Yep, the Cubs are 12-7 since the last time we checked the standings. Two different two game losing streaks this past week made it feel much worse. But in a very tough stretch of games, the Cubs largely took care of business. The entire reason people make a big deal out of division games was on display in there. If you could take any one of the 11 wins against teams other than the Brewers and swap it for one of the losses in the Brewers series, voila! The Cubs would have another game lead in the division. Sure would be great if the Brewers were now coming to Chicago and there was a second chance to win games from the Brewers wouldn’t it? Oh yeah, that’s what’s next. We’ll talk about it more in a bit, but if the Cubs win two out of three in this series, the road gets very difficult for the Brewers.
The rain seriously messed with the Cubs weekend. That’s been talked about endlessly. It would be great if there were such a thing as a fan’s bill of rights. Unfortunately, there isn’t and there almost certainly never will be. However, maybe the players will some day fix this on behalf of the fans. Friday night’s fans got to see a little over an inning of baseball in the rain. Then the game was postponed and made part of a single admission double header. So their tickets were good for a rain check. Regardless if that could be cashed out, traded for another game or whatever, almost none of the people in attendance benefit from that. Season ticket holders already have tickets to every game (assuming a full time season ticket holder). A local Nats fan who goes to a handful of games per year may well have hand picked that specific game because it was a Friday night game between two of the preseason favorites (and they surely paid a pretty penny for it). Then there are the traveling Cubs fans. Not that (rainy) D.C. is the worst MLB city to end up in without a game, but I can’t imagine having flown to D.C. to see that game (or the Sunday one) and having it rained out. You always have that risk of course when you travel to see the team, but the possibility that someone had tickets to three or four games in that series and maybe only saw one or two is crazy.
As for the players, this gauntlet that was thrown at them has been extended. Sure, they didn’t end up playing really on Friday. They didn’t play at all on Sunday. But of course they played two games on Saturday, so the math is off. Certainly, some of the pitcher’s arms got some extra time off. The nature of Saturday’s craziness is that just about every usable arm down in the bullpen was used at some point. The good news is that no one has thrown more than once. So from that aspect, yes there was a pause. But from the overall fatigue level that grows when you are traveling and having an inconsistent schedule, this was turned up to 11. Friday night they waited until nearly midnight ET to cancel the game. Then there was the doubleheader Saturday. And of course the second game of that had a decent rain delay, making that game end well after midnight. Then they had to be at the park on Sunday very early... for a game that never happened. I assume that most of the people reading this travel at least a bit. Think about one of those days where you had to have a layover somewhere. Or for some reason or another had to get to the airport very early or a flight was delayed. Even if you had access to a lounge or whatever, those long days of just being on hold are exhausting. Yes, the Cubs finally got in last night and yes, they’ll have gotten to sleep in their own beds. Well, most of them will have. For guys like Daniel Murphy and Cole Hamels and Jesse Chavez and Brandon Kintzler and Jorge De La Rosa and even David Bote, they’ll sleep wherever they’ve arranged to be sleeping. But you know for all of them it isn’t “home.”
I’m not asking anyone to cry a river for these guys, but it’s the most inanely insensitive thing is when people just dismiss them as millionaire athletes and tell them to get over it. They aren’t asking anyone to feel sorry for them or whatever. But that doesn’t mean you can’t understand that this is a pretty awful experience. And to understand that there is no way the Cubs will be night in, night out be playing A+ ball like they were a little over a week ago. Fortunes can change in a hurry.
