly flipped the script that had ruled the first part of the season. The bats had been leading the charge and the pitching had been statistically below average. The combined result had been mostly .500 baseball slowly trending towards above water. But in the last week, the Cubs have gotten five straight quality starts. They’ve won four of those five games and now have their first three-game winning streak of the year. All of those three wins came against the Brewers, who many figure to be their toughest competition in the division again this year.
Checking back in some statistics, the Cubs have fallen from second to fourth in Major League Baseball. They are now averaging 5.43 runs/game (Yankees, Red Sox, Braves). Their runs allowed per game is now down to 4.13 which is just outside the top ten (11th). There is still a lot of work to do there though as they are just eighth in the National League. League average is 4.45. Their run differential is up to +33 which is best in the National League and third best in baseball. This team is streaking away from it’s slow start.
That’s the thing about reading too much into April numbers. Everything is so early, it can all change quickly. Over the years we’ve learned how difficult it can be to come from behind late in the season, especially if you start having to climb over many teams to do it. But, you only worry about a slow start if A) it is particularly deep and/or B) you were expected to have a razor thin margin of error in the best of circumstances. The Cubs weren’t in any particularly deep hole. Yes, the Brewers and Cardinals had moved a small handful of games ahead. But the hole was small and the Cubs had been expected to win the division comfortably. One small winning streak has eliminated the division deficit.
This team stands at 14-10. That’s a 94.5 win pace. Anthony RIzzo has provided little production and spent time on the DL. Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant both had hot starts and spent time on the DL. The entire starting rotation was plagued with uneven performance. The Cubs came into this homestand having played the least home games of any team in the majors. There are a basket of reasons to think that this team is just starting to play the kind of baseball it can play. Your own opinion may vary, I believe this can be a very, very special Cubs team and that they are starting to show us that.
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 24, April 28 - Cubs blank Brewers for fourth time this month 3-0 (14-10)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.469). Q was simply dominant yesterday. He had very good command of his pitches and might have had a really special day were it no for Lorenzo Cain. Still, he threw seven innings of two hit, one walk, no run baseball. He struck out seven.
- Hero - Jason Heyward (.089). Jason reached twice in three plate appearances yesterday. He walked leading off the fifth and doubled to left center following a Ben Zobrist lead off single in the seventh. Both would score and give the Cubs some breathing room on a day when almost certainly Brandon Morrow and Carl Edwards Jr. were unavailable.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.072). This wasn’t the prettiest day at the plate that Javy’s had in his hitting streak. But he did end up being credited with one hit and an RBI in four at bats. On a day where the wind was howling and the sun was blinding, he got one of the seeing eye doubles. The call was right as these things are called, but I will always think it is a crime that a pitcher is credited with allowing earned runs for a ball that would ordinarily be a routine catch.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.063). Anthony was hitless in four at bats. He did make some solid contact, but that Junior Guerra for the Brewers was pitching a great game of his own.
- Goat - Kris Bryant (-.055). Remember all of the fun and games of Bryzzo? I miss it. Hopefully it busts out. Soon. Kris did reach base once on a walk in his four plate appearances.
- Kid - Albert Almora Jr. (-.045). Like Javy, he did just enough to keep his hitting streak going. He had one hit and also a sacrifice bunt in his four plate appearances. And he caught a fly ball all of the way into left field when Kyle Schwarber got beat by the sun.
WPA Play of the Game - Jason Heyward and Jose Quintana were retired to start the Cubs third inning. The Albert Almora dropped one into left field for the Cubs first hit. Javy Baez followed and hit a towering pop up into center field. Orlando Arcia did a fantastic job getting out into center field and got a glove on the ball, but cold not complete the running catch after Lorenzo Cain lost the ball in the sun. With two outs, Almora ran hard all of the way and scored the game’s first run. (.127)
* Brewers Play of the Game - Lorenzo Cain doubled leading off the fourth inning. (.075). He also added (.037) by advancing to third on a wild pitch. Q did some of his best work in stranding Cain at third with no outs.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 17
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber 6
- Sidekick - Kyle Hendricks and Brandon Morrow 5
Up Next: The Cubs and Brewers wrap up their four-game set. The Cubs will be looking to try to complete a four-game sweep and seven wins in eight games against the Brewers to start the season. The Brewers will be looking to salvage one game in the series.
Tyler Chatwood will be the Cubs starter. Walks have been the story with Chatwood. He’s walked 19 men in 21⅔ innings as a Cub. What was already a weakness throughout his career has actually taken a fairly sizable step in the wrong direction this year. But, he’s allowed only 18 hits in those 21⅔ innings and has an ERA of 3.74. He did face the Brewers once last year, it was in Milwaukee. He threw six innings allowing seven hits, one walk and four runs while striking out five. Before that, he hadn’t faced the Brewers since 2013.
Zach Davies is on the mound for the Brewers. Zach has a 2-2 record and a 4.45 ERA so far for the Brewers. He faced the Cubs back on April 7 and was quite good. He allowed four hits, three walks and one run while striking out eight and got no decision. In his last five starts against the Cubs dating back to last July, he has thrown 33 innings allowing 30 hits, six walks and nine runs while striking out 26. That’s good for a 2.45 ERA and he has a 2-1 record. This could be yet another pitcher’s duel.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Tommy La Stella
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)