Here we are again with my favorite off day activity. Of course by the time you are reading this, the day off already happened and now this is the day a new series starts. We’ll talk about that later. First, we need to talk about what’s happened over the last 12 days through the eyes of Heroes and Goats. We also take this moment of pause and use it peruse Heroes and Goats Year to Date. Then we turn our eyes to the National League standings including what run differential is telling us. Then we look at hitting and pitching statistics and how the Cubs stack up and how they are trending. We will finish up by taking a look at the next series for the Cubs.
I try to give you a few of my thoughts before I dive into the Heroes and Goats. I’ve been working on a thought. This thought is that to casual baseball fans people like myself who see themselves as a bit of an expert on the Cubs can be confusing (notice I said people who see themselves as experts, your own mileage may vary on your impression of me). anyway, labels aside, I will for instance in May tell you that I’m not worried about the early lead that the Brewers have jumped out to because A) I believe the Cubs have more talent and B) there are certain statistics that say that the Cubs will eventually catch the Brewers. Yes, I was right about that one, but we all know about that poor blind squirrel and the nut he found once.
So people like me use statistics as alternatively a weapon, a shield and armor depending on what our need is. To be fair, I truly believe you can use statistics in all of those ways. But then, there are these two weeks of the year right at the end of July (ignoring the fact that there will in fact be trades in August that are occasionally impactful and also trades before the end of July). During these two weeks, tons of players move around. Some of these players are spare parts moving in to fill holes like Jesse Chavez was when the Cubs acquired him. He didn’t cost much of anything and wasn’t being asked to fill any glaring hole. If he provides a stable multi-inning reliever (which he’s done fabulously so far) then that’s great. If he’s terrible, then nothing gained but nothing too substantial lost. The Cubs bullpen was already good and so this wasn’t an overwhelming need.
But then there is the other type of trade. The one where you trade for a guy who used to be very good but has fallen on hard times. This is when people like me must look and sound pretty disingenuous. The Cubs traded for Cole Hamels. This is one of those trades that looks like it would have been an amazing one two or more years ago. Now? Not so much. Cole Hamels has been a below average pitcher. He doubled down by being a pretty terrible pitcher in July. To be fair, the cost of the trade wasn’t all that bad. But this time the Cubs are trying to fill a pretty glaring hole. Now something is ventured. I don’t believe the Cubs will rue the day they traded three bodies for Cole Hamels. Eddie Butler isn’t going to go on to be much more than a guy (sorry Eddie, I love you anyway). Rollie Lacy may continue to overachieve his physical make-up, but he won’t be a perennial All-Star.
So the bodies going out aren’t the big deal. The big deal is that as I will tell you later, the Cubs pitching staff has under-achieved this year, particularly the starting rotation. The rotation needed an upgrade and Hamels is the guy the Cubs are looking to do that. So now, all of the people who have been following along and have learned to use those statistics to find out and to predict what is likely to come next. Those statistics say, Cole Hamels is unlikely to provide much of an upgrade. While the stuff may in theory still be there, Cole is getting hit hard. Very hard. The Cubs went from a guy who walks too many hitters to a guy giving up too much hard contact. Ugh.
So here’s my deal on this. A) you are right. This is a leap of faith trade. We have to hope that a big game with the lights on, in a pennant race, will bring out a better version of Hamels. B) there are at least a couple of statistics that say this isn’t impossible. I’ve looked at Rangers home/road splits. Yes, one of the reasons that Rangers park is an extreme hitters park is because you get to hit off of Rangers pitching. The same way that Wrigley played as a hitters park through many stretches of history because you got to hit off of a lot of really bad Cubs pitchers. But that doesn’t explain why the Rangers also hit much better at home.
So this is me recognizing that I often tell you what statistics are telling us about things. To not just one statistic, but look at a bunch of stats and see what they are trying to tell us. I’m tipping my hat if you think this was a waste of a move and one that isn’t going to make a huge difference. I see what you see and I understand your conclusion. This time, I’m taking a leap of faith. I’m ignoring what the stats are telling me and I’m saying this one is going to work. Cole Hamels isn’t going to be Dan Haren. He might only reach the heights of someone like this year’s Kyle Hendricks or Jose Quintana. But the guy who is almost as good as Jon Lester is still in there (just as it is with Hendricks and Q). Maybe he has a great start or two in the playoffs. Or maybe he just grinds some innings for us down the stretch. If he can just manage an extra inning or two per start than what Tyler Chatwood was giving us, then that is a plus already.
With all of that said, we get down to business. Let’s take a look at the year to date standings for Heroes and Goats.
As a reminder, Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA. The highest WPA will be the Superhero. A superhero is worth +3 points in the cumulative standings. Second place is the Hero and that is worth +2 points and third place is the Sidekick and that is worth +1 points. On the other side of the ledger, last place is the Billy Goat and that’s worth -3 points. Second and third to last are the Goat and the Kid which are worth -2 and -1 points respectively.
