I certainly didn’t think I’d be back in the position of asking people to relax every day to start the 2018 season. That was my mantra most of last year and five games into this season, I’m back in that spot. Despite six games against teams expected to be pretty bad in 2018, the Cubs have started out with just two wins in their first five games.
Let’s talk a little bit about why teams are projected to be bad. When teams are fully healthy and fully rested, the spread in talent is not that massive. I know the Marlins aren’t even fully healthy, so that part doesn’t really even apply to them. But they were well rested. Every team comes out of spring training pretty well rested and being at home only increases that.
Health and rest are certainly a component of why a team is projected to be bad. Another one is the quality of their depth. When injuries and fatigue take effect, how big is the drop off to the next man up? Four games into the season, depth doesn’t matter much. But come July and August, the story is different. One of the things experts are excited about with the Cubs is that if a key player is injured, they have a quality replacement at just about every position except catcher and even there Victor Caratini and Chris Gimenez are probably as good as at least a few other teams have regularly.
I’m not great at figuring out standard deviation, but I can tell you that a team expected to win around 60% of its game will have many stretches during the season where they lose three out of five games. I seem to recall last year’s team that won just under 60% of its games having an 0-6 road trip that included getting swept by the Padres. The World Series team lost what 15 of 20 at one point? It happens. Relax.
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 5, April 2 - Cubs shutout by Reds 1-0 (2-3)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Tyler Chatwood (.181). I don’t know if it was jitters or the cold or what, but Tyler was shaky yesterday. And yet, six innings, four hits, six walks, four strike outs, one run. Only one of those numbers is bad. To be sure, if that walk rate were to continue, he’ll get knocked all over the place. It won’t.
- Hero - Justin Wilson (.046). Justin threw a perfect seventh inning striking out two. (Tiny sample size alert) That’s 3.2 scoreless innings to start the year for Justin with one hit, two walks and five strike outs. If he’s going to be a high quality reliever, the bullpen looks that much stronger.
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop (.033). Pedro threw a scoreless eighth inning, allowing one hit. Pedro also has 3.2 scoreless innings (and so does Mike Montgomery). Pedro’s allowed four hits and a walk already. He does have three strike outs, but he’s living a little dangerously.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.191). Willson’s having a terrible start to his 2018 season. He was hitless in four at bats yesterday and has just four hits in his first 21 at bats. He has one double and one walk. There was no stand out at bat for Willson yesterday, the largest negative score was from flying out to start the ninth (-.075).
- Goat - Anthony Rizzo (-.171). Rizzo’s not doing a whole lot better. He has three hits in 23 at bats. He does have a home run, a walk and three hit by pitches though to keep his on base and slugging up a little. He reached base once in four plate appearances by way of a hit by pitch. He lands here for his strike out with the bases loaded to end the eighth (-.176).
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.147). Addison had been hitting decently to start the year, but the Cubs mustered a total of two hits yesterday even with five walks and a hit by pitch, that’s not going to get it done. Addison was also hitless in four at bats. Russell lands here by hitting into a double play in the fourth (-.063).
WPA Play of the Day - For the fifth consecutive day, this event is a negative one for the Cubs. In the eighth inning, the Cubs finally mustered a little rally. After Jason Heyward and Javier Baez struck out to start the inning, Ben Zobrist drew a pinch hit walk. Ian Happ followed with a single and the Reds summoned their closer Raisel Iglesias. He walked Kris Bryant and that brought Anthony Rizzo to the plate. Unfortunately, Anthony struck out to end the inning and snuff the only real scoring chance on the day.
*Cubs highest positive WPA of the day - Tyler Chatwood induced a double play to escape a bases loaded jam in the first inning (.142).
- Superhero - Kris Bryant 4
- Hero - Steve Cishek, Eddie Butler, Ben Zobrist, Tyler Chatwood 3
Up Next: The Cubs are slated to finish their two game set against the Reds tonight. The weather report is fairly bleak and the game may not happen. If it does, Jon Lester will be the Cubs pitcher. Jon will be looking to bounce back from a tough opening day start in which he allowed seven hits, three walks and four runs (three earned) in 3.1 innings. Cody Reed will be the Reds starter. The Cubs bats should be hoping to get this one in. Cody Reed has pitched against the Cubs three times. Cody is 0-3 with a 16.20 ERA over 10 innings pitched. That’s a small sample size, but he allowed 18 hits, eight walks, seven home runs and 22 runs (only 18 earned). In fairness, the Reds have hit Lester very well in his last five starts against them too. In those five starts he’s thrown just 23.1 innings allowing 33 hits, seven walks and 22 runs (20 earned). A lot of that damage occurred in one start last August at Wrigley Field. He had a strong tune up against them in the final series of the year throwing five scoreless innings.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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