That was refreshing. After two days of frustration in Milwaukee and then a day off to stew on that, the Cubs offense exploded yesterday. Cardinals starter came in with a 2.47 ERA and hadn’t allowed more than two runs in any start since April 12 (against the Reds). That 2.47 ERA was good for the 11th-best ERA in baseball heading into yesterday’s game. The Cubs tagged him for eight earned runs (nine overall) on three home runs, seven hits over all and four walks. Wacha’s new ERA of 3.24 is good, but no longer among the league leaders. This was a gratifying win in my book.
There has been a lot of hand-wringing and consternation about the ups and downs of the Cubs offense. Surely, I don’t have to be terribly good at math to know the Cubs have scored 20 runs over their last four games, more or less their season average of five runs per game. But, those runs were scored in two outbursts and not spread evenly. Certainly if we were to be endowed with the power of the baseball gods, we’d split those runs up evenly and all else being equal, it looks like three wins and one game into extra innings last night. Also, right now, as we sit here today, that would mean three wins against the Brewers and the one not win would be the Cardinals. Right now, that looks like the smart play. The Cardinals have been like a cockroach for the last 20+ years and I never, ever expect them to go away, so I make no assumptions that they will fade away into obscurity this year either.
But what about consistency? Does consistency have to mean they score the same number of runs every game? The Cubs have scored 10 or more runs 10 times this year. Two more than any team in baseball with the average team having done it about five times. Doesn’t that make the Cubs in at least one regard the most consistently high scoring team? The great thing about these games is that most times you end up with a big lead and you can deploy whatever relievers you feel like deploying. People have also worried about overuse in the bullpen. These blowout games are a panacea for the bullpen. Just what the doctor ordered. Last night the Cubs deployed three of the Iowa relievers currently populating the roster.
Continuing on, the Cubs have scored nine or more runs 11 times. The Indians and Astros have both done that more. But the Indians have lost two such games and the Astros one. The Cubs have scored eight runs 18 times, more than any team in baseball. They are 18-0 in those games. The Astros are second at 15-2. The Cubs have scored seven or more runs 23 times. Two behind the Astros, but the Astros are 22-3 in those games while the Cubs are 23-0. At six runs, the Cubs start to drop back into the pack slightly. Boston leads baseball with 31 of them, but including last night, the Red Sox are 26-5 in those games. The Cubs have 26 games of six or more runs and a record of 25-1 in those games.
In just shy of 40% of their games, the Cubs have scored six or more runs. They win those games at a 96% rate. That would be a 156-6 season. So basically, in two out of every five games, the Cubs have the equivalent feeling of having Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer in peak form. They feel pretty certain that they are going to win and win fairly comfortably. The combined score of those 26 games? 242-95. It never ceases to amaze me that we as Cub fans get to watch an elite team day in and day out and so many people only focus on the things they are not.
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 66, June 15 - Cubs batter Cardinals 13-5 (39-27)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Kris Bryant (.149). Warm it up Kris! You knew this game, this moment was coming. Sure, it would have been great against the Brewers, but it is always fun to beat up on the Cardinals. Kris had a two-run homer, an RBI single and a sacrifice fly among his five at bats.
- Hero - Jon Lester (.138). Jon allowed his first two runs in the month of June, due to two solo shots, one long after the game was out of reach for the Cardinals. He threw six innings, allowing five total hits, he only walked one and struck out three. His ERA ticks up from 2.22 to 2.28.
- Sidekick - Ian Happ (.103). Ian got the scoring started with a solo homer in the third inning. He had only that one hit in five at bats.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.039). Someone had to get this spot. Willson was hitless though he drew a walk. He had four plate appearances. But, at least this doesn’t feel half as bad as the next one.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.015). Blowouts often lead to some silly Heroes and Goats results. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a three hit game on the Goat podium though. Well, actually it was three hits and a walk in five plate appearances. Addison flied out his first time up while it was still 0-0 and it ended up in a double play (-.053). He walked and scored in the fourth after it was already 3-0 and then all of his hits came after the game was out of reach. Tough luck.
- Kid - Anthony Bass (.000). The other issue in blowout games is I often have to use discretion to determine how to break ties. Five Cubs registered .000 and I had to decide which one probably made the biggest increase in the Cubs chances of losing. Certainly not the Chris Gimenez walk. Not the Ben Zobrist or Tommy La Stella hitless at bats. I wouldn’t immediately disqualify Randy Rosario’s one walk in three batters. But then we get to Anthony Bass. One inning, three hits and a run. Yep, that’s the “winner,” so to speak.
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs leading 1-0, thanks to an Ian Happ home-run, Albert Almora Jr. had a one out single. That brought Kris Bryant to the plate. Kris hit a home-run of his own and the Cubs were up 3-0. (.170)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: The Addison Russell fly out that turned into a double play was the largest positive event of the day for the Cardinals. (.053)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 13
- Hero - Jon Lester 10
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek and Ben Zobrist 9
Kris Bryant and Ian Happ moved into positive territory. 21 of the 34 Cubs who have Heroes and Goats points this season have a positive cumulative score. Jon Lester moves into the plus 10 club which has been stingy this year at allowing new members.
Up Next: Game two of the three-game set for these two teams. Kyle Hendricks will be the Cubs starter. He is 4-6 with a 3.48 ERA on the season. In his last seven starts it is even less pretty 2-4 with a 3.73 ERA. Last time out, his line looked a little better but he was still the loser. He threw five innings allowing three hits, two walks and one run. He did strike out four. Kyle hasn’t yet faced the Cardinals in 2018. In his last five starts against them dating back to 2016, he’s 2-0 with a 2.27 ERA. Let’s hope he can keep his mastery of them going.
Carlos Martinez has had injury issues in 2018. When he’s been on the mound, he’s been fairly effective. He is 3-3 with a 2.50 ERA. In his last seven starts, he is 2-2 with a 2.54, so he’s fairly static. Last time out, he got knocked around by the Reds. He lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing four hits, seven walks and five runs. He did strike out five. The start before that against the Marlins, he lasted just four innings and again had control issues, walking five. Let’s hope he hasn’t figured anything out between starts. Last year, in five starts against the Cubs he was 1-1 with a 4.25 ERA thanks in large part to the seven runs they scored against him in a start in mid-September. The Cubs need to take those walks if he is going to give them.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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