The Cubs bats lulled for a little while there in the month of June, but lo and behold in their last seven games, they’ve scored 56 runs. There was a one in there, but it has actually been fairly consistent as if you drop their highest (14) and their lowest (1), they still average right at about eight runs per game. It’s still a tad frustrating that they actually lost three of that seven, but with injuries and fatigue, not altogether a bad result. After all, their best offensive player played in none of those games.
That’s the point in how this team is built. There are a ton of guys up and down the roster capable of carrying the team to a win on a given day. With the return to relevancy of Jason Heyward and the continued improvement of Javier Baez, Ian Happ and Addison Russell, that number is getting bigger all the time. This lineup appears powerful enough to try to keep things rolling for the next 81 games while Joe and the front office work to get the pitching figured out. After all, when the playoffs come around, you want to have all of: relentless offensive attack, smart base running, dynamic defense and pitching that can lock down a game. I’m fairly confident in this team’s bullpen when they are all healthy. To that end, it will be exciting to get Carl Edwards Jr. back soon. Meanwhile, the Cubs can continue to try to nurse Yu Darvish back to health and to work out the issues that Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood have had this year.
So the Cubs take the turn to the back half of the schedule at 46-35. In 2017, they took it at 40-41 (en route to 92 victories), in 2016, it was 51-30 (en route to 103 victories), in 2015 it was 44-37 (en route to 97 victories). So that’s 52, 52, and 53 victories in the second half of the year over the last three years. Those are big shoes to fill, but 52 more wins would give them 98. Those numbers have been the best in baseball, but they aren’t incredibly unrealistic because along the way you play more and more teams who have an eye on next year rather than this one. The Cubs finish June at 16-12, the most wins they’ve had in a month yet. April was marred by rain, but had the best winning percentage at 14-9.
The Cubs weathered a storm in June. It certainly wasn’t always pretty, but they are once again poised to return to the post season. They’ll get some time off on this homestand. They should start seeing a couple of players get healthy. This doesn’t seem to be the year for a splashy trade at the deadline, but you know this front office is always creative and looking for opportunities and so I expect a smart addition or two just to bolster the numbers a bit. Maybe things like a backup catcher and an extra reliever or two, particularly one from the left side given the inconsistent nature of Justin Wilson and the recent total ineffectiveness of Brian Duensing. I expect them to keep working to improve the roster and I expect Joe to start stalking victories a little harder as he has done in the second half of every season since he’s gotten here. The focus turning just a little bit away from player development and a little bit towards locking down each win. Particularly in the later stages of a winnable game.
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 81, June 30 - Cubs scratch and claw their way to 14-9 victory (46-35)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ian Happ (.304). Ian had two hits, two runs and an RBI in three at bats after not starting the game. Ian’s pinch-hit RBI single in the fifth gave the Cubs a 7-6 lead in the fifth inning. He added a double in the seventh inning with the score tied at 9-9.
- Hero - Albert Almora Jr. (.242). Albert has interjected himself into the race for the National League batting title with half a season to go. He finished play yesterday tied with Scooter Gennett at .332 atop the NL. He had three hits yesterday in three at bats. He drove in two runs and scored another one before leaving with cramping in the oppressive heat.
- Sidekick - David Bote (.225). David has done a fantastic job this year when the Cubs have needed an extra bat. He had one hit and two walks in five plate appearances yesterday and scored three runs. That was a perfect approach at the plate hitting in front of the pitching spot.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Tyler Chatwood (-.545). You don’t often see a starting pitcher get an excessively negative number for WPA, but here is one. Tyler fell behing early, his team battled back and then he fell behind again. That’s the recipe for a starter having what is to date the fourth worst WPA game of the season for the Cubs. In five innings of work, Tyler allowed seven hits, three walks and seven runs. It is particularly maddening that when Tyler isn’t walking a batter per inning, he is terribly hittable. So you are essentially deciding between a ton of walks or being overly hittable.
- Goat - Brian Duensing (-.200). Brian’s season is flabbergasting. In an inning of work yesterday he allowed two hits, two walks and two runs. His ERA has reached 6.92 (FIP 5.71). Through May 27, it was 0.54 (FIP 3.82). Last year when he was a very effective left handed option for the Cubs he was striking out 8.81 per nine innings. This year he is down to 5.88. If he isn’t hurt, I don’t understand what is happening. But Brian’s going to need time off soon if this continues.
- Kid - Addison Russell (-.143). A little tough love when two hits, an RBI and a run scored land you down here. But on a day where the Cubs had 20 hits, and seven walks, that can happen. In Addison’s first two at bats, he failed with runners on first and second. In the second inning he made the first out (-.056) and in the third inning he flew into a double play (-.097).
WPA Play of the Game: In the fifth inning, with the Cubs having taken a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the fourth, Tyler Chatwood recorded two quick outs. He then walked a batter and Eddie Rosario came to the plate. Eddie hit a two-run home-run to give the Twins the lead. (.268).
*Cubs Play of the Game: David Bote walked leading off the bottom of the seventh inning with the game tied 9-9. Ian Happ followed with a double to put runners at second and third with no outs. (.159). The Cubs would score the decisive five runs following this start to the inning.
- Superhero - Javier Baez 13.5
- Hero - Jon Lester and Pedro Strop 13
Up Next: The two teams complete their season series this afternoon. The Cubs send their undisputed ace of the staff to the mound, Jon Lester. He is 10-2 already this season with a 2.18 ERA. Over his last seven starts he’s 6-1 with a 1.80 ERA including wins in his last six starts. Last time out he worked five innings in Los Angeles and allowed four hits, one walk and two runs. He struck out four. He left for a pinch hitter after making only 82 pitches, but surely the staff was happy to get him out of the game after having made 119 pitches the previous start. Unsurprisingly, Jon had some very good numbers against the Twins during his time in the American League. But he hasn’t faced them since he pitched well in a no-decision in 2015. Over the last three starts he made against them in 2014-15, he threw 21.2 innings and allowed only 10 hits and two runs. So he surely has some fond memories against them.
On the other side is a guy the Cubs are quite familiar with. Ex-Cardinal Lance Lynn will be on the mound. He is 5-6 with a 4.81 ERA. Over his last seven though he’s turned it around a bit. He is 4-2 with a 2.40 ERA. Last time out he got knocked around in Chicago against the White Sox. He allowed eight hits, a walk and five runs (four earned) in just five innings of work. He owns wins over the Red Sox and Indians and a strong start against the Angels (he allowed one run in each of these starts). So he’s not as much of a pushover as you might otherwise think. Last season he made four starts against the cubs. He threw 19.2 innings, allowing 15 hits, 13 walks and eight runs. The Cubs hitters are going to be pretty happy to see Lance as well. Anthony Rizzo has seen him the most and has a ton of success against him. Jason Heyward has also hit him well in a much smaller sample.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.