I thought I’d have trouble finding just the right image today. If you haven’t picked up on the pattern, I use a photo of the Superhero every day. And so, that image is a big spoiler for the day. Well, on Thursday the Cubs had two Superheroes. Yep, in the oddity of that epic comeback, David Bote and Anthony Rizzo finished with exactly the same WPA. Tie would have had to go to Bote for the game-tying home run which qualifies as the biggest moment of the game (and one of the bigger moments of the year). But Rizzo gets a big nod for the bigger game (but Bote also made that immensely important defensive play).
Phew. Those days are why it is fun for me to be a baseball fan. By all rights, the D-Backs should have coasted home with a three game series victory. The Cubs trailed 6-1 in the fifth and to that point had posted just five runs in 31 innings against Arizona pitching. The Cubs bullpen did their end of things throwing four shutout innings to close out the game. Over the final four innings the pitchers allowed just two hits and two walks.
For their part, the Cubs hitters just kept on clawing and hustling. The Cubs had their catcher score from first on a single, another run score on an error, a run score on a dropped third strike with two outs and even at that, found itself down two heading to the ninth. Bote hit an 0-2 pitch out of the park to tie the game and Rizzo followed with a walk-off home-run of his own, his first since 2014. There’s a lot to look at, so I’ll get us to the numbers.
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.
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero (tie): Anthony Rizzo and David Bote (.424). This collectively is the eighth-highest single game WPA score of the season for the Cubs and two guys recorded it in the same game. Crazy stuff. Anthony had three hits in five at bats. In addition to the game winner, he also started the comeback with an RBI single in the sixth. Anthony is now hitting .307/.418/.453 in July. It’s easy to say he’s alternated bad and good months. But his June was only down a bit as his on-base percentage and batting average were a little low by his standards at .270/.345. As a leadoff hitter, in a small sample size 59 plate appearances, he is hitting .426/.525/.702.
David Bote had two hits and scored two runs in his four at bats. In a similar sample size, he has 57 PA in the majors. He’s produced a line of .326/.421/.522 (wRC+ of 148). Not a bad start for a guy who was dismissed as organizational depth often early in his minor league career. Good coaching and a good attitude are a powerful combination. Who knows how good Bote will be over time? I’m enjoying watching him get his chances. With the production he’s had so far and the defensive flexibility he has, he’s making a strong case to be the hitter the team adds for the playoffs.
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist (.094). Sorry Ben, chicks dig the long ball. Ben’s lead-off walk was a key to the ninth inning. Ben always seems to have a great at bat when the stakes are the highest.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Brian Duensing (-.287). Brian faced three batters. He managed the pitching version of a Dunn. He walked a batter, allowed a home run, and struck out a batter. Three true outcomes indeed. It is striking how fast Duensing fell apart this year. I can’t comprehend how he was having such a fine season and just lost it. I’ve not heard it said, but I wonder if he is tipping his pitches or something.
- Goat - Ian Happ (-.155). Tough day at the plate for Ian. He was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice. He lands here for his strike out in the eighth after Willson Contreras was hit by a pitch to start the inning.
- Kid - Jason Heyward (-.074). Jason was also hitless in four at bats. He finishes one spot better because he didn’t see any leverage at bats on the day.
WPA Play of the Game: There wasn’t a lot of question on this one. A two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game is going to be worth a very large WPA number. With one out, that number was .472 and it is the second largest positive WPA event of the Cubs season (behind the Heyward walkoff slam).
Honorable Mention: Anthony Rizzo with a walkoff home-run in the ninth inning. Again, with one out, it was worth .417. The third largest positive WPA event of the season. In two batters, the Cubs chances of winning improved 98.6%. Totally insane.
*Diamondbacks Play of the Game: I don’t suppose there is a lot of drama to this one either. Nick Ahmed came to the plate in the top of the fifth inning with the bases loaded and two outs. It was a 2-1 game at the time. He hit a grand slam. (.267)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 19.5
- Hero - Brandon Morrow 13
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 12
Up Next: The Cubs avoided a series loss and still haven’t lost a series since late June. They move to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals on the road for the last time this year. The Cubs just split a series with the Cardinals last week in Chicago. The Cardinals concluded their seven game road trip by losing two of three in Cincinnati. They’ve fallen into fourth place behind the red-hot Pirates who themselves looked headed for fifth place just two weeks ago. The Cardinals have been heading in the wrong direction for a while, losing six of 10, 11 of 20 and 17 of 30. But they always seem to play well against the Cubs. They lead the season series 7-6.
The Cubs send Mike Montgomery to the hill. Mike is 3-3 with a 3.73 ERA on the season in 82 innings of work. Over his last seven starts, he is 1-2 with a 3.92 ERA. Be it the struggles of starting every fifth day for months or teams figuring him out a bit, he’s tailed a little, particularly leading up to the All-Star break. However last time out against these Cardinals, he was very good. he threw six innings and allowed five hits, two walks and one run. The Cubs won the game but he didn’t pick up the win. That was the only start Mike has ever made against the Cardinals.
Luke Weaver is the opposition. He started that same game last week. Overall he is 5-9 with a 4.79 ERA. In his last seven starts he is 2-4 with a 5.59 ERA. Clearly not trending positively. In that start against the Cubs last time out he took the loss. He threw four innings and allowed seven hits, five walks and three runs. In three starts against the Cubs this year he is 0-2 and has allowed 13 runs in just 12 innings of work. In fact, in his last five starts against the Cubs he’s 0-3 with a 10.89 ERA. He’s never recorded more than four innings of work and never allowed less than two runs. This match-up looks awfully favorable on paper.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Both Rizzo and Bote