All right, so that photo doesn’t actually come from this time period. But, I thought it was a fun one. It was from one of the better games (particularly from the standpoint of WPA and Heroes and Goats) and it features the two recent birthday boys. Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward have birthdays one day apart if you didn’t know. Both turned 29 while the Cubs were in Kansas City. This was certainly a frustrating stretch of games, but as we’ll get into later as we look at the standings and odds, the Cubs came out of this stretch with the best record in the National League and they came out of it with a two game lead.
I know there aren’t a lot of warm fuzzy thoughts circling around. I know many of you are probably tired of hearing me say that everything will be alright. Or that this team is really starting to struggle a bit without their best hitter. Or that the bullpen could really use a healthy Brandon Morrow so that it can be a little more dominant in the seventh and eighth innings by shuffling around some roles. And I’m sure, like me, some of you are starting to wonder if we just dreamed that Yu Darvish was signed to be at least the number two starter on this team if not the co-number one with Jon Lester.
So we won’t talk a ton about that. We’ll get down to business. The agenda is the usual for this space. We’ll lead off with our bread and butter, the season standings for Heroes and Goats. In the end, my narratives are my narratives, but this is all about Heroes, Goats and WPA. From there we’ll move on to looking at the National League Standings and Run Differential. I’m going to expand on that section with some hypotheticals for those of you who don’t do them in your own head all of the time. Then we’ll finish by looking at the team hitting and pitching stats and see how the Cubs are holding up in regards to the rest of the league.
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 29.5 (+5)
- Ben Zobrist 16 (+2)
- Pedro Strop 14 (+3)
- Brandon Morrow (DL) 13 (0)
- Mike Montgomery 12 (+6)
- Steve Cishek 9 (+3)
- Anthony Rizzo 8 (+9)
- David Bote 7.5 (+4)
- Jose Quintana 7 (+3)
- Jon Lester 6 (-5)
- Kyle Hendricks 6 (0)
- Cole Hamels 4 (+4)
- Ian Happ 1.5 (-7)
- Randy Rosario 3 (-1)
- Efren Navarro 2 (0)
- *Rob Zastryzny 2 (0)
- Jesse Chavez 2 (-2)
- Jason Heyward 1 (-3)
- Kyle Schwarber 1 (-2)
- *Justin Hancock 1 (0)
- *Cory Mazzoni 1 (0)
- *Alan Mills 1 (0)
- Brandon Kintzler 1 (+1)
- Luke Farrell 0 (0)
- Kris Bryant 0 (0)
- Anthony Bass (DL) 0 (0)
- *Dillon Maples -2 (0)
- *James Norwood -2 (0)
- Eddie Butler -3 (0)
- *Jen-Ho Tseng -3 (0)
- Tyler Chatwood -4 (0)
- Carl Edwards Jr. -5 (-1)
- Tommy La Stella -5 (+1)
- *Chris Gimenez -5 (0)
- Justin Wilson -6 (0)
- Yu Darvish (DL) -6 (0)
- Victor Caratini -5.5 (-7.5)
- Brian Duensing (DL) -9.5 (-1)
- Albert Almora Jr. -22.5 (-.3.5)
- Willson Contreras -36 (-10)
- Addison Russell -39 (-6)
As we’ve discussed, that is now 41 Cubs to appear in Heroes and Goats. Way to manipulate a roster Cubs! 39 of the 41 are still in the Cubs organization too, so trades haven’t been a big factor in getting to that number. With all of the injuries around the club this year, Iowa has been immensely important to the success of the big league club.
At the top, the story is the same as it has been for about 80% of the season, Javier Baez is the WPA beast of 2018. Ben Zobrist and Pedro Strop have also been at or near the top pack most of the year and are now sitting second and third respectively. At the bottom, it is the same old story. Addison Russell bringing up the rear, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora “chasing” him for the last spot. Contreras sadly within striking distance of Russell. For those of you wondering if it is normal to have three regulars at or near the bottom of the list, last year featured Heyward, Baez and Zobrist in the bottom four. In 2016, the bottom five from fifth to first were Zobrist, Bryant, Baez, Russell and Heyward. So yes, it is normal.
Over just this period, Anthony Rizzo at +9 was the biggest gainer. With that, he’s moved into the top 10. He’s finished in the top five every single year since this series began. He’s got a little work to do, but he’s in striking distance now and closing fast. Mike Montgomery with the second biggest positive move at +6 as he took care of business on the mound against two lesser offensive clubs. I don’t usually go three deep, but kudos as always to Javier Baez with a +5 week to continue extending his lead on the pack. At the bottom, Willson Contreras with a -10 week to fall near the cellar. Ian Happ at -7 dropped from his spot near the top pack. Addison Russell had a -6 period to stay at the bottom.
National League Standings and Run Differential
As I’ve already said, the Cubs were 5-4 over this stretch of games. They continue to have the best record in the National League with a winning percentage of (.579, down .002). That is good for the fifth best record in baseball. They gained a game on the Brewers during the period moving the lead to two games. The Phillies now have the second best record in the league. The Cubs also have a two game lead on them.
The Cubs run differential fell to +96 (down 3) on Wednesday night with the 9-0 loss. That has dropped to second in the National League behind the Dodgers who are now at +99. That drops the Cubs to sixth in baseball.
