Friday night’s game is just about as perfect an example of that old baseball phrase that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher. In a storybook or movie, the Cubs’ epic Thursday come-from-behind and walk-off win followed by trading for a former World Series MVP would spur the team to a long winning streak. Then depending on what kind of books and movies you read, the team would either steamroll their way to a World Series win or come up just a bit short.
This isn’t a storybook and I don’t want to be hard on Mike Montgomery who has been as good as probably could realistically been hoped for since taking over for an injured Yu Darvish. That makes Mike one of only two Cubs starters that have lived up to expectations after it was debated if this would be the best Cubs rotation ever. As a starter, Mike has made 11 starts with a 3-3 record and a 3.50 ERA (FIP 4.02). But, there is also this. He’s thrown only 61⅔ innings over those 11 starts. And there’s also this. In his last six starts, Mike has thrown only 32 innings and he has an ERA of 5.63 (though his FIP of 4.44 suggests there is a bit of bad luck in there).
The Cubs have yet to make an announcement on where they will fit Cole Hamels into the rotation. I would not be surprised if we find out they were waiting to see how the trade season shapes up this weekend. One of the more pressing needs for the Cubs is left handed reliever. Brian Duensing’s entire season has imploded. I don’t know if he isn’t healthy, is tipping pitches or if his stuff has just faltered, but he can’t be counted on. Justin Wilson has been much more good than not, but you still worry about him at times. Randy Rosario has been pretty good, but is very inexperienced and would have fallen more in the realm of stopgap than dominant lefty from the pen.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not going to go back through my work, but at some point in late May or early June I suggested the Cubs should come up with one of those shoulder stiffness, back pain, etc. type injuries that guys on their way to 20 losses always seem to come up with. No, Chatwood isn’t going to end up anywhere near 20 losses. But he’s going to record one of the highest walk rates for a full season pitcher in the modern era. Tyler has all of the signs of a talented pitcher who tried to make some tweaks coming over from the Rockies and just can’t repeat his mechanics with any consistency. I still believe that would be the best move. Walks have always been the Achilles heel of Chatwood, but they were never this bad. I believe in this front office and if they felt that he would be a good addition, then I believe it too. So I’d like to see him be able to hit the reset button. Take some time off from throwing. Then go to Arizona and on the back fields work with someone in the organization who is good with mechanics. Jim Hickey can watch over skype or some other platform and monitor. And maybe the Cubs can start to put Chatwood back together before the end of the season.
But if the Cubs keep rolling with Chatwood. A guy who they are winning just about every time he starts despite the poor performances. Yes, it is random dumb luck that they are winning those games. Yes, if he continues to average almost a walk an inning there is going to be a garish game or two at some point. But should the Cubs choose to do that, I’m not going to be one throwing stones at them. I don’t know if Montgomery has worn down or what the situation is, but he isn’t pitching massively better than Chatwood either. There is no question at all in my mind that Chatwood’s upside is higher. Though I also have no delusion that he’ll be able to get things straightened out mid-season. All of that math says to me that right now Montgomery is the best guy for the job. Chatwood just isn’t able to do the job. But I don’t think it is as lopsided a decision as most people do.
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 - Anthony Rizzo (.078). He had two hits on the night including a third inning solo homer that gave the Cubs a brief 1-0 lead. Anthony is making anyone who gave up hope in early July about his season look silly. Full disclosure, at the very end, I did allow myself a little worry. Since the San Diego series after he’d had a few days off in the same week, Anthony has a line of .447/.542/.723. His homers often come in bunches and so I wasn’t the least bit surprised when he hit another one last night.
- Hero - Javier Baez (.037). Javy had a matching line with two hits in four at bats. He also hit his 20th home run of the season. It was the final run of the night for either team, cutting the lead to 5-2 and giving the Cubs a glimmer of hope. Javy is on pace for a 31 HR, 30 SB, 118 RBI season. He plays plus defense at three positions and carried this team for stretches of the first half. This has been one of the more remarkable seasons I’ve ever seen of a Cubs player.
- Sidekick - Alec Mills (.018). When the Cubs acquired Eddie Butler and Alec Mills in the same offseason, I recall being a little more excited about Mills. But injuries kept us from ever getting a chance to see him. However brief, he finally got a chance and threw two perfect innings last night. Alec is the 39th different Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats this season. We know Cole Hamels will likely be the 40th. Just how far past the 40 mark will the Cubs go this year?
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Mike Montgomery (-.297). Seeing Mike for the second time in a very short amount of time, the Cardinals were seeing the ball well and squaring it up off of Mike. They produced 12 hits in just five innings. They only drew one walk, but they were able to push five runs across the plate in five innings.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.102). Kyle was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice. No one at bat particularly stands out in Kyle’s night.
- Sidekick - Albert Almora Jr. (-.059). Albert too was hitless in four at bats. The Cubs mustered just eight hits and had no walks on the night.
WPA Play of the Game: With one out and a man on second in the bottom of the third inning, Paul DeJong was the batter. He hit an RBI triple that tied the game at 1-1. (.154)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo homered with one out in the third inning to give the Cubs a 1-0 lead. (.119)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 21.5
- Hero - Brandon Morrow 13
- Sidekick - Pedro Strop 12
Up Next: Game two of a three game set this afternoon. Another rematch game from last week’s series at Wrigley. This one sees Jose Quintana on the mound for the Cubs. Jose is 9-6 with 3.87 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts he is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA, so things are moving in the right direction for Jose. Last time out he was pretty good throwing seven innings in a win over these Cardinals. He appeared to get stronger and more effective as the game went on. The line isn’t magnificent with six hits and four walks, but only two runs allowed. Over the last two seasons, he’s made five starts against the Cardinals and is 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA.
Miles Mikolas will be the opposition. He is 10-3 with a 2.82 on the season. Over his last seven starts he is 3-1 with a 3.69, so he is cooling off just a bit from his dominant first half of the season. Last time out, he received a no decision after throwing five innings and allowing six hits, two walks and two runs. In 12 innings across two starts against the Cubs this season, he has a 1.50 ERA. On paper this one looks like a low scoring game. The Cubs used none of their leverage relievers yesterday and only Steve Cishek on Thursday, so they’ll be ready to go if the Cubs can get a lead to the pen.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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