Despite a fabulous spring, Ian Happ has become a somewhat unpopular Cub. I don’t think it is anything personal against him. However, Ian had a massive number of strikeouts in April. His early season numbers were terrible for the most part and also when Ian plays, it usually means that Albert Almora Jr. has been relegated to the bench. On a team where 10 players merit regular playing time (and that assumes you don’t actually think that Tommy La Stella merits regular playing time), a lot of fans are going to be happy that one of their favorite Cubs sits out on a given night.
Here’s the thing though. There should be more people wondering where Ian Happ is on a given day. Since April 21, Ian Happ has registered 141 plate appearances or pretty close to a quarter of a season for a full time player. Ian Happ has a line of .246/.390/.500. He has a wOBA of .369 and an wRC+ of 134. That is only a couple of notches below an All-Star player. Included in that line is an 18.4% walk rate (yes, I know there were a pretty good handful of intentional walks in there) and a 36.2% strike out rate. That strike rate needs work to be sure. But that is some fairly elite production.
That is really the deal with the 2018 Cubs. I’ll say it again, there are 10 players that merit regular playing time. Joe Maddon and the stats guys who give him information every day ahead of lineup creation work to get the best eight guys in there on a given day. Do they misfire sometimes? You bet. Do the Cubs lead the National League in scoring? Yes they do. By OPS+, Jason Heyward is the only one of the 10 with a below average score. Jason is at 99 just below dead on average. Jason is widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in baseball, and an above average baserunner. Ian Happ actually has the third highest OPS+ on the team on a full season basis at 117.
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 68, June 16 - Cubs come from behind to win second straight (40-27)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ian Happ (.225). Ian had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. His seventh inning RBI double gave the Cubs their first lead of the day at 4-3.
- Hero - Kyle Schwarber (.195). Kyle had two walks and an RBI single in his five at bats. The RBI single tied the game at 3-3.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.118). Ben had two hits and a walk in his six trips to the plate. He scored two runs. Ben trails only Kris Bryant on the team in on base percentage this year at .379. To date, he has a .278/.381/.433 line when leading off.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Addison Russell (-.094). Sometimes, I have to go looking for why a guy is here. This is one of them, Addison had a game tying home run in the fourth inning (good to see some power out of Addy!). Not a massive game change that early, but still a hefty (.127) for that event. His strike out after Schwarber’s RBI single with runners on second and third with one out in the fifth was (-.104) and his pop out in the seventh with runners on first and second and one out was (-.073).
- Goat - Tommy La Stella (-.063). Tommy had a pinch hit ground out in the seventh with runners on second and third and two outs. Tommy probably wasn’t going to sustain the .432 on base percentage or .354 batting average he started the month of June with.
- Kid - Jason Heyward (-.052). Tough love night continues. Jason hit a fairly significant two-run homer to make it 6-3 in the eighth inning (.149). Jason grounded into a double play with runners on first and second to end the fourth (-.106). He also reached base just the one time in five plate appearances.
WPA Play of the Game - With the game tied at three, the Cubs got a single to start the seventh. After a sacrifice bunt, an intentional walk put runners on first and second with one out. Russell popped up and it looked like the Cubs might squander the opportunity. But Ian Happ doubled to score the go ahead run. (.218)
*Cardinals Play of the Game - With two outs and a runner on first in the first inning, Marcell Ozuna hit a two-run home-run. (.188)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 13
- Hero - Jon Lester, Kyle Schwarber, and Ben Zobrist 10
Finally, the “+10” Club opens its doors and now three people have entered in the last two days.
Up Next: The two teams finish their threegame set with the Father’s Day Sunday Night Baseball game. The Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound looking to complete the sweep. Jose is 6-4 with a 4.09 ERA. Over his last seven starts, it is better than that at 3-2 with a 3.40 ERA. Last time out he lasted six innings against the Brewers and allowed four hits, two walks and two runs. He only struck out three. The only real downer was two solo homers allowed. Jose had an odd game against the Cardinals in St. Louis back in May. In that one he took a loss without allowing an earned run. He did allow five hits and four walks, so he wasn’t without blame but the defense let him down and it lead to a big inning. Overall, dating all of the way back to 2012, Jose is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA against the Cardinals.
The Cardinals counter with Jack Flaherty. Jack is 3-2 with a 2.96 ERA. Jack has never started a game against the Cubs and only Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have ever even batted against him (both are 0-1 against him). Jack is coming off of a strong performance against the Padres. He picked up the win with 6.⅓ innings of three-hit, one-walk, one-run ball. The start before that, he was knocked around by the Marlins. In an oddity, he’s already made three starts against the Pirates. They hit him hard twice. So far in his 45⅔ innings of work, he has very pronounced splits. He has allowed a .575 OPS to righties and a .730 to lefties. Included in those numbers are a 10.33 K/BB against righties as opposed to just a 2.13 mark against lefties. Expect to see a lot of guys swinging from the left side tonight.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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