Doubleheaders give us a ton of information. Normally, we are just dissecting one game’s worth of data at a time. But yesterday after the Monday night game was rained out, we got two games in one day. If the weather cooperates, we’ll have a third game in short order today, but we can’t move on to that third game before we dissect yesterday’s games. I have to say, I’ve slowly started to pick up some followers on Twitter and I waded into the greater Cubs Twitter between games yesterday. I had heard about it, but I was in no way prepared for what I found. Just for some of the highlights, I learned that Joe Maddon should be fired, we should have never traded for Justin Wilson because Jeimer Candelario is a better player than Anthony Rizzo, and all of Theo Epstein’s moves are garbage. At that, I’ve already spent more words in this space than the comments merited.
In a bad news/good news situation, I always prefer to start with the bad. Coincidentally, the baseball played out that way anyway, so we’ll start there for sure. To be clear, the first game was mostly good. The Cubs got a couple of two out hits early and had the lead for most of the first game. The bad news? The Cubs bullpen allowed three runs in this game. The culprits? Two of the guys I’ve called the core six of the pen (Morrow, Strop, Edwards Jr., Cishek, Duensing and Wilson). Until the last week or so, these six all had ERAs below 3.00 as the Cubs sport one of the best bullpens in baseball. Steve Cishek was victimized by bad defense and allowed a run. Justin Wilson lost a couple of times in the game of inches and allowed two runs and took the loss. I support the vast majority of Joe Maddon’s moves. I too disagreed with the handling of Game 1. Brandon Morrow being unavailable is what it is, but if he was going to be unavailable, I’d have had both Pedro Strop and Steve Cishek as better options for closing out the game. So I’d have rearranged the handling of the bullpen.
Then there was game two. Very much like the first game when most of the game leading up to the loss was actually pretty good, this game was fairly blah leading up to the win. The offense managed just eight hits and four walks in nine plus innings. They got one run via a solo homer before the decisive run in the 10th. But, they got some superb pitching. On the day, the Cubs got 3.1 innings of scoreless relief from the Iowa guys. They were collectively a little shaky with three walks and three hits allowed in those three innings, but all were scoreless. The Cubs split two. They survived two games with their fourth and fifth starters going, with their two top relievers down, against a surging Dodgers team that came in having won 21 of 28. Surely, both teams walked away from the doubleheader feeling like they could have won two with a better bounce here or a different call on a judgment call there.
With that, we turn our attention to yesterday’s games 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 69, June 19 - Cubs falter in ninth, lose game one 4-3 (40-29)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Pedro Strop (.290). Pedro threw two scoreless innings, striking out two and walking one. Pedro has a 1.76 ERA. Every now and then a middle reliever is picked for the All-Star game. Strop almost certainly won’t be picked, but he’s pitched well enough to merit consideration.
- Hero - Tyler Chatwood (.179). If you are one of my regular readers, you know how I feel about Tyler. That said, as critical as I am of him, you don’t have to squint a ton to see that he could be a very good pitcher. In five innings of work yesterday he allowed only two hits. He did walk five and struck out six, but because the Dodgers couldn’t really square the ball up, none of his five walks came around to score.
- Sidekick - Kris Bryant (.164). Kris had two hits in five at bats. Among them was a two run double in the second inning with two outs and the bases loaded.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Justin Wilson (-.624). I’ve loved watching over the years how Joe will slowly boost a guy’s confidence by finding him spots to succeed in over and over again and slowly working him into bigger spots. Wilson had been one of the recent beneficiaries of that treatment and it had been going well. He got thrown into the deep end a bit yesterday and it didn’t go so well. The lead off walk ended up biting him in the butt. He allowed two hits and two runs as well. He did strike out two.
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.199). Ian made solid contact a few times, but nothing found a hole all day long. With the recent improvements of Jason Heyward and Addison Russell, Ian is likely to become the de facto whipping boy of the Cubs. He deserves better than that. But he’ll keep working and he’ll get to a point where he a very good major league player and a key contributor. I will be amused at how many people say they always believed in him, because that is entirely inconsistent with what I see said about him.