CBS Sports projects the Cubs to win 93.3 games (no change) just a hair behind the Dodgers at 93.4. CBS Sports gives the Cubs a 78.9% chance at winning the division (-4.3) and a 93.9% chance at making the playoffs (-3.4). Both of those numbers are also now second to the Dodgers.
Fangraphs projects the Cubs to win 93 games (no change), fourth best in the majors and best in the NL. Fangraphs has the Cubs with a 79.5% (+0.6) chance of winning the division, 95.3% (+1.2) chance of making the playoffs and 9.4% (-0.2) chance of winning the World Series. The Cubs are the most solid lock to win an NL division, most likely to make the playoffs in the NL and second most likely in the NL to win it all (sixth overall). Interesting that Fangraphs improved the Cubs odds while CBS went the other way. A lot of splitting hairs over this little time and with such close races.
I’ll preface these next thoughts by noting that there are no less than 11 teams in the NL that could dramatically alter their playoff picture by either winning 15 of 20 or losing 15 of 20. Absent a run like that by one or more of the 11 teams, this is what things appear to be boiling down to. Six teams are separated at the top of the league by three games. The order of these six teams changes daily if not weekly. Two teams have a very good chance at winning the East (neither of which was the presumptive pre-season favorite), two teams have a very good chance at winning the Central and two teams have a very good chance of winning the West. The three runners up will compete for two wildcard spots.
Several mornings in the last week we’ve woken up to a scenario where the Dodgers and Diamondbacks would have to have a one game playoff for the division title and the loser would go home. This morning there is a particularly cruel scenario. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks are tied with the Braves (virtually, Atlanta has played four less games and thus has a higher winning percentage). In that scenario, the Dodgers and D-Backs would have a one game playoff for the division. The loser would then have a worse record and that makes the Braves the second wildcard since a one game playoff counts like a game 163.
I finish this look at the standings with a couple of hypothetical possibilities for the NL Central. There are of course a ton of possibilities, but I’ll give you some ideas of what things look like. First, we’ll look at a scenario where the Brewers win 60% of their remaining games (better than their season record, but not their best stretch of the season). They would win 26 more games and have 92 wins. The Cubs would have to finish 27-21 (.562%) to win the division outright. If the Brewers stay on their current pace (.559) they win 91 games, and the Cubs would only have to win 26 games. Math favors the Cubs pretty heavily at this point. The Cubs should just have to be the team they’ve been for 114 games, even with all of their inconsistencies, to win the division. The caution to this is that it seems like nearly every year some team does have the bottom drop out and finish with a stretch of losing 15 of 20 or even losing 12 of 20 while their closest competitor is winning 12 of 20. It can happen. So I’m not saying anything is over yet. I’m just pointing out how good the math is as we reach this point in time.
Team Hitting and Pitching Stats
The Cubs are averaging 4.96 runs per game (-.06). That’s still the best mark in the NL and fourth in baseball. The Cubs team average is .266 (no change), still second to the Red Sox (.269). The team on base percentage is .344 (-.01), tops in MLB. Team slugging is .424 (+.01), ninth in baseball and third in the NL.
The Cubs have allowed 4.11 runs per game (+.03), ninth in baseball and fifth in the NL. Hits per nine is 8.0 (+.1), eighth MLB and fourth NL. WHIP is 1.346 (-.001) and walks per nine is 4.1 (-.1) only second worst in baseball (the switch from Chatwood to Hamels).
Not surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of change over this period. The team basically tread water, but the Brewers fared a bit worse, so the Cubs added on to their lead a bit.
Up Next: The Cubs see the Nationals for the first time in a three game home series as part of a five game homestand. The Nationals come in having won seven of their last 10, and having split a four game home series against the Braves. The Nationals have been very good against the NL Central so far at 12-5. They’ve struggled against left handed starters (12-19), which will factor in the last two games of the series and the later series in Washington.
This afternoon though it is Kyle Hendricks going for the Cubs. The lone righty in the rotation these days is 8-9 with a 4.07 ERA. He’s righted the ship a bit and over his last seven starts he is 3-1 with a 3.76 ERA. He won last time despite subpar results. He allowed five hits, and four runs in 5⅔ innings of work. He allowed one home run which has been his biggest problem this season. He didn’t walk anyone though and he struck out seven. He faced the Nationals once last year and took a loss while throwing seven innings. He allowed five hits, two walks and three runs while striking out five. The long ball was the problem that day with two home runs allowed. Dating back to 2015, Kyle is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA against some pretty strong Nationals teams.
The Nationals will start Jeremy Hellickson in the opener. Jeremy is having a resurgent season for the Nationals with a 5-2 record and a 3.56 ERA over 78.1 innings of work. In his last seven starts, he’s faded a bit though and is just 3-2 with a 5.14 ERA. Last time out he won a game against the Reds in Washington. He threw 5⅔ innings and allowed four hits, no walks, and two runs. He did allow two solo homers. Last year he faced the Cubs once and they hit him pretty well. He lasted just four innings and allowed eight hits, two walks, and six runs. He struck out two and the Cubs tagged him with three homers and a loss. Kyle has been throwing well and the Nationals are more mediocre than the Cubs have been all season long. I like the chances of a Cubs win in the opener.
We’ll check in on all of these things again next on August 21, following the Cubs off-day on August 20. Then the next one after that won’t be until after the Cubs 23 games in 23 days stretch that ends on September 12.
Who will be the top performer in Heroes and Goats 8/10 - 8/19?
This poll is closed