As the Cubs get ready for a cold and damp home opener, hopefully if you had stepped towards or out onto the ledge after a few hiccups in the first handful of games you took a step back or two over the weekend. Sure, I don’t think the Brewers put their best foot forward. Certainly losing their closer in the series opener was a big loss and not having the potent bat of Christian Yellich was another blow to their team. Still, their pitchers by and large were fantastic through the weekend and the games were generally close and competitive.
Nine games is not a massive sample to be sure. At the same time, over five percent of the season is in the books. The Cubs are tied for third in baseball in runs allowed per game. Run prevention is a fairly predictive statistic. They are only about middle of the pack so far in runs scored per game. But that’s still good for a +13 run differential, good for eighth in baseball. The Cubs are the only team in baseball not to have played a home game yet. Of the seven teams ahead of the Cubs, five have played six home games, one has played five and the Red Sox have played only three. This team is going to win a lot of games. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
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 9, April 8 - Cubs blank Brewers 3-0; take three of four (5-4)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jose Quintana (.374). Jose bounced back fantastically from his rough outing in Miami last week. Six innings, three hits, two walks and six strike outs. He only had one runner reach third base and that was in the sixth inning, but he got a big strike out to get out of that inning.
- Hero - Ben Zobrist (.127). Ben continues to be a pleasant surprise offensively as he appears resurgent in the early going after a tough 2017. On Sunday, he got the scoring started with a home run leading off the fourth (.119) and added another lead off single in the sixth. He had two hits in four at bats on the day.
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.092). The box score shows that Tommy was hitless in one at bat. However, he batted with one out and runners on first and second in the seventh. He reached on an error and the play ended with runners on second and third and a run scored (.092).
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kris Bryant (-.097). Kris had a tough day after a huge start to the season. He was hitless in four at bats. You’ll notice that’s a theme today.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.092). Schwarber also was hitless in four at bats. Kyle could be heading to a second consecutive season where he challenges people to look at on base and slugging and not batting average when evaluating hitters.
- Kid - Addison Russelll (-.079). Addy rounds out the trio of Cubs hitters who were hitless in four at bats. Each had one strike out.
WPA Play of the Game - Through three innings on Sunday the teams were scoreless. The Cubs had managed a double and a walk through three. The Brewers had two hits. Not a whole lot of anything going on until Ben Zobrist lead off the fourth with a home run off the right field foul pole. That gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead. (.119) That’s two straight days that Ben was involved with the play of the game and four straight days the Cubs have accounted for the biggest play of the game in a positive manner.
*Brewers Play of the Game - Right after the Zobrist homer Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch. He attempts to steal second and was caught stealing. (.060)
- Superhero - Ben Zobrist 6
- Hero - Tommy La Stella 4
- Sidekick - Kris Bryant, Steve Cishek, Eddie Butler, Tyler Chatwood 3
Up Next: The Cubs finally return home to open their 2018 home schedule. Weather permitting they will begin their home schedule against the Pirates who are presently residing in first place in the National League Central. The Pirates have jumped out to a 7-2 start, largely against American League competition. They opened by sweeping the Tigers in Detroit. Followed that with ah home split against the Twins and then took three of four at home from the Reds. While the Twins figure to be a very good team, the Cubs should be the stiffest test to date for the Pirates. It remains to be seen if the Pirates or Brewers will turn out to be the stiffer test for the Cubs.
The Cubs have Tyler Chatwood on the hill. Tyler was a hard luck loser in his first start after throwing six innings and allowing only one run as the Cubs lost 1-0. He did allow four hits and six walks that day, so it wasn’t a dominant outing. He’ll look to improve on that one against the Pirates. Chatwood has made two career starts against the Pirates, both of them in Pittsburgh, one each of the last two years. The lines are remarkably similar as he threw six innings and allowed six hits and one run in each. In the two starts combined, he walked three and struck out seven.
The Pirates will send Ivan Nova to the mound against the Cubs. Ivan has made two starts this year and had an 0-1 record and a 6.10 ERA. He’s allowed 11 hits and seven runs (all earned) in 10.1 innings. He’s struck out seven and walked four so far. He’s off to the worst start among Pirates starters. Nova made three starts against the Cubs in 2017. He compiled a 2-1 record. He threw 16.2 innings, allowed 14 hits, four walks, struck out 17 and allowed 10 runs (nine earned). The Pirates offense has been very potent in the early going. It will be interesting to see if they can keep that rolling in what figures to be a very cold home opener.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Tommy La Stella
Albert Almora Jr.
Other (leave your answer in the comments)