I have to recycle and go back to David Lee Murphy in my open today.
[Chorus] Everything’s gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be alright. And nobody’s gotta worry ‘bout nothing. Don’t go hittin’ that panic button. It ain’t worth spilling your drink. Everything’s gonna be alright. Alright, alright.
Really, it is going to be all right. I know it is bleak right now. I spent most of my time last night watching the Cubs while saying game-thread words and angrily tweeting. I don’t second (or in this case first) guess Joe Maddon very often. But Carl Edwards Jr. was the second worst choice (better than Dillon Maples) in the Cubs bullpen to come into the game with runners on second and third and two outs with the Brewers eight hitter Orlando Arcia at the plate. I immediately said that the key here was to not have a wild pitch. Barely had time to finish saying it, and then it happened.
That said, don’t be one of those people who is blaming this on Edwards not hustling to the plate. They weren’t going to get an out once that ball rattled around by the video boards. The Edwards lack of awareness and hustle highlights why he wasn’t the right person for that spot, but it didn’t cost the Cubs. That run was going to score. Had he not caught the return throw, the problem was it was going to cost the Cubs a second run there.
But let’s be clear, the Cubs have one of the best offensive teams in baseball this year. They managed just five hits and four walks last night. They did fine against Wade Miley last night. Two runs in five innings against that guy is fine. They were patient, they executed a plan. I have no issues with the first five innings. The last four? Completely and totally over-matched. The Cubs managed one hit and one walk in those last four innings. The hit? A fluky single up the middle that struck Corbin Burnes in the foot and bounced high enough that even slow footed Albert Almora Jr. could record an infield hit. 14 batters faced by the Brewers pen, eight strike out, one walk and one hit.
Looking specifically at Wade Miley, the Cubs managed just four hits and four walks in seven innings against two left handed pitchers. On the season now, the Cubs have a cumulative .262/.336/.403 line against lefties and a .262/.338/.424 line against righties. I’m confident that the line against lefties is falling. MVP-level Javier Baez and a strong first half from Albert Almora Jr. covered a lot of the team’s woes against left handed pitchers. But the fact is that Willson Contreras, Almora, Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, a core that should be crushing lefties are all under-achieving to different degrees right now.
Contreras since the All-Star break: (not including last night) .214/.313/.298. Almora: .230/.274/.294. Russell: .212/.248/.240. Baez: .299/.323/.567. Bryant: .255/.352/.362 (in a total of 54 plate appearances). Literally, from the right side, it is Baez or bust. If I stretch and add in Ben Zobrist (.321/.371/.396) vs. lefties for the season, Ian Happ (.216/.309/.340) vs. lefties for the season and David Bote (.246/.321/.444) full season numbers, it doesn’t get a ton better. This team is extremely susceptible to left handed pitching, unless and until Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras start hitting.
My conclusion? I still believe the Cubs win the division. It’ll be much closer than it ever should have been. Even a team literally designed on depth is finally cratering under the weight of being without its expected No. 2 pitcher (Yu Darvish), its expected No. 5 pitcher (Tyler Chatwood), its closer (Brandon Morrow), for much of the season. Its key right handed hitters, Russell, Bryant, and Contreras have been slowed by a combination of injuries and just general ineffectiveness. When shutting down Drew Smyly yesterday (which was always the general expectation), they talked about basically not having enough runway left to take off with him. That’s starting to feel like it might be talking about this team. Can Jason Heyward get back up to speed? Morrow? Bryant? Contreras? Russell? Edwards? The talent is there and there are plenty of healthy bodies to get it done. But what is going to reignite all of these struggling bats and arms? I just don’t know anymore.
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 143, September 10 - Cubs bats silenced by Brewers bullpen for third straight loss, 3-2 (83-60)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Willson Contreras (.075). Willson had a double, scored a run and then drew a walk in the ninth inning to give the Cubs a last gasp of hope. Willson