It’s been a while since we checked in on the Heroes & Goats 2018 standings, not since May 22. The Cubs were 25-20 then. They’ve advanced to 33-23 thanks to winning seven of their last eight. Despite all of that time passing, Javier Baez remains a top the Heroes and Goats leaderboard. We’ll look at that today. We’ll also take a look at run differential, offensive and defensive stats and I also wanted to take a quick look at lineup construction and present some high level stats. We’ll finish up with a look at Tuesday night’s matchup as the Phillies come to town.
Given that it is draft week, I wanted to talk a little about the draft and player development. I don’t study that information nearly as close as Josh or Tim or some of the other sophisticated readers we have. But I did spend some time thinking about it this week. One of the things I thought of takes us back to the very beginning of the Theo/Jed era. Theo told us that there would be parallel tracks. It’s possible that one or two of you have been following closely enough to know that I was sometimes one of the people very critical of the Cubs for the on the field product in those early years. I didn’t feel like the tracks were parallel at all in those early days.
Yet here we are several years, three trips to the NLCS and one World Series championship in the bank. It hasn’t all been pretty, but the results have been beautiful. This team has already won a title and remains one of the top contenders to another one for a fourth consecutive year. Ironically, the last year or two someone like Tim or Josh could have been very justified in saying that the tracks aren’t parallel in the other direction. The Cubs signed two restricted free agents in the same season and didn’t end up picking until the third round. A number of high quality prospects were traded for pieces. Some of them long term like Jose Quintana while others were traded for rental pieces like Justin Wilson and Aroldis Chapman.
But last night, I felt like those tracks were pretty parallel. The Cubs drafted a college bat right off the top, the type of player most likely to provide value to the organization in the least amount of time. Nothing is guaranteed and we can’t know, but usually college bats have the shortest and most certain road to the big leagues. And of course, that route could find its way through a trade for other pieces. But once again, there is focus being placed on developing talent at every level of the organization. The Cubs followed that initial pick with a high school player with raw ability. So again, there is a yin and yang. The first pick more certain, more likely to get to the finish line. The second pick more upside an potential, but there will be a long slow developmental path to try to refine those skills.
There is always a balance to how this organization operates. I see that so clearly now when I couldn’t see it clearly in the beginning. Parallel tracks is probably the wrong word. I imagine when he said it, that’s what he was clearly thinking about. But if you were to describe it, you’d want to say that there will always be a focus of developing and cultivating talent at every level. In some seasons those resources will be spent with a focus that leans towards the highest levels and certainly in the beginning the focus on the lowest levels. But I have fun in this column touting the times when I was right in things I write here or in other places in comments. So I have to own it when I was wrong. I was wrong about this front office in the early days. They’ve done a phenomenal job running this team and I’m prouder than ever to be a fan of this team. That isn’t to say that they are perfect or that every move works out. But it is easy to see the wisdom, the planning and the craft of what they do.
With that, we’ll get down to business. We start with a look at the cumulative standings for Heroes and Goats.
As a reminder, Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA. The highest WPA will be the Superhero. A superhero is worth +3 points in the cumulative standings. Second place is the Hero and that is worth +2 points and third place is the Sidekick and that is worth +1 points. On the other side of the ledger, last place is the Billy Goat and that’s worth -3 points. Second and third to last are the Goat and the Kid which are worth -2 and -1 points respectively.
Year to Date total (change since last full standings)
* = Player currently in the minors
- Javier Baez 11 (1)
- Pedro Strop 10 (1)
- Kyle Schwarber 9 (3)
- Steve Cishek 8 (0)
- Ben Zobrist 8 (5)
- Kyle Hendricks 7 (3)
- Tommy La Stella 5 (-3)
- Brandon Morrow 5 (0)
- Jon Lester 5 (3)
- Brian Duensing 3 (-1)
- Randy Rosario 3 (3)
- Tyler Chatwood 2 (-6)
- *Efren Navarro 2 (0)
- Ian Happ 1.5 (-4)
- *Justin Hancock 1 (1)
- Kris Bryant 0 (-7)
- Jose Quintana 0 (0)
- *David Bote 0 (0)
- Luke Farrell 0 (3)
- Cory Mazzoni -1 (0)
- Mike Montgomery -1 (1)
- Justin Wilson -2 (1)
- Anthony Rizzo -2.5 (6)
- Eddie Butler (DL) -3 (0)
- *Jen-Ho Tseng -3 (0)
- *Victor Caratini -4 (0)
- Albert Almora Jr. -4 (0)
- Carl Edwards Jr. (DL) -5 (0)
- Yu Darvish (DL) -6 (0)
- Jason Heyward -11 (0)
- Addison Russell -19 (-5)
- Willson Contreras -20 (-5)
Anthony Rizzo makes the biggest move with +6 followed closely by Ben Zobrist at +5. For the record, I asked who you all thought would make the biggest positive move between standings updates and 24% of you were correct with Anthony Rizzo. I’d have thought Anthony would be the most likely choice due to his overdue bounce back to his normal numbers, but 43% of you went with Kris Bryant who in his own right always feels like a safe bet. As it turns out, Kris had the largest negative movement. He’s overdue for a bounce back. Kris at -7, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras at -5 and Ian Happ at -4 had so much of the negative scoring for the team that only two other players had a negative total over the period.