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 22 (+2)
- Javier Baez 18.5 (-1)
- Anthony Rizzo 17 (+3)
- Cole Hamels 15.5 (+6.5)
- Ben Zobrist 14.5 (-1.5)
- Brandon Morrow (DL) 13 (0)
- Kyle Hendricks 11 (+5)
- Jon Lester 10 (+4)
- Ian Happ 9.5 (+6)
- Mike Montgomery 9 (-3)
- Jose Quintana 9 (+5)
- Randy Rosario 5 (-1)
- David Bote 4.5 (+1)
- Jorge De La Rosa 4 (+3)
- Steve Cishek 3 (-8)
- Jesse Chavez 2 (-3)
- Efren Navarro 2 (0)
- *Rob Zastryzny 2 (0)
- Daniel Murphy 2 (+2)
- Justin Hancock (DL) 1 (0)
- *Cory Mazzoni 1 (0)
- Jason Heyward (DL) 0 (-4)
- Luke Farrell 0 (0)
- *Anthony Bass 0 (0)
- Kris Bryant 0 (0)
- Alec Mills -2 (-1)
- Victor Caratini -1.5 (+3)
- Dillon Maples -2 (0)
- James Norwood -2 (0)
- Kyle Schwarber -2 (-2)
- Eddie Butler -3 (0)
- *Jen-Ho Tseng -3 (0)
- Jaime Garcia -3 (-3)
- Tommy La Stella -4 (0)
- Carl Edwards Jr. -5 (0)
- Chris Gimenez -5 (0)
- Yu Darvish (DL) -6 (0)
- Tyler Chatwood -7 (0)
- Brian Duensing -7.5 (+2)
- Justin Wilson -9 (-4)
- Brandon Kintzler -11 (-4)
- Albert Almora Jr. -24.5 (-6)
- Willson Contreras -35 (+3)
- Addison Russell -44 (0)
44 Cubs have now appeared in Heroes and Goats, the most recent addition being Jaime Garcia. There is a chance that will cap things, though Bobby Wilson, Taylor Davis or Terrance Gore have some chance of showing up in this, particularly if the Cubs were to clinch the division early as I could see all of them getting some final weekend playing time if things are wrapped up ahead of time.
Pedro Strop remains on top for the second consecutive full standings update. Pedro has been fantastic in the second half of this season for the Cubs. It appears to be a five man race for this year’s full season championship. Inertia is the big winner this year as no one has really gotten extended out into the +30 and +40 range that we’ve seen in year’s past. The Cubs have eight players though in +10 territory with three more within a point of it. On the bottom, there have been two break away players with Addison Russell at -44 and Willson Contreras at -35. After his hand injury, Addison seemed destined to set a new low for Heroes and Goats, but with very little playing time since he came off of the disabled list, that doesn’t look like the case anymore. Four players are below -10 and 1 more is knocking on the door at -9. So basically, the good has been spread around and the bad has been lumped into a select few.
For this period of 19 games, the highest positive contribution was from Cole Hamels at +6.5, followed closely by Ian Happ at +6 and Jose Quintana at +5. It is not surprising to me at all that the Cubs went on a mini-run in there and it was keyed largely by pitching. To the downside, Steve Cishek lead the way at -8 following by Albert Almora Jr. at -6. Steve Cishek had the opportunity to stop a couple of games from swinging from wins to losses and didn’t get the job done. A reminder that all relievers go through ups and downs.
National League Standings and Run Differential:
With a 12-7 stretch, the Cubs have moved out to 24 games over .500 (they’ve been as high as 26 games over twice). Their winning percentage is .585 which is up from .577. It is amazing how perception and timing work isn’t it? This should have been viewed as a positive stretch. Alas, the Brewers are now at .569 and that has them just two games out of first heading into the home stretch. At .585, the Cubs have the fifth best record in baseball, one spot better than last time as they have passed the Indians. The Cubs are a full three games behind the A’s for the fourth-best record in MLB and two and a half games better than the Indians to keep the sixth. The most probable outcome is that the Cubs finish with the fifth-best record in baseball and tops in the National League.
The Cubs run differential is now at +109 up a full +20 since the last check, even with a lopsided loss Saturday afternoon. +109 is second in the NL (Dodgers +132) and seventh in baseball (ahead of only the A’s among the five top AL teams). They are down one place in that regard. The Dodgers have pulled back to within a half game of the NL West lead and one game behind the second wild card. With a soft schedule remaining, the Dodgers remain the favorite to squeak out another division title. However, the Dodgers have only seven home games left and 14 road games.
CBS Sports is projecting the Cubs to win 95.5 games (up 2.3 games) to have an 87.8% (up 12.3%) chance of winning the division and a 99.8% (up 4.1%) chance of reaching the postseason. All of those numbers are up from the last time. All are the best marks in the NL. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Cubs have a 4½-game lead on the Braves and a five-game lead on the Rockies. The NL Central winner will have home field advantage in the NL playoffs barring an epic collapse.
