This wasn’t the first rough weekend of the season for the Cubs in St. Louis. This time however, the Cubs escaped with a Sunday victory. Despite just a 6-6 start out of the break, the Cubs still find themselves with three fewer losses than any other team in the National League. It definitely hasn’t been a work of art this season, but it has been effective.
The immense value provided by having a roster that can provide production more than 25 deep continues to be on display. David Bote is the Cubs’ 13th hitter on a roster that carries 12 on most days. And yet, he seems to scald the ball a couple of times every time he plays and he has come up with some very good defensive plays in his small amount of time on the team.
That depth has shielded the team from slumping too much with the absence of the team’s best hitter Kris Bryant. Of course, the breakout season Javier Baez has had hasn’t hurt either. With two more RBI last night, Javy is one shy of the National League in RBI. We aren’t dealing with small sample sizes anymore. Over the last calendar year, Javier Baez has had 607 plate appearances and has a line of .293/.331/.541 (wRC+ 124). He has 31 HR, 101 runs, 114 RBI and stolen 26 bases in 30 attempts in that time frame. This while providing at least positive and by the eye test, elite defense. He’s been worth 3.6 WAR already this season. This has been quite a run.
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 105, July 29 - Cubs salvage finale with 5-2 victory (61-44)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Ben Zobrist (.184). As much as on a bad day following along with the Cubs fan-base on Twitter can be frustrating, some of those tweets provide me amusement later on. Many of the uninformed, inexperienced and hot-take Cubs fans wanted to discard Ben last year after a tough season where he was slowed continually by injuries. To be sure, Ben is getting a little old. Yet as a part time player this season, in 322 plate appearances, he has a line of .304/.391/.438 (wRC+ of 126).
- Hero - Kyle Hendricks (.155). After the first inning of last night’s game, I remarked aloud to my family who sad it was that Kyle Hendricks wasn’t good anymore. I’m still occasionally good for a hot take or two myself. Kyle did allow a couple of hits and a couple of runs in that first inning. But in seven innings he allowed just four hits, no walks and two runs. Kyle finishes the month of July with a 3.34 ERA over 35 innings of work in six starts. His FIP and xFIP respectively are 2.91 and 3.11 suggesting that he may have actually been a little unlucky. His K/9 is at 8.49, his BB/9 at 1.29 and his HR/9 at .77. Yeah, hot take indeed. Kyle has historically been better from July to the end of the season and he’s well on his way.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.108). A relatively quite night at the plate for Javy. Just one hit in four at bats. Oh yeah, it was a two-run double. It’s been that kind of a year for him.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Willson Contreras (-.061). He did have one hit in the game in four at bats. He also had one base running gaffe that snuffed a potential two-out rally. The Cubs have added a ton of runs with their aggressive base running. Sometimes it backfires.
- Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.012). Just one walk in four plate appearances. Kyle is in a little bit of a slump lately. In 69 plate appearances dating back to July 6, he has a line of .207/.319/.345 (wRC+ 71).
- Kid - David Bote (-.012). This one is a little harsh. He had two hits in four at bats. But on a day when only a small number of Cubs were negative on the day, he ends up here.
WPA Play of the Game: Javier Baez batted with two outs and runners on first and third with the Cubs leading 3-2 in the fifth. He doubled, driving in two runs and closed out the scoring. (.192). This is the team-leading 10th time Javy has been involved in the Play of the Game.
*Cardinals Play of the Game: After the Cubs jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Ben Zobrist’s homer in the first, Kyle Hendricks had a rocky first inning. He allowed a one out Yadier Molina double and a two out Marcell Ozuna two-run home-run. The homer was the Cardinals play of the game. (.188)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 24.5
- Hero - Ben Zobrist 15
- Sidekick - Brandon Morrow 13
Up Next: The Cubs are off on Monday night. They will return to action on Tuesday night in Pittsburgh where they stop for a quick two game set before coming home for a one-series four-game homestand against the Padres. I’ll be back with a look at the Cumulative Standings for Heroes and Goats tomorrow. As usual, I’ll also have a look at the overall standings, run differential, playoff odds, and team hitting/pitching stats.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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