If you are like me, you grew up hearing all kinds of narratives about the importance of a game or a situation or whatever during sports broadcasts. Particularly from the national announcers, they feel the need to add gravity to the moment and so they’ll talk about how a loss like yesterdays could spiral a team into a losing streak. Or how struggling for a full weekend series with the Padres could have some spill over effect. Don’t fall for those narratives. If Cole Hamels throws six innings of one-run ball and the Cubs hitters are knocking the ball all over the yard, this past weekend will be like a distant memory.
This weekend was like a sucker punch, because really in three of the four games, the problem was the bullpen. Ironically, in the other game, the bullpen was flawless. The bullpen has been great all season. Frankly, it was surprising that it took as long as it did for Brandon Morrow to be heavily missed. No, Pedro Strop wasn’t the problem as closer. He picked up two saves over the weekend in two chances, even if one of them was a nail-biter. But the lack of Brandon Morrow at the back of the bullpen meant that Pedro Strop wasn’t available earlier. The lack of Pedro Strop earlier pressed Steve Cishek into a little bit different role than he’s been used in.
Of course, the ineffectiveness of all of the Cubs left handed relievers is also a problem. The Cubs can pay lip service all that they want to the idea that they have multiple right handed pitchers who are very good at getting lefties out. That’s great. I hope that continues to be a thing forever. That is very helpful when you just want to let a pitcher throw a complete inning against a varied lineup of lefties and righties. When the game is on the line though and there is a tough lefty or two coming up, you want a lefty you can put in there who can be effective. It speaks volumes to me that Randy Rosario threw the ninth inning in a tie game yesterday and not Justin Wilson. Wilson hasn’t thrown now since Thursday and there is no really great reason why Rosario was in a close ballgame.
The Cubs need at least one and hopefully more than one of Brandon Morrow, Drew Smyly and Yu Darvish to get healthy sooner than later. None are particularly close to being major league ready. Darvish may be the first one ready to go. Once he is, Mike Montgomery can shift to the pen and be a more reliable left handed option out of the pen. The Cubs have a deep and talented pen. They certainly didn’t look that way this weekend, but don’t over emphasize that just because it imploded this weekend. The Cubs have a couple of off days in the near future and all of that should get straightened back out. The Cubs need to get some effective starting pitching and they need to get Kris Bryant healthy. His bat brings so much presence to the lineup that is just missing when he is out. And then when Joe feels that he needs to give a guy a breather, the lineup is just shallow.
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 111, August 5 - Cubs dig out of early hole only to dig another one late in 10-6 loss (64-47)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.230). Anthony came off the bench with a pinch-hit RBI single in the seventh to cap the Cubs comeback from an early 5-1 deficit. He had one hit in two at bats on the day, the other being a strike out that you’ve probably heard about.
- Hero - Albert Almora Jr. (.150). If you follow me on Twitter, you saw me being down on Almora yesterday. I was frustrated that he swung at the very first pitch leading off the game against a pitcher the Cubs have never seen before. I’ve also been frustrated by his struggles of late and by months of the drumbeat that he absolutely, positively needs to be in the line-up every day. I’m no doubt influenced by writing this article daily and that makes me keenly aware of his High Leverage situation numbers (.268/.311/.339). Kudos to Albert for two RBI singles that were a big part of the comeback.
- Sidekick - Jesse Chavez (.077). Jesse bounced back from his rough outing on Thursday with two scoreless innings. He allowed just two hits and struck out three.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Jon Lester (-.264). Jon had quite a first half. Regression has struck. I’m still confident in Jon’s talent and ability, but he’s definitely going through a funk right now. I don’t know if he’s hit one of those walls that they tell us pitchers go through or what, but he’s just not very effective right now. Of course, the wind was howling out yesterday and the Padres took advantage of that. Jon was charged with five runs in five innings. He allowed eight hits and two walks and only struck out one.
- Goat - Addison Russell (-.197). Addison’s career numbers batting fourth are not actually too far out of line with those batting anywhere else. He’s a guy who performs just about the same in any situation. Unfortunately, in 2018, that’s been just about the least productive regular player on the Cubs. He should be batting further down in the order. He was hitless in four at bats yesterday. Addison’s value to the Cubs in 2018 has been largely defensive where he is a clear plus at short.
- Kid - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.187). Yeah, so this is one of those things that makes you look at WPA and be a little confused. Where is Rosario? He’d be the next one on the list, but Carl allowed the sixth run. The one that gave the Padres the lead. Because of sequencing, that was the tipping point and not the four runs that buried the game in the ninth. Carl allowed a hit and a walk in his one inning of work.
WPA Play of the Game: Carl Edwards Jr. pitched the eighth inning. He got a ground out and a strike out to start the inning. Then things went downhill. He walked Travis Jankowski who then stole second. Cory Spangenberg had an RBI double to give the Padres the lead. (.257)
*Cubs Play of the Game: After Javier Baez struck out with runners on first and second and one out with the Cubs trailing 5-4, Anthony Rizzo came to the plate. Anthony delivered an RBI single to tie the game 5-5. (.237)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 29.5
- Hero - Ben Zobrist and Pedro Strop 15
Up Next: The Cubs travel to face the Kansas City Royals in a three-game set. The Kansas City Royals sport a record of 34-77, a half game ahead of the Baltimore Orioles for the worst record in baseball. They’ve dropped seven of 10 (that’s normal for them), 12 of 20 (that’s actually a hot streak) and 21 of 30 (again, that’s normal). They are 15-37 at home, so that isn’t any particular advantage. They are 13-22 against left handed starters. They are 3-6 in inter-league play. This is a lot of words to say that the Royals are terrible in just about every situation. They’ve been a pain in the butt to other American League Central teams (20-27), but that’s just about it. Minimum requirement in this series is two wins and this should be a sweep. They were just swept by the Twins to end a 10 game road-trip.
The Cubs start Cole Hamels who I currently prefer to think of as 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA as a member of the Cubs. Overall, he is 6-9 with a 4.53 ERA and in his last seven starts, he’s just 3-3 with a 6.62 ERA. Like I said, let’s just focus on that 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA. In his last five starts against the Royals, he is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA. That includes seven innings of 1 run (unearned) earlier this year. He allowed four hits, three walks and struck out seven in that one. They did knock him around in one start last year in Texas... Nope. Not going to do it. 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA as a Cub. I’m ignoring the rest.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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