When Nick Pivetta left yesterday’s game after five innings allowing five hits and three walks but only one run, I had a bad feeling about the game. The Phillies bullpen isn’t exactly lights out, but it just felt like the Cubs let the Phillies off of the hook. Unfortunately, I was right about that. But the game carried on from there. As the game dragged on, I had another observation. the Phillies offense is really inept. I felt like if the Cubs could just keep the ball in the park, they would eventually win. Scratch that one off too. Ugh. That wasn’t pretty.
I’m going to just go with the glass half full today. They lost, that’s the empty part. I’m not going to dwell on that part. The Cubs are in the middle of a stretch of 23 straight games. I felt like if they could tread water during that stretch, they’d be able to coast to the end. 11 games in, the team is 8-3. If the Cardinals finish the season with a 40-10 stretch and steal this from the Cubs, I won’t be sad or mad or anything. I’ll tip my cap to them on the most smoke and mirror accomplishment ever. That team is currently playing so far over its head, it is incredible. All of the other playoff contenders added, the Cardinals subtracted. And that put them over the top? That seems unlikely.
So the Cubs have tread water through the first 11 games. Before tonight’s game, the Cubs will activate 2015 Rookie of the Year and 2016 National League MVP Kris Bryant. They’ll add 2016 All-Star Addison Russell (who admittedly didn’t do a rehab stint and hasn’t been healthy in months, so who knows if he adds anything other than steady defense). I suspect they’ll add Terrance Gore who maybe would have been running for Tommy La Stella after his pinch single last night and maybe the Cubs win. After all, I’d have expected Gore to go first to third on the subsequent single and then maybe score on the short fly that doubled off La Stella. Either way, at least Rizzo would have come to the plate.
In the days ahead, the Cubs will add a handful of pitchers. A third catcher. Guys who have played and contributed at the major league level. And they already have easily the best roster in the National League and a three and a half game lead on the entire National League. The Cubs have their sights set on the best record in the league. They are well on their way to doing it and now they add their most talented player back to the team. This next 12 games doesn’t figure to be entirely pleasant without a day off, but with the expanded rosters, at least there will be depth and options. Joe can tinker. He can spread around playing time. He can optimize matchups. And he can win a lot of games.
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 134, August 31 - Cubs bats missing in Pennsylvania in 2-1 loss (79-55)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Jorge De La Rosa (.213). The good news, he retired all five batters he faced. The bad news, more hard contact. I’m not going to enjoy the game(s) he costs us in September. This is the ripple effect of the Cubs’ difficulties obtaining left handed relievers.
- Hero - Jose Quintana (.189). Jose was fantastic last night both on the mound (six innings, three hits, one walk, one run, seven strike outs) and at the plate (two hits in two at bats for the top offensive WPA at .064). It’s starting to look like they won’t make it, but the Phillies have been a playoff contender all season long, so this is a meaningful start.
- Sidekick - Justin Wilson (.089). My comment above about lefthanded pitching is in no way meant as a shot at Justin Wilson. The Cubs fanbase has an itchy trigger finger on Justin Wilson. When he’s bad, there is a disproportionate level of ire about it. When he’s very good like he was last night, it’s rarely complimented. Justin Wilson has been a very effective reliever for the Cubs this year. No qualifiers needed. Relievers sometimes have bad games and when they do, it often costs you a game. Wilson has not cost the Cubs very often this year.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Steve Cishek (-.323). He retired the first two men he faced. But then the third took him deep. Two home runs this week is unsightly and untimely. But, he’s allowed four now for the season. That just barely nudges him over his career marks. I have no reason to believe this is anything other than bad sequencing.
- Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.279). Ben was hitless in four at bats. He did draw one walk. The Cubs had nine hits in this game, the problem is that it featured four two hit games and one pinch hit single. There was a lack of grouping of hits. On the flip side, the Phillies managed just four base runners against Quintana and scored a run off of that.
- Kid - David Bote (-.206). Regression is a mean mistress. Bote has a line of .135/.179/.308 (wRC+ 24) since the walk off grand slam. Admittedly, it is a small sample of just 56 plate appearances, but then his whole career is still a small sample at this time. However, even in this 56 plate appearance sample, he has an ISO of .173 as there are three home runs in there. He also has a BABIP of .129 which is laughable for a guy who barrels the ball as often as David does. The only actually distressing thing I see is BB% of 3.6% and K% of 33.9%. That’s a slump and a need for correction.
WPA Play of the Game: Not a lot of question about this one. The home run allowed by Steve Cishek to Asdrubal Cabrera to end the game. (.418). The sixth largest negative WPA event of the Cubs season.
*Cubs Play of the Game: The obligatory solo home run was by Javier Baez (.144).
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 21
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Ben Zobrist 15
Up Next: The two teams meet again this evening for game two of the three game set. Kyle Hendricks heads back to the mound for the Cubs. Kyle evened his season record at 10-10 last time out to go along with a 3.86 ERA. Over his last seven starts, Kyle has headed in the right direction with a 4-2 record and a 3.50 ERA. That last start was a dominant one against the Reds. He threw seven shutout innings allowing only two hits and a walk while striking out five. Kyle has now gone four starts without allowing a home run. Kyle did have a start against the Phillies in June and he took the loss in that one. He threw only five innings and allowed five hits, three walks, and five runs while striking out five. Over his last five starts, dating to September of 2015, Kyle is 3-2 with a 3.58 ERA over the Phillies.
Zach Eflin will be the opposition. Zach has some very nice season numbers at 9-5 with a 3.99 ERA in this his first extended look in the major leagues. However, over his last seven starts he is just 2-3 with a 5.54 ERA. Last time out he lost to the Nationals. In that one he threw 5 1⁄3 innings and allowed eight hits, two walks and five runs (three earned - did anyone mention the Phillies defense is putrid?). Zach started that game against Kyle Hendricks in June and was the winner. He threw 7⅔ innings and allowed eight hits, one walk and one run. He only struck out two. The Cubs are going to break out the bats today and get to this guy.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Jorge De La Rosa