Well, the Cubs streaks came to an end. They finally lost two in a row for the first time since late July. Fortunately, they’d won three in a row just before that for the first time since the first game after the All-Star break (which was actually the fourth consecutive victory). This led to a second consecutive time where I’m looking at a nine-game period and the Cubs won five of nine. It isn’t sexy and they aren’t running away with anything, but the Cubs just keep winning slightly more than they are losing and games keep dropping off of the season.
It’s a little too early for monitoring daily, but the Cubs magic number is down to 35 with 39 games left to play. It’s going to be a little tricky to track given that the Cardinals and Brewers are both now five losses behind the Cubs. I’ve said it before and each time I get to say it, it is more true. Five losses behind at this point in the season is a big deal. That is doubly true for the Cardinals who only have three games left with the Cubs that don’t come until the final weekend of the year.
If the Cubs go just 20-19, then the Brewers would need to go 21-14 or the Cardinals would have to go 22-14 just to tie. None of those numbers are impossible to occur. Nor would I even imply that it would be impossible for the Cubs to win less than 20 of the final 39. But the Cubs have generally played every large stretch of games this year at a bit better than .500. If the Cubs nudge that number up to 22 or 23 wins, you can see it starts getting very daunting for the Cardinals or Brewers to catch the Cubs. I’ve said all year that I believed the Cubs would win the division by at least five games. I’m not backing off now.
All of that said, today starts a string of 23 consecutive games for the Cubs. By the end of this stretch of games, you should know everything there is to know about the Cubs regular season. They’ll either use this stretch to take firm control of the division and the National League or the stretch will wear them down and they’ll have to fight to the bitter end for either or both of the Central division or the National League home field advantage. As an aside, you may not have noticed, but with some losses to key teams in the American League, the Cubs are in shouting distance of a couple of big time teams in the American League for overall record (Astros, A’s and Indians). I’m not positive that the Cubs would even prefer home field advantage in the World Series, but they have a chance to have it anyway if the Red Sox don’t survive the AL.
With 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. 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
- Pedro Strop 20 (+5)
- Javier Baez 19.5 (-10)
- Ben Zobrist 16 (0)
- Anthony Rizzo 14 (+6)
- Brandon Morrow (DL) 13 (0)
- Mike Montgomery (DL) 12 (0)
- Steve Cishek 11 (+2)
- Cole Hamels 9 (+5)
- Jon Lester 6 (0)
- Kyle Hendricks 6 (0)
- Randy Rosario 6 (+3)
- Jesse Chavez 5 (+3)
- Jose Quintana 4 (-3)
- Jason Heyward 4 (+3)
- David Bote 3.5 (-4)
- Ian Happ 3.5 (+2)
- Efren Navarro 2 (0)
- *Rob Zastryzny 2 (0)
- *Justin Hancock 1 (0)
- *Cory Mazzoni 1 (0)
- *Alec Mills 1 (0)
- Jorge De La Rosa 1 (1)
- Kyle Schwarber 0 (-1)
- *Luke Farrell 0 (0)
- Kris Bryant (DL) 0 (0)
- *Anthony Bass 0 (0)
- *Dillon Maples -2 (0)
- *James Norwood -2 (0)
- Carl Edwards Jr. -2 (0)
- Eddie Butler -3 (0)
- *Jen-Ho Tseng -3 (0)
- Tommy La Stella -4 (+1)
- Victor Caratini -4.5 (0)
- *Chris Gimenez -5 (0)
- Justin Wilson -5 (1)
- Yu Darvish (DL) -6 (0)
- Brandon Kintzler -7 (-8)
- Tyler Chatwood -7 (-3)
- Brian Duensing (DL) -9.5 (0)
- Albert Almora Jr. -18.5 (+1)
- Willson Contreras -38 (-2)
- Addison Russell -44 (-5)
42 Cubs have now appeared in Heroes and Goats. 44 Cubs have played for the Cubs this season (Duane Underwood Jr. and Mark Zagunis have yet to appear in H&G). Perhaps more amazingly, the Cubs have had 33 different players pitch for them this year. This of course includes Victor Caratini, Tommy La Stella, Ian Happ, Chris Gimenez and Anthony Rizzo.
