The Cubs and Cardinals played a long day of baseball. Both teams had their highs and their lows. Both teams had chances to seize control and win both ends of a doubleheader. Both teams are probably at least a little frustrated that they didn’t get it done. But both teams came through the game healthy and two games are dropped from the schedule. Hard to get too worked up about a doubleheader split.
Of course, we’re Cubs fans. The Cubs had game one in the bank and were leading game two heading into the late innings. I saw something Jesse Rogers tweeted last night in the late innings and I thought it was interesting. Yesterday the Cubs bullpen lost its 11th game of the season. That is the lowest number across all of baseball. (I know the Cubs have generally been on a line to play the least games across all of baseball, but with the game on Thursday and the doubleheader yesterday, that is no longer actually the case).
I can certainly remember a couple of them lately and so I imagine this one feels particularly worrisome to some. Here are the things I would say about Major League bullpens and particularly the Cubs. First, bullpens are always in flux. The effectiveness of relief pitchers is not only incredibly variable season to season, but often month to month. Two, the Cubs have gotten a ton of innings out of their bullpen. Without going to look for statistics, the Cubs starters haven’t gotten a massive number of innings this year. Three, the Cubs have gotten a fantastic performance out of their Iowa relievers this year. But placing a ton of stock in Iowa relievers over time was always expected to be a losing proposition, so the amount of positive contribution they’ve gotten is bonus. Four, it seems like forever since all of the Cubs core six relievers (Brandon Morrow, Carl Edwards Jr., Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop, Justin Wilson and Brian Duensing) were all healthy and available to pitch for any stretch of town.
Finally, every single contending team should be adding relievers at this time of the year. For all of the reasons above, it always pays this time of the year to try to add a couple of relievers. The Cubs have already added Jesse Chavez who had a nice start to his Cubs career yesterday. The Cubs bullpen has generally been one of the best in baseball this year and still, I’ve always felt they should be adding. I’m hopeful the Cubs will get their hands on someone with some legit eighth and/or ninth inning experience. The more guys you have down there in the pen that have been there and done that, the greater your chances of success are down the stretch and into the postseason. It allows you to go hard at every game without having to use the same three or four relievers at the end of each and every game.
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 96, July 21 - Cubs win the early game 7-2 (57-39)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ben Zobrist (.210). Ben had an amazing day at the plate. He reached base five times in five plate appearances, including a walk and four singles. He scored two runs and was generally a pain in the butt to the Cardinals all afternoon.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.181). Javy had three hits and a sacrifice bunt in five plate appearances. The day included an RBI single and an RBI double along the way. The season of Javy continues.
- Sidekick - Tyler Chatwood (.172). Amazingly, the Cubs have won seven of Tyler’s last nine starts. Tyler pitched into the sixth inning, recording one out there before he was lifted. He only allowed one hit on the day, though he did walk six. He only struck out two. I’d expect six walks and two strike outs to result in a garish afternoon, but he allowed just one run.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Victor Caratini (-.122). Vic got involved in the Cubs’ decisive seventh inning rally that pushed the lead from 3-2 to 7-2 with a sacrifice fly. He was hitless in his three other at bats.
- Goat - Justin Wilson (-.096). He recorded an out and allowed a hit. That shouldn’t produce this large of a negative WPA. But, there was also an error behind him and he ended up allowing an unearned run that cut the Cubs lead to 3-2.
- Sidekick - Ian Happ (-.055). Ian had a tough day at the plate. He was hitless in four at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Paul DeJong batted with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth inning. The game was tied at one at the time. The inning was an interesting and very Tyler Chatwood one. Walk, sacrifice, intentional walk, hit batter. And then DeJong grounded into a double play. (.192)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: Matt Carpenter’s third inning home run was the only hit off of Chatwood. (.112). So glad we got to see Carpenter during the month where he unlocked God mode.
Game 97, July 21 - Cubs whither late as bullpen falters, 6-3 (57-40)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Mike Montgomery (.209). Mike was fantastic in this one. He threw six innings, allowing just five hits, two walks and one run. He had a shaky first inning and then really settled into a groove.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.162). Anthony recorded a four hit game in five at bats. Anthony appears to be getting it back in gear and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t find himself back in the middle of the order soon.
- Sidekick - Tommy La Stella (.144). Tommy found a way to contribute, drawing a bases loaded walk in the sixth inning to tie the game at 1-1.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Steve Cishek (-.280). Steve had a rough outing in the nightcap after pitching in both games. He recorded two outs while allowing two doubles sandwiching an intentional walk. He was charged with one earned run.
- Goat - Justin Wilson (-.198). He was asked to throw in both ends of the doubleheader and it didn’t go well the second time. He walked two batters, the only two he faced. He was charged with two runs.
- Kid - Javier Baez (-.120). Javy was hitless in three at bats and was ejected in the sixth inning after striking out with runners on base.
WPA Play of the Game: Paul DeJong’s double in the ninth inning off of Steve Cishek with runners on first and second drove in a run to make it 5-3. (.316)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Tommy La Stella’s pinch hit walk with the bases loaded tied the game at 1-1. (.144)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 21.5
- Hero - Brandon Morrow 13
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 11
Up Next: The Cubs and Cardinals complete their five-game set this afternoon. Al will have a full preview of it at 11:30 a.m. CT. My normal previews will return Monday.