The next verse, same as the first. This has not been a good five days to be a Cubs fan. I think even the most steadfast among us has to be having some moments where it certainly does seem like the sky is falling. It is certainly hard to remember at times that these stretches happen to every team. But make no mistake, these stretches do happen to every team. I don’t need anyone to take this on as a homework project. No doubt, there have been teams that have avoided a five game losing streak for whole seasons. But even those teams will have had a time when they were tired, where they were injured, where every game felt like a struggle. It happens. Despite how bad things have been even for this 2018 Cubs team, we could certainly go back on the games and find a few inches here, a few inches there and turn this 0-5 stretch into a 2-3 or 3-2 stretch.
Small amounts can be amplified over short periods of time. If Anthony Rizzo ends up having a typical season for him, we will mostly forget about his April. If Pedro Strop ends the year with an ERA under 2.00, all but the most staunch Strop detractors will forget all about his meltdown on Sunday. I have a very distinct memory of a game I was at in 2016 where Pedro blew a lead, but I don’t think of it a lot. I know he’s been one of the best relievers in Cubs history and has been consistently good, particularly this year. But man, was that inning on Sunday horrendous.
When everything is bad, we have discussions about the resume of our backup catcher. We spend time worrying about the batting order, the number of innings pitchers have thrown and the frequency off those outings. We fret over every decision Joe Maddon makes or the decisions the front office makes on roster construction. The totality of most of these decisions make up a very, very small fraction of the overall probabiliy of the team reaching the postseason. Over time, the best teams tend to end up with the best records. Is that true in 100% of all situations? No. If it comforts you to know that there is some chance developing that the Cubs do not reach the postseason, then feel comforted. If instead, you take comfort in knowing that this, though not perfect, is still one of the best teams in baseball and still likely to rise above this over time, then nothing has changed. This team plays harder and is coached harder after the All-Star Break. Is that guaranteed to work? Of course not. Life comes with very few guarantees.
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 76, June 25 - Cubs offense continues to struggle in 2-1 loss to Dodgers (42-34)
THE THREE HEROES:
Superhero - Ian Happ (.140). Ian had two hits in three at bats. The Cubs had just seven hits and a walk total.
Hero - Willson Contreras (.129). Willson had a pinch hit single in the eighth inning with a runner on first and no outs.
Sidekick - Anthony Bass (.078). Anthony continues to impress within the opportunities he’s being given. He pitched 1.1 scoreless innings in a tight game. Bass inherited a runner at third and two outs in the sixth and escaped and then pitched a perfect seventh.
THE THREE GOATS:
Billy Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (.357). Albert had a tough day at the plate, going hitless in four at bats. Almora grounded into a double play with runners on first and third and one out in the eighth inning. At the time, the score was still 1-0.
Goat - Chris Gimenez (-.194). Things haven’t gone well at the plate for Chris in 2018. Does everyone remember the magical season David Ross had in 2015? When he had a .176/.267/.252 line in 182 plate appearances? Well, Chris isn’t even doing that for the Cubs. In 30 plate appearances, he has a line of .115/.200/.115. To be completely fair though, I opened up the Game Log of Mike Trout from May 10 to May 17. He had 31 plate appearances over that stretch. His line? .045/.323/.045. If the best player in baseball struggles over a stretch of 30 plate appearances, so does every other hitter.
Kid - Javier Baez (-.160). Javy was hitless in four plate appearances but he had the one RBI for the Cubs on a sacrifice fly. He struck out three times.
WPA Play of the Game: Almora’s double play that ended the eighth inning. (.281)
*Cubs Play of the Game: After Ian Happ lead off the eighth inning, Willson Contreras had a pinch hit single. (.129)
Superhero - Jon Lester and Pedro Strop 13
Sidekick - Javier Baez 10.5
Up Next: Game two of a four-game set with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jon Lester on the mound against Ross Stripling in a rematch from last week. Hopefully, the Cubs can win this matchup for a second time. Al will have more on the matchup in his game preview at 7 p.m. CT.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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