There has been a change at the top with Pedro Strop taking advantage of a rough couple of weeks for Javier Baez (-10) to take over the top spot. Pedro’s +5 tied with Cole Hamels for the second largest positive move. The biggest positive move was Anthony Rizzo who has burst into the top five with his torrid August and late July. Anthony is +23.5 since the All-Star break. Anthony is seeking his second consecutive Heroes and Goats Superhero of the Year award and fourth in the five years this feature has existed.
At the bottom, Addison Russell continues to lead. Willson Contreras appears to be the only other player who has any chance at finishing in the bottom spot. Last year’s lowest score was -21. The lowest score ever recorded is Jason Heyward’s 2016 mark of -48.5, that could fall this year. Javy’s -10 was easily the lowest in the period, but Russell also posted the second biggest decline at -5.
National League Standings and Run Differential
Another stretch of 5-4 in the books for the Cubs as we’ve discussed. Their winning percentage drops to .577 (down .002) but continues to lead the league. They slip down to the sixth best record in baseball, falling behind Cleveland by half a game. The Cubs are three games behind the Astros and A’s. They are also 5½ games behind the Yankees. The Red Sox have a nine-game lead over all of baseball with the Yankees having that second best record. 50 games over .500 with 36 games remaining in their season is incredible.
The Cubs run differential has fallen to +89 (down seven) and at +89 they are second in the NL to the Dodgers (+111). Lots of good that mark is doing the Dodgers who are now in third place. The Cubs are sixth in MLB in run differential, right where they were last time.
CBS Sports has the Cubs winning 93.2 games (down .2%), that is now projected as the best record in the National League as the Dodgers are tail-spinning right now, having lost seven of 10. CBS has the Cubs with a 77.5% chance of winning the division (down 1.4%), and a 94.7% chance of reaching the playoffs (up .8%). With the other two divisions very much up for grabs, the Cubs are now in front in both of those numbers by a wide margin.
Shifting over to Fangraphs, they are projecting the Cubs to win 93 games (no change). That mark would now be sixth best in baseball (behind the five presumed AL playoff teams). Fangraphs projects the Dodgers and Diamondbacks to each finish with 89 wins just ahead of the Brewers and Braves at 88 with the Phillies, Cardinals and Rockies at 87. That is one crazy finish shaping up. Hopefully the Cubs can remain clear of that finish.
Looking at playoff odds, Fangraphs has the Cubs at 84.0% (up 4.5%) chance of winning the division, 97.1% chance of making the playoffs (up 1.8%) and 10.7% chance of winning it all (up 1.3%). So even if things didn’t feel great, with a lot of games between playoff contenders over the last week or so, five of nine was a perfectly acceptable outcome. The Cubs haven’t lost a series since losing two of three in St. Louis at the end of July. As with CBS Sports, the Cubs are easily most likely in the NL to win the division, most likely to make the playoffs, and second most likely to win the Series. Fangraphs still believes that should the Dodgers make the playoffs that they are the presumptive favorite to reach the Series from the NL. The Dodgers have a dramatically easier schedule left than either the D-Backs or Rockies. So they have that going for them. The Cubs remain second most likely to win it all out of the NL and sixth most likely overall. The Astros are seen as most likely to win it all at 23.7% despite now being in a tie for the division lead. The future schedule difference between the Astros and A’s is not all that great (.490 Astros vs. .503 A’s). Imagining a Yankees/Astros wildcard game is just insane to me.