- Kid - Steve Cishek (-.097). WPA was going to land him here no matter how things were scored, but I’ll always hate that when a ball lands between two players or someone loses a ball in the sun, it counts as an earned run and a hit against the poor pitcher. As I recall, two of the runs that Cishek has allowed this year (out of a total of eight), including the one yesterday, were of that variety. If someone makes the catch on Yasiel Puig’s double in the sixth, maybe the Cubs do sweep the doubleheader.
*WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and runners on first and second in the ninth inning, Kyle Farmer pinch hit. With two strikes, he laced a double into the left field corner and with two outs and the runners moving, Justin Turner was able to score all of the way from first. (.678).
*Cubs Play of the Game: Kris Bryant’s double with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning scored two runs. (.192)
Game 70, June 19 - Cubs bounce back with walk off 2-1 victory (41-29)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.185). It wasn’t the prettiest outing Mike has had to date. In six innings of work, he allowed five hits and four walks. But he did strike out five and only allowed one run. If you haven’t seen the number, he is the first Cubs pitcher since at least 1908 to start his season with five consecutive starts of one run or less.
- Hero - Rob Zastryzny (.174). A model of efficiency. He faced one batter and lands on the Hero podium. Of course that will happen when you come in with two outs and the bases loaded in the tenth inning. A plot to make me have to type out that last name, I suspect.
- Sidekick - Kris Bryant (.157). Kris had one lousy stinking hit in five at bats in game two. He struck out twice. But, that one hit was a triple that landed fair by inches in the right field corner and then bounced almost all of the way back to the infield, resulting in a lead off triple in the tenth.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.173). I miss Willson Contreras destroyer of baseballs. This one still plays good defense and gets on base a fair amount, but where did the power go? Willson reached once in four plate appearances and that was via the walk.
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.100). Rough day at the plate kid. You’ll get’em next time. Hitless in three at bats with three strike outs. He did reach once via walk.
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.066). Ben pinch hit in the ninth inning with a runner on first and two outs. He flew out.
WPA Play of the Game - Kris Bryant lead off the bottom of the tenth inning with a triple. (.292) Kris’ numbers in key situations are much publicized. He had the biggest hit for the Cubs in both games. He also had the biggest one on Friday in St. Louis. Three times in six games isn’t bad.
*Dodgers Play of the Game - Logan Forsythe lead off the ninth inning with a double off of Steve Cishek. (.171)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 16
- Hero - Jon Lester 10
- Sidekick - Steve Cishek and Mike Montgomery 8
Up Next: Assuming weather permits, there is a fantastic pitching matchup scheduled in the finale of this three game series. Jon Lester goes for the Cubs. He is 8-2 with a 2.28 ERA on the year. In his last seven starts, he’s been even better, 6-1 with a 1.81. He’s won his last four starts. Last time out against the Cardinals in St. Louis, he threw six innings allowing five hits, one walk and two runs while striking out three. The two runs were two solo home runs and they are the only runs he’s allowed in June. He faced the Dodgers twice last year. Once at Wrigley where he was very good (six innings, four hits, one walk, one run, seven strike outs) and once in Los Angeles where he was hit hard (3.1 innings, seven hits, two walks, six runs, three strike outs). He also faced the Dodgers twice in 2016 and in those two starts he threw 15 innings allowing only seven hits, three walks and one run while striking out 16. The Dodgers have had struggles in recent years against left handed pitching and Jon has generally helped that trend.
Ross Stripling will be the Dodgers pitcher. Ross is 6-1 with a 1.76 ERA on the season. One thing to note is that Ross is closing in already on throwing more innings than he did in all of 2017 when between Triple-A and the Dodgers, he threw 77.2 innings, almost entirely in relief. It will be interesting to see how he handles the rigors of starting regularly. So far, the results are great. In his last seven starts, he is 6-0 with a 1.67 ERA. He has in fact won all of his last six starts. He has never started against the Cubs. All of the core Cubs hitters have seen Stripling pitching out of the bullpen (including the playoffs the last two years), though none of them have more than five plate appearances against him. Last time out, Ross threw 6.1 innings against the Giants allowing four hits, no walks and two runs. He struck out six. He has only walked two batters in his last 43 innings, so expect to see him in the strike zone a ton.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Day?
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