I always post my disclaimer that WPA won’t always tell you the day’s story, but sometimes it does. Today’s Hero awards go to the guy who hit the walk-off home-run, the guy who tried to end it with his own homer in the eighth, and the unheralded rookie pitcher who allowed one run on three hits and a walk over 5⅔ innings pitched. That’s a whole lot of yesterday’s story.
Let’s talk about the guy with the walk-off home-run. I’ll assume you’ve heard of David Bote. I won’t dismiss that he is a God sent from heaven to destroy baseball for the Chicago Cubs during the summer in which the Cubs lost their primary destroyer of baseballs for an extended period of time. David has had 123 plate appearances now in his young major league career. He has a .276/.366/.486 line that is good for a wRC+ of 127. That’s despite a recent 0-for-18 streak in there. He’s been worth 1.1 fWAR already over what is about 1/5 of a normal season’s worth of plate appearances. That’s a 5+ WAR pace which would put him in some pretty elite company.
But to only look at those numbers ignores the ridiculousness that is his major league home run log. Hit first homer came on July 4 against the Pirates. It was only in the second inning of the game, but the Cubs were losing 1-0 and it tied the game. Ho hum really. Fast forward to July 26. The Cubs were losing 6-4 in the ninth inning to the D-Backs (you know, the ones leading the National League West). Brad Boxberger was on the mound and there was a runner on first. Bote goes deep to tie the game (and then that Rizzo fellow follows with a walk-off!). Move forward to August 12. Cubs are down 3-0 to the Nationals. The bases are loaded and there are two outs. On a 2-2 pitch, David Bote walks it off with a grand-slam! Next up August 22, following that long hitless streak, with the Cubs losing 1-0 and in the midst of a five plus game scoring drought. With a runner on first he hits a two-run home-run to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead and open the floodgates as the Cubs go on to win 8-2. He finishes that with yesterday’s walk-off home-run in the tenth.
So his first five home-runs have all come when the Cubs were tied or losing. There’s a grand slam, two two-run homers and two solo shots. Two of them were walk-offs. Holy cow. Small sample sizes are amusing to look at. In 10 plate appearances as a pinch hitter, David has a .500/.600/1.000 line with a home run and six RBI. With two outs and runners in scoring position he has 23 plate appearances. He has a line of .316/.435/.632 with 11 RBI. In 25 plate appearances late and close he has a line of .368/.444/.545 with three home runs and eight RBI. Yeah, I’m not going to rule out that sent from heaven to destroy baseballs thing until I see some empiric proof that it isn’t true.
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 127, August 24 - Cubs win third straight with walk-off home-run in the tenth, 3-2 (74-53)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - David Bote (.370). He had just one hit in two at bats after coming into the game late. But a walk-off home run is going to land you up here just about every time.
- Hero - Daniel Murphy (.360). The story that wasn’t. Daniel hit a homer of his own in the bottom of the eighth and it looked like his first Cubs homer would be a game winner. Alas, Eugenio Suarez didn’t like that script. Still, Murphy has started his Cubs career with three straight two hit games.
- Sidekick - Alec Mills (.158). Alec threw quite a game. Yes, the strike zone was pretty liberal for this game, but he made the most of it. He struck out eight in 5⅔ innings and walked only one. Good job kid. Here’s hoping you get at least one more start this year.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Pedro Strop (-.190). Pedro had to face Eugenio Suarez leading off the ninth. That didn’t go well. The whole National League has trouble with Suarez. Pedro bounced back nicely and retired the three guys after that to keep the Cubs in the game.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.171). Anthony had just one walk in four plate appearances. He lands here because of the double play he grounded into in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out.
- Sidekick - Kyle Schwarber (-.169). Kyle was hitless in four at bats. He struck out once. He batted twice with a runner on first late in the game and that landed him here.
WPA Play of the Game: David Bote’s walk off home-run was of course the play of the game. (.417). That’s tied for the fourth largest WPA event of the year. That gives David three of the five biggest WPA events of the year.
*Reds Play of the Game: Eugenio Suarez’ home run off of Pedro Strop. (.332)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 19
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 16
Up Next: The Cubs will aim for four straight this afternoon. They’ll send Jose Quintana to the mound to do it. He is 10-9 with a 4.36 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-3 with a 4.70 ERA. Last time out he was pretty effective in Pittsburgh, throwing five innings and allowing only four hits, two walks and one run. He struck out four and got a no decision. He has faced the Reds twice this year, thrown 12 innings and allowed 10 hits, six walks and four runs. He struck out 10. He won one and lost one. One of the two starts was dominant and the other wasn’t too good. Let’s hope he can do the dominant thing again. He’s 2-1 with a 3.74 ERA against the Reds over the last two years.
The Reds counter with Luis Castillo. Luis is 7-10 with a 4.86 ERA. Over his last seven starts though he’s started to turn things around a bit with a 2-2 record and a 3.24 ERA. Last time out against the Giants at home, he got a win. He threw 6⅔ innings and allowed six hits, no walks and three runs (only one earned) while striking out nine. He’s faced the Cubs three times this year and won once. He’s thrown 14⅔ innings, allowing 16 hits, eight walks, and seven runs while striking out 12. That’s just a touch better than his season numbers. In his one start at Wrigley this year, he allowed three runs in four innings before departing. Let’s hope for more of that.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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