Team Hitting and Pitching Stats
The Cubs are scoring 4.78 runs per game (-.18), second best in the National League (Braves 4.81). They are now seventh overall in runs per game. Five of those teams ahead of them employ the DH in more than 90% of their games though. The Cubs team average is .262 (down .004 tied for 1st NL, 2nd overall), team on base is .340 (down .004, 1st in MLB), , team slugging is .417 (down .007, 4th NL, 11th overall). I’ve seen comments again lately about the Cubs and strikeouts. They’ve struck out 1,030 times. Only 10 teams have struck out fewer times. I didn’t break the numbers out on a per-game basis, but as we get late in the season, there is less disparity than there has been.
The Cubs are allowing 4.06 runs per game (down .05), third-best in the NL (up two places) and eighth best overall (up a place). Run prevention is one of the most powerful weapons in October, so the Cubs moving up in this is very good news. The Cubs are allowing 8.0 hits per nine (no change, fifth NL, ninth overall), 4.0 walks per nine (-.1, 29th) and 1.337 WHIP (down .009, 18th).
Some downward trend for the offense and upward trend for the pitching. These numbers were heavily influenced by the Pirates series and the finale of the Nationals series was also very low scoring. Cole Hamels has changed the complexion of the team though. Hopefully, once he’s healthy, Kris Bryant will provide a similar boost to the offense.
Up Next: A quick two-game set in Detroit to start a string of 23 games in 23 days with no off days. The Cubs will visit five different parks other than Wrigley and just nine of the 23 games are at home. This is an enormous stretch of games no matter how you cut it. After this string of games, the Cubs will have just 16 games remaining and 10 of those will be played at Wrigley with three others being played at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
The Tigers come in having lost three of four in Minnesota. They’ve dropped six of 10 overall. They’ve also dropped 13 of 20 and 19 of 30 overall. So no matter how you slice it, this team hasn’t been playing well. They are 51-74 on the full season.
The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks will be on the mound for the Cubs. He is 9-9 with a 4.11 ERA. Kyle is 4-1 in his last seven starts with a 4.58 ERA which could have been a bit better. He allowed two runs through six innings in his last start, but with a low pitch count headed back out for the seventh and allowed the first two runners to reach. They eventually scored after he left the game. Kyle did pick up that win against the Brewers and now has a shot at 10 tonight. He allowed seven hits, two walks and eight strike outs in his six innings of work. The two walks ended a string of three straight starts without any walks. Over 39⅓ innings of work in his last seven games, he’s allowed only five walks and four home runs. Those numbers are finally stabilizing. He faced the Tigers earlier this year and got a no decision. He threw five innings and allowed seven hits, one walks and three runs. Hopefully he can do a bit better today.
Jordan Zimmermann will pitch for the Tigers. It’s hard to believe we haven’t seen Jordan since 2015, but that is the case. He is 5-5 with a 4.36 ERA this year. He’s only thrown 88⅔ innings on the season. He is 2-5 with a 4.91 ERA over his last seven starts. He doesn’t walk many men, but he does allow plenty of hits and more than an occasional home run (51 and 11 respectively in his last 40⅓ innings of work). His last time out he lost against the White Sox after allowing nine hits and six runs in five innings of work. He struck out four and allowed two long balls. Jordan has been a reverse split righty this year with an .834 OPS against righties and a .731 against lefties. Jordan doesn’t allow many walks to righties (four in 178 plate appearances) but does allow a lot of hard contact (20 extra base hits in 170 at bats) to them. It’s a different story against lefties (12 walks in 198 plate appearances and 19 extra base hits in 185 at bats). Not surprisingly without having faced him since 2015, but Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo are the only players with significant experience against him. Both have very high OPS against him (Heyward 1.123 in 21 PA and Rizzo 1.283 in 15). I feel very confident the Cubs will win this game and ultimately sweep this series.
We’ll next look back at these standings on Friday, September 14 following the off day after the 23 consecutive games. 13 of you correctly predicted that Rizzo would be the top player over this group of games. The seven of you that picked Cole Hamels and the three who picked Pedro Strop were close. The 48 of you that picked Javy Baez (ok 47 and me) were as wrong as can be.
Who will be the top performer in Heroes and Goats over the next 23 games?
This poll is closed