These Braves are pretty good. Al suggested that these Braves might be similar to last year’s Rockies. Those Rockies jumped out to a strong start, wilted as the season went along but managed to sneak into the playoffs. That’s a possible outcome for these Braves who have the best record in the National League as we reach the one quarter mark of the season. Certainly, the Nationals are going to be tough for them to hold off. The Nationals struggled in April but in May they’ve won 10 of 13 including a four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks in Arizona. They appear to have things in high gear. The surprising Phillies are also in the mix and the three teams are separated by just two games.
I’ve never seen anything like the first quarter of this season. 11 of the 15 teams in the National League are at .500 or above. One of the four that isn’t is the Los Angeles Dodgers who were a heavy favorite by nearly everyone to win the National League West, by many to return to the World Series and by some to win the World Series. The Dodgers are only a couple of games better than the Cincinnati Reds in the “race” for the worst record in the National League. They’ve been besieged by injuries, but I still can’t help thinking about the staggering run they made last summer and wonder if they’ll go down without a fight.
But we were talking about these Braves before I digressed. Yeah, these Braves don’t appear to be any kind of mirage. They lead the National League in runs per game. They are tied for sixth (with the Cubs) in the N.L. in runs allowed per game. But that’s slightly misleading as they are in the top 10 in baseball. I’d say they could probably stand to bolster their bullpen as the season goes along, maybe add another starting pitcher. But they look to be slowly building a formidable team. Of course it’s way too early to draw conclusions as to the full season. I know that I’m personally happy that after tonight we won’t see the Braves again until the postseason. This has not been much fun.
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 40, May 16 - Cubs falter late, lose to Braves 4-1 (22-18)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kris Bryant (.212). Can we clone Kris Bryant? I’d love to watch a team with a handful of him in the lineup. Given that we know he can play at least a few positions adeptly, it would be fun to watch at least three or four of them in the lineup together. Kirs hat three hits and an RBI yesterday. The Cubs had just eight hits and the one run.
- Hero - Tyler Chatwood (.147). Sure, I didn’t watch him pitch and he walked just two batters. He allowed four hits to go with that and only allowed one run. That’s a fantastic performance against these Braves hitters right now.
- Sidekick - Willson Contreras (.134). Willson was also on base three times. He and Kris accounted for six of the 10 Cubs baserunners on the day. Willson looks to be just about back to form after doing a lot of work following some early season mediocre hitting.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.355). Thud. Talk about Jekyl and Hyde. In Carl’s first 16 performances of the year he threw 17 innings allowing seven hits, one run, eight walks and had 30 strikeouts. In his last three outings, he’s thrown a total of two innings allowing seven hits, seven runs, two walks and two strikeouts. Until this stretch, I had Edwards as one of the most promising signs of the early portion of the year.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.243). Kyle is going through a bit of a rough stretch. He was hitless in four at bats yesterday and struck out twice. Going back to April 25, Kyle is hitting .170/.302/.283 over a 63 plate appearance stretch. The walks are still there and a double, a triple and a home run have kept the slugging from cratering, but he’s not finding any holes with a .222 BABIP over that time. He also has 16 strikeouts in 53 at bats during that time.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.169). Rizzo was also hitless in his four at bats. He struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game - Carl Edwards retired the first batter he faced. That was the only out he recorded. He then allowed a triple to Ozzie Albies (.178) and it was down hill from there. Two singles and two walks followed before he was lifted.
*Cubs Play of the Game - With two outs and a runner on second base, Kris Bryant delivered an RBI single to tie the game at 1-1. (.127).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 12
- Hero - Pedro Strop, Steve Cishek, and Tyler Chatwood 8
Up Next: The two teams play for a fourth straight games with the Cubs looking to split the six games on the season. A Braves win would give them the series win 4-2. Jon Lester will be looking to avoid that outcome. Jon has been very good over his last seven starts. He is 3-1 with a 2.21 ERA over that time. He’s thrown 40⅔ innings so he could use a little more length to his outings. But he’s allowed only 31 hits, 17 walks and 13 runs (10 earned). He’s struck out 34. He allowed five home runs over that time, but three of them were in the same game. Seven of the 13 runs came in just two outings over that stretch. He faced the Braves twice last year and won them both (and has wins in four of his last five starts against the Braves with a 1.62 ERA in those games). He had a bit of trouble with them last September despite the win. He threw five innings and allowed eight hits, a walk and four runs. He did strike out four.
Mike Soroka is the opposition. He’s making just his fourth major league start. His last start was a mixed bag. He lasted just 4⅔ innings against the Marlins. He allowed eight hits and five runs. That’s not so good. He walked only one and struck out seven. That’s fantastic. Only one of the five runs was earned. The Giants scored four runs in four innings in the start before that. So he is definitely beatable. He’s allowed 21 hits in 14⅔ innings of work at the MLB level. The Cubs have never seen him before. That’s been a bit of a bugaboo for them this year. Let’s hope it isn’t the case today. I’m not pushing my luck with my hopes, but I’m hoping for something like a 5-2 Cubs win.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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