The Cubs bats kept it in gear for a second straight day. For the Daniel Murphy acquisition to mean as much as the Cole Hamels acquisition, this sort of thing would have to continue pretty much throughout the rest of the regular season. From what I saw around social media and here on Bleed Cubbie Blue, I was one of the optimistic people when the Cubs acquired Cole Hamels. And my optimism stretched all of the way to “he can give us five or six innings every time out and maybe have an occasional flashback to the good ol’ days start.”
This is to say that there were of course some people like me who understood that Hamels was likely to be an upgrade to a pitching staff who some had dreamed would be a historically great one before the season. But even those who did understand that have been completely and totally blown away by what the Cubs have gotten from Cole Hamels. He has been nothing short of amazing. A few more starts like he’s been having and people like me will be diving back into the record books and trying to remember just how amazing Jake Arrieta was in that magical second half he had. That is of course the most dominant stretch any of us have ever seen. If you didn’t see the statistic though, Cole Hamels is the first pitcher ever to go at least five innings and allow one run or fewer in his first five starts for a new team. Pretty neat.
I try to think of the great in season acquisitions of all time. Rick Sutcliffe was acquired relatively early in the 1984 season and got about 20 starts with the Cubs on his way to winning a Cy Young. Cole will only make a little over half that many starts for this years Cubs. Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and Randall Simon come to mind from 2003. The three of them energized the Cubs down the stretch that year. Kenny had an .852 OPS and Aramis an .805. So the impact they brought was more about lengthening the lineup than being world beaters. Those two did indeed almost help propel that team to a World Series.
Anyway, I’ll leave it for someone else to be the historian that identifies the best July/August acquisition the Cubs have ever made. I’m enjoying the heck out of watching Hamels work. I love that when he got here I saw people wondering if he’d make the playoff roster or pitch out of the pen. Now I see people wondering how he could possibly not start Game 1 of the playoffs. That’s a heck of a start to his Cubs career, one that I certainly hope stretches beyond 2018. But for now, I will do an extra tip of the cap. Not only did he throw a complete game shutout last night, he did it the night before the Cubs send a Triple-A pitcher to the mound. All of the Cubs high leverage relievers ended up being pressed into action Tuesday, so it’s a big help that they all got a night off ahead of Alec Mills’ first major league start. The Cubs will be free to use their bullpen as aggressively as need be today. The old Maddux effect. Providing benefits not only on the day when he’s pitching.
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 136, August 23 - Cubs win by six for the second straight day, 7-1 (73-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Cole Hamels (.287). This is a thing now. Cole is five for five in reaching one of the Hero podiums in his first five starts as a Cub. At this pace, he would win the Superhero of the Year award for two months of work. He was dominant until the ninth inning and still escaped that inning unscathed. Eight hits, two walks, one run and seven strike outs.
- Hero - Anthony Rizzo (.227). Somebody’s on fire! Anthony just filled the box score yesterday, two hits, a walk, a sacrifice fly, three RBI, two runs scored. The sac fly was the only out Rizzo made yesterday. And I’ve largely glossed over that one of the two hits was a two-run home-run.
- Sidekick - Javier Baez (.172). Javier Baez, destroyer of baseballs. And he plays some good defense as well. He had three more hits yesterday including the longest Cubs home run of the season. He also reached on an error and scored three runs. Overall he had three hits in five at bats. I haven’t done this in a while. Javy is seventh in the NL in WAR (third among position players), fifth in offensive WAR (I’m using bWAR), tied for first in slugging, tied for 10th in runs scored, tied for fourth in doubles, tied for second in triples, eighth in homers, first in RBI, seventh in stolen bases, first in extra base hits, seventh in stolen base percentage. Javier Baez, National League MVP.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - David Bote (-.070). David’s going through one of those stretches everyone goes through. He was hitless in four at bats and struck out once.
- Goat - Daniel Murphy (-.051). A bit of an injustice that Daniel’s first H&G appearances is a two hit game that ends up in Goat spot. I’ll go out on a limb and say that if he continues to hit .400 as a Cub, he’ll find the positive side way more often than not.
- Kid - Kyle Schwarber (-.050). Hitless in four at bats and two strike outs. I was hoping that the hot weekend in Pittsburgh would get him back in a groove, but not quite yet.
WPA Play of the Game: With one out in the first, Javier Baez reached on an error and Anthony Rizzo followed with his two-run home-run to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead that turned out to be all of the runs the Cubs would need. (.174)
*Reds Play of the Game: With two outs and runners on second and third, Phillip Ervin singled driving in a run. (.086)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo 16
Up Next: The Cubs will seek a third straight win this afternoon. They’ll send Alec Mills to the mound making his first major league start. He has appeared once for the Cubs this year, throwing two innings and striking out two without allowing any base runners. He had previously thrown 3⅓ innings for the Royals over three games in 2016. He allowed three hits, five walks and five runs over those three appearances. He struck out four and hit a batter. Obviously, none of these numbers are any kind of sample size to derive meaning from. I remember being excited about acquiring Mills last year and being more excited about than Eddie Butler. Butler had some pretty interesting flashes for the Cubs over the last two years. Maybe against an ailing team, Mills can provide four or five innings of decent relief and keep the Cubs in the game.
Matt Harvey will be the Reds starter. He’s 6-7 with a 4.91 ERA. He’s 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA over his last seven starts. That’s some amazing consistency, though I don’t think anyone aims to consistently have a 4.91 ERA. Last time out he was very good against the Giants and collected a win. He threw 6⅓ innings, allowing only four hits, one walk and no runs. He struck out five. He pitched pretty well the start before that against the DBacks as well. So he is capable of a decent outing or two. Or he was really honed in trying to make a last push to get traded away from a team that is now 18 games out of first. Harvey has made two starts against the Cubs this year. He pitched pretty well both times and won one. He threw 11⅔ innings, allowing 14 hits, two walks, five runs (four earned) and struck out 10. The third time is the charm maybe?
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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