The Cubs bats continue to struggle and it continues to hold this team back. This too shall pass. I get that. I get that this is just one of those funks that a team collectively goes through. This pitching staff is with each passing week looking better and better. Saturday was a hiccup to be sure, and then there was that game against the Rockies... But seriously, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the pitchers, but for two weeks now, the offense has been a problem.
Not to say that resources haven’t been put into the pitching staff, because undoubtedly a ton of resources have been spent there. But when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer were putting this team together, they surely dreamed of pounding teams into submission. While this team was rebuilding, it acquired Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, Albert Almora Jr. Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Ian Happ just among the regular contributors on this team. It is not that small of a sample anymore and this team through last night’s game this team now has an MLB league average on base percentage and a slightly below MLB average slugging percentage. They’ve scored an above average number of runs, so there’s that.
I’m sure there will be frustration directed at the journeyman reliever who allowed the winning runs the last two days. I don’t love that the Cubs have lost two games with that reliever on the mound, but I had heard that Joe said Pedro Strop wasn’t even available last night, so I’m choosing to be frustrated with the hitters who mustered three runs in 14 innings last night. The Cubs haven’t hit a multi run homer in more than two weeks now. Largely because there just isn’t a ton of traffic on the bases these days. It has to change. There is a ton of baseball left and I remain confident this team will get clicking on all its cylinders and will comfortably win this division. But that doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated following this team right now.
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 31, May 6 - Cubs lose 4-3 in 14 innings on Fowler walk off (16-15)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.408). Mike threw three innings of scoreless relief last night and allowed just a walk. Mike threw four scoreless innings over the weekend with just that one walk. He’s had a bit of a rough go, to say the least, having allowed runs in five of six outings prior to that. Hopefully he is righting his ship a bit.
- Hero - Brian Duensing (.305). Brian is destined to be one of those guys we always underestimate a bit. He came in with two men and one out in the eighth and escaped the inning unscathed to preserve the tie. He then threw a perfect ninth. That’s another 1⅔ scoreless innings. That makes 11⅔ scoreless innings over 16 outings to start the season.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.239). Javy had two hits in six at bats including a home run in the top of the 14th. He continues to lead the Cubs in runs, hits, doubles (tied), triples, home runs, RBI, stolen bases and OPS. Not the first guy many of us would have guessed would be able to carry a team for more than a month.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Luke Farrell (-.802). Pick your silver lining. A) he is averaging 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings pitched or B) he is almost certainly not going to throw a meaningful inning for this team in the playoffs.
- Goat - Willson Contreras (-.218). Willson had just one hit in six at bats. He did score once and also struck out twice. His OPS has dropped to .681 which sadly is sixth on the team among the 10 guys who regularly play.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.183). He had just a sacrifice fly to show for his six plate appearances. Kris Bryant is likely the only other Cub who could struggle this bad for this long and not have a lynch mob calling for him to be cut/sent down/or summarily executed for it.
WPA Play of the Game - This one is likely cemented into the top spot. Luke Farrell struck out the first two batters he faced with a 3-2 lead in the 14th. The next had an infield hit and the last hit a game winning two run homer. (.903).
* Cubs Play of the Game - Fowler’s heroics erased what is the third biggest WPA event of the season for the Cubs. Javier Baez hit a two out homer in the 14th inning. (.414).
- Superhero - Javier Baez 14
- Hero - Pedro Strop 8
- Sidekick - Kyle Schwarber, Steve Cishek, Tommy La Stella 6
Up Next: The Cubs open a three game set with the Marlins at Wrigley Field tonight. These will be the last three games of the season between these two teams. The two teams split four games to open the season. Kyle Hendricks is the starter for the Cubs. He’s 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA on the season. Last time out he threw 7⅔ innings against the Rockies allowing only four hits, two walks and three runs (all solo homers). He struck out five. He faced the Marlins in the 17-inning game back on March 30. He threw six innings allowing four hits, three walks and one run while striking out five.
Jarlin Garcia is the opposition. He also pitched in that 17 inning game. He also threw six innings. The difference was, his were in relief. He threw the 10th - 15th innings. He allowed just one hit and two walks while striking out six. I went way out on a limb and guessed that we helped him earn a spot in the Marlins rotation. He’s made four starts since and had a 1-0 record and an 0.78 ERA in those games. Jarlin is brutal so far against left handed hitters this year. He’s holding opposing lefties to a .095/.240/.095 mark. Expect to see the Cubs load up on right handed hitting tonight.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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