For the season, Javier Baez continues to lead. A couple of times he fell into a tie at the top, but it seems like he has been in first place forever. Will this next period be the one where he is finally caught? Or will he extend his lead? Pedro Strop has moved into second, but a Kyle Schwarber looms very large in third place. Ben Zobrist and Kyle Hendricks are both regular contributors and sneaking up towards the top as we finally see some of the regular starters moving towards the top alongside bench and bullpen contributors like Strop, Steve Cishek and Tommy La Stella who have been hanging out near the top.
At the bottom, Willson Contreras strangely finds himself in last place, though only slightly ahead of Addison Russell. Jason Heyward remains in third. All three of them have been making some very positive contributions of late, so none of them seem tied to the bottom of the list.
National League Standings and Run Differential
The Cubs now have the highest run differential in the National League by a wide margin. The Cubs are up to +93 and the next highest is the Braves at +55. The only team with a bigger run differential in the major leagues is the Astros at +122. While not always accurate, we’ve learned over the years that run differential tends to be a fairly effective predictor of overall record.
By actual record, the Cubs have the second highest winning percentage in the National league at .589. They’ve moved percentage points ahead of the Atlanta Braves with the recent hot stretch. The Braves are are a mere 6-4 in their last 10 which of course does improve their winning percentage. But the Cubs are 8-2 in their last 10 and so they gained a couple games on most of the league. They now stand two games behind the first place Milwaukee Brewers.
ESPN shows the Cubs expected record at 38-18, a full five games better than it actually is. That is, of course, the best mark in the National League as you would expect given the largest run differential. On the flip side, the Brewers are a full three games better than their expected win loss (actual 37-23 and expected 34-26). I would not be terribly surprised if the Cubs take over first place by the next time we read this. Though these Brewers up until very recently appeared to be a very formidable rival.
Hitting and Pitching Statistics
The Cubs continue to check in with the highest runs per game in the National League at 5.23 (behind the Yankees at 5.61 and Red Sox at 5.33). That is down slightly from last time when it was 5.39. The team batting average is .266, tied for the highest in baseball (up .007). Their on base percentage is .347, best in baseball (up .006). Their slugging is .434, fourth in MLB and first in the NL (up .002). It was a great stretch of baseball offensively and this team was already at or near the top in every category.
The Cubs are second in the NL in runs allowed per game at 3.57 (Washington 3.46), but both teams trail the Astros by a good margin (2.93). They were at 3.75 when we last checked in, so that’s very good progress. The team WHIP is down to 1.259 (down .012) and is now better than league average. Their walks per nine did drop from 4.3 to 4.2, but that is still last in the NL and second to last in baseball. They remained at 7.1 hits per nine, so they’ve maintained that while walking less, so there is some improvement. They continue to allow the fewest hits in the NL.
I might eventually devote a larger amount of space to this thought, but this has been something tumbling around in my head. A lot of words have gone into who the Cubs’ leadoff hitter was over the last year and a half. About the need for consistency and how the lineup suffers from not having that one guy. Many would like to see Albert Almora in that spot every single day. But no one talks about the lack of consistency in say the number three spot or the number five spot. I think all of conventional wisdom has been challenged over the years, but historically you wanted your best hitter to hit third. So why don’t we get worked up over who is hitting in that spot?
Let’s look at the Cubs splits by batting order position:
Interesting, isn’t it? People will tweet every time someone other than Almora leads off, but no one seems worked up over the collective terrible performance of the #3 and #5 hitters in the Cubs order. The Cubs have gotten terrific performance out of the #2 and #8 slots, but the middle of the order has been rather ineffective.
Up Next: The Cubs begin a three-game set with the Phillies. The Phillies come in having lost seven of 10, including the last three, all in California last week. They split four games in Los Angeles against the Dodgers to start the week but then were swept by the Giants over the weekend. Like the Cubs, they were off on Monday. The Phillies managed just 25 runs over the 10 games, so a sputtering offense has been the biggest problem. On the season the Phillies are 31-26 which is good for third place, just 2½ games back in the National League East. Their pitching has been pretty tough on right handed hitters in general, but vulnerable to left handed hitters. The pitching as a whole has been pretty good for the Phillies. So don’t be surprised if there is a low scoring game or two in this series.
Kyle Hendricks will be on the mound for the Cubs. He is 4-4 with a 3.19 ERA on the season. Last time out Kyle was a little less effective than usual. He allowed seven hits, one walk and two runs in just five innings of work. Still, over his last seven starts he is 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA. So he’s been pretty consistently effective and the overall trends are good. Last year he did face the Phillies once and he was the winner in that game last August. He threw seven innings, allowing six hits, no walks and two runs. He struck eight in that game. Dating all of the way back to 2015, Hendricks is 3-1 with a 2.60 over four starts against the Phillies.
Zach Eflin is the opposition. He’s a right handed pitcher who is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA over five starts on the season. He’s lost his last two starts against the Dodgers and Blue Jays. He only lasted four innings and 4⅔ innings in those games and allowed a total of 11 runs (10 earned) over those two stats), so he’s been knocked around pretty good. The Cubs did see him last year in May. In that start, Eflin threw seven innings allowing nine hits, no walks and three runs. The Cubs will be hoping to do a bit better than that this time.
Who will be the top performer in Heroes and Goats from now through June 13?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave in comments)