On Fangraphs, they are projecting the Cubs to win 94.5 games (up 1.5 games), to have an 80.4% (down 3.6%) chance of winning the division, a 99.8% (up 1.7%) chance of making the playoffs and a 10.1% (down .6%) chance of winning it all. So Fangraphs has given a bit more credit to the run the Brewers have made than Sportsline has. However, both sites are still pretty confident the Cubs will win the Central. Only the Nationals and Dodgers have easier schedules remaining than the Cubs and Brewers among teams with any shot of the post season. The Nationals will be eliminated any day now as a team with even a mathematical shot. The Cubs odds of everything except winning the World Series are best in the NL. The Dodgers have a 16.2% chance of winning it all if they can just get into the playoffs.
Team Hitting and Pitching Stats:
The Cubs are scoring 4.81 runs per game (+.03), best in the NL and sixth in the MLB. The Cubs have a .263 batting average (up .001), second in the MLB and first in the NL. They have a .338 on base percentage (down .002), tied for best in MLB. They have a .420 slugging percentage (up .003) third in the NL and 10th in MLB. By any measure, the Cubs have had one of the best offensive seasons in baseball. If you are holding you breath for a Chili Davis firing, you should probably let it go.
The Cubs have allowed 4.04 runs per game (down .02), third in the NL and sixth overall (up two places overall). The Cubs are allowing 8.1 hits per nine (up .1) which remains fifth in the NL and is tied for eighth overall. The Cubs allow 3.9 walks per nine (down .1) which remains second to last in all of baseball, but is finally closing in on the staff in front of them (the Braves). The Cubs WHIP of 1.332 (down .005) is a bit above league average (1.305).
The offense has shown some slight improvement over this long stretch and the pitching has as well. Things are heading in the right direction heading into the final 20 games of the season for the Cubs.
Up Next: The Milwaukee Brewers come to town for the final three games of the season between the two teams. The Cubs have already won the season series with 10 wins in 16 games. They won 10 games last year and 11 in 2016, so they will be looking to best those numbers. The Brewers come in smoking hot. They’ve won eight of 10, 14 of 20 to push to 20 games move .500 and within two games of first. They just swept the Giants after taking two of three from the Cubs for a 5-1 home-stand.
In tonight’s first game of the series, the Cubs will send Jon Lester to the mound. Jon was of course on the mound for one whole inning on Friday night and so he will be on an unusual schedule leading into this start. However, I’d fully expect a veteran like Jon to be just fine. Jon is 15-5 with a 3.53 ERA on the season. He’s slumped a bit down the stretch with a 3-2 record and a 5.06 ERA over his last seven starts. His last actual start back on September 2 was a very good one. He threw six shutout innings allowing eight hits, no walks and striking out seven in Philadelphia. Jon faced the Brewers once earlier this year back on April 5 and he was the winning pitcher in that one throwing six shutout innings allowing three hits, one walk and striking out six. There is a narrative that the Cubs and/or Jon tries to avoid the Brewers. On the one hand, he’s only faced them once this year and not at all last year. On the other hand, in five starts dating back to 2015, he’s 4-0 against them with a 2.12 ERA. He’s allowed just seven runs in 29⅔ innings of work and four of those runs game in one outing in July of 2016. The good outing earlier this year? It was in Milwaukee. He’s also a perfect three for three at Wrigley against them dating back to 2015.
Wade Miley will be on the mound for the Brewers. He is 3-2 on the season with a 2.12 ERA. Over his last seven starts, he’s 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA. He was outstanding last week against the Cubs. He threw six innings and allowed only three hits, no walks, and one run, while striking out five. Wade has only thrown 63⅔ innings on the year, but they’ve been very good and he shows no signs of slowing down. The Cubs did pound him once last year, but as we’ve talked about in the past, Wade is not the same pitcher he used to be. Even then, his last start in Wrigley Field was in 2016 when he held them to one run on one hit in seven innings while recording a win. This is a good pitching match-up. Hopefully the second time is the charm for the Cubs seeing Miley twice six days apart.
The next time we take a look at a Cumulative Standings post, we’ll be doing a season post-mortem as I’m not going to recap them between now and the end of the season. At that point, we’ll be looking ahead to the Cubs first playoff opponent which will likely be the winner of the wildcard game. In our poll last time, 10 of you correctly selected Cole Hamels as the player who would post the largest positive score this time around.
Who will win this year’s Heroes and Goats Superhero of the Year award?
This poll is closed