Kyle Hendricks has definitely suffered from poor run support at times. But last night, that was not the issue. The Cubs scored five runs which is both over their current average and better than they have been scoring of late. Over his career, Kyle Hendricks is at his worst in June (4.67 ERA) but at his best in July (2.12 ERA). Pull the scope out a little wider and in the first half of the season (3.58 ERA) is not nearly as good as the second (2.61). We can only hope that those trends continue, because Kyle Hendricks has not been good for a while now. Over his last nine starts, he is 2-7 with a 5.32 ERA. 47 hits in 47⅓ innings is not particularly alarming (BABIP of .289), so it isn’t particularly bad luck that is getting him. He’s allowed an un-Kyle-like 20 walks over that period and an alarming eight home runs. Kyle is walking more batters, striking out fewer and allowing more home runs. That is a recipe for pure disaster. There is time to figure it out, but the Cubs are going to get where they are going without some turn around from Kyle.
On the upside, the Cubs offense did score five runs yesterday. The hitting star was Willson Contreras. From May 13 to June 21, Willson produced a line of .238/.357/.286 with just three doubles and a triple in 128 plate appearances. Finally, it seems to be turning around. Willson has a five game hitting streak now during which he is 7-17 with two doubles and two home runs. Willson’s bat has been one of the missing pieces of this team for a while now. At the start of the season, it looked funny because he was hitting a lot of doubles and very few home runs, but that can just be a bit of bad luck. But over that stretch of games from mid-May to last week, all of his power (and most of his batting average were MIA).
As bad as things have been in this stretch where the Cubs have dropped six of seven, they are still at 13-12 for the month of June. That’s actually better than the 10-12 mark of the Brewers or the 12-13 mark of the Cardinals. Most of what has happened in the month of June is just a month’s worth of games coming off of the schedule and the three primary contenders treading water. Those Cincinnati Reds won again last night in Atlanta and are now 14-9 in June after taking two of three in Atlanta with the one loss being in extra innings. This all provides a reminder that absent exceptional performances, things tend to even out in baseball over time.
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 78, July 27 - Cubs unable to escape early hole, lose 7-5 (43-35)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.324). Willson had two hits including a first inning two-run home-run to get the Cubs off to a great start. He drove in two more later with a double in the eighth that at that time cut the deficit to 6-5, but that was as close as the Cubs would come.
- Hero - Jason Heyward (.070). Jason collected two more hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored a run and also drove in a run. Jason has a season line of .275/.337/.414.
- Sidekick - Dillon Maples (.035). Dillon got his first appearance of the 2018 season and threw two scoreless innings. He did walk two, but he struck out three. If Maples can harness his control, he’ll be in the major leagues for a long time.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kyle Hendricks (-.476). The line on the night was 2⅔ innings pitched, eight hits, two walks, two home-runs, six runs, just one strike out.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.115). Addison did have one hit in four at bats. His strike out with the tying run on third in the eighth inning against Kenley Jansen lands him here.
- Kid - Ben Zobrist (-.107). Ben was hitless in four at bats on the night.
WPA Play of the Game: Yasmani Grandal batted with runners on first and second and two outs in the first inning and absolutely crushed one off of the right field wall to score two. (.202)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras actually accounted for the two biggest events of the night. His first inning two-run homer was the biggest. (.183) His eighth inning two-run double was second. (.179)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 13.5
- Hero - Jon Lester and Pedro Strop 13
Up Next: The two teams finish their four game set and their season series. The winner of this game would hold the tie breaker in the event of the two teams finishing tied at the end of the season. The Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound. Jose is 6-6 with a 4.26 ERA. He’ll be opposed by Clayton Kershaw who is 1-4 with a 2.94 ERA. This is Clayton’s second start back from his recent injury and time on the disabled list.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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