Year to Date total (change since last full standings)
no longer with team/ * minors
- Javier Baez 24.5 (+2)
- Ben Zobrist 14 (+7)
- Brandon Morrow (DL) 13 (0)
- Pedro Strop 12 (+1)
- Jon Lester 11 (-1)
- Ian Happ 9.5 (+1)
- Mike Montgomery 6 (0)
- Steve CIshek 6 (-2)
- Kyle Hendricks 6 (-1)
- Jose Quintana 4 (0)
- Jason Heyward 4 (+4)
- Randy Rosario 4 (0)
- David Bote 3.5 (+1.5)
- Kyle Schwarber 3 (-5)
- Efren Navaro 2 (0)
- *Rob Zastryzny 2 (0)
- *Justin Hancock 1 (0)
- Cory Mazzoni 1 (0)
- *Alan Mills 1 (1)
- *Luke Farrell 0 (-3)
- Kris Bryant (DL) 0 (-2)
- Anthony Bass (DL) 0 (-1)
- *Dillon Maples -2 (0)
- *James Norwood -2 (0)
- Victor Caratini -2 (+1)
- Eddie Butler -3 (0)
- *Jen-Ho Tseng -3 (0)
- Tommy La Stella -4 (-2)
- Tyler Chatwood -4 (1)
- Carl Edwards Jr. -4 (+3)
- Anthony Rizzo -4 (+8.5)
- Brian Duensing -5.5 (-1)
- Justin Wilson -6 (-4)
- *Chris Gimenez -6 (0)
- Yu Darvish (DL) -6 (0)
- Albert Almora Jr. -19 (-7)
- Willson Contreras -26 (-3)
- Addison Russell -33 (-3)
If you had Anthony Rizzo as the player to make the biggest positive mover as 23% of you did, you were the winner. He had a +8.5 stretch and he’s escaped the bottom five. He hasn’t reached enough escape velocity yet to escape the bottom ten, but perhaps by next time. He’s right on the precipice. Right behind him over the period was Ben Zobrist who is now sitting in second place.
Albert Almora Jr. had the biggest negative move at -7. Kyle Schwarber was second at -5. On the season, the Cubs now have five players in the +10 or better group, lead of course by Javier Baez who continues to lead the way with a +24.5. Three players are in the -10 or worse group, lead by Addison Russell at -33. Perplexing is Willson Contreras who would have been my bet to win the season standings.
National League Standings and Run Differential
Despite the 6-6 start to the second half, the Cubs still find themselves with the best winning percentage in the National League at .581 (fifth in baseball). The Cubs lead on the National League Central is at 1.0 game over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Cubs continue to have the best run differential (+99) in the National League (fourth in baseball). That run differential dropped by 15 over the period, thanks in large part to one pretty large thumping by the Cardinals in there.
CBS Sports is projecting the Cubs to win 95.3 games, tops in the National League, ahead of the Dodgers at 93 and the Brewers at 89.2. CBS has the Cubs with an 83.2% chance of winning the National League Central, tops in the National League and with a 97.6% chance of making the playoffs, again tops.
Fangraphs projects the Cubs to win 93 games, two better than the Dodgers and four better than the Brewers. They have the Cubs with a 78.9% chance of winning the division, tops in the National League. They have the Cubs with a 96.5% chance of reaching the playoffs, also tops in the NL. They have the Cubs with a 9.6% chance of winning the World Series, second in the NL only to the Dodgers at 14.6%. Their estimate of the Cubs winning the whole thing has dropped by 1.2%. Hopefully that turns by the next time we check in. But still, even at 9.6% that is still the sixth highest chances. Not too shabby.
Hitting and Pitching Statistics
The Cubs are averaging 5.02 runs per game. That’s down by (.10) per game. It is still the fourth best number in all of baseball and tops in the National League. The Cubs team average is .266 (up .001), second in baseball. Their team on base percentage is .345 (no change), tops in baseball. Team slugging is down to .423 (down .003), ninth in baseball and third in the NL.
The Cubs have allowed 4.08 runs per game (up .19), eighth in baseball and fifth in the NL. Team WHIP is at 1.347 (up .026), a below average number in baseball. Their hits per nine is 7.9 (up .003), tied for fifth in baseball and third in the NL. Their walks per nine is 4.2 (no change) worst in baseball.
It was a decent stretch of games for the hitters, but not so much for the pitchers. The Cubs are going to need to get some improved performance down the stretch of they are going to finish this off the way they’d like to.
Up Next: The Cubs are in Pittsburgh fora two game set. The Pirates are 7-3 in their last 10 and 15-5 in their last 20. The Cubs are getting them at about the worst possible time. They completed a trade of their own last night, adding bullpen depth and appear to be taking their best shot at trying to rundown a playoff spot.
Jon Lester will start the opener. He’s been easily the Cubs best pitcher. he is 12-3 with a 3.06 ERA. Over his last seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 4.78 ERA, so he needs to reverse that a little bit. He was pretty good against the Diamondbacks the last time he pitched, throwing six innings and allowing four hits, no walks and one run. He struck out seven but didn’t factor in the decision. He has made three starts against the Pirates this year. The last one of those in June was fantastic allowing just one hit, two walks and no runs in seven innings of work. Over the three starts, he is 2-0 with eight runs allowed in 18 innings of work.
Jameson Taillon will be the Pirates starter. He is 7-8 with a 3.73 ERA. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-3 with a 3.32 ERA, so he’s gotten better as the season wore on. Last time out he pitched well in a loss to the Indians, allowing seven hits, one walk and two runs in seven innings. He hasn’t started a game against the Cubs in 2018. In his last five starts against the Cubs in 2016/2017 he was 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in 26 2⁄3 innings of work. This looks like one the Cubs should win, but don’t count out the red-hot Pirates.
The Cubs next off day is August 9, so we’ll look back at these standings and how things have changed next on August 9 or 10. Until then, the Cubs have series in Pittsburgh, home against the Padres, and in Kansas City in a bit of an odd schedule, alternating short trips and short homestands.
Who will have the highest positive score between now and the next Cumulative Standings?
This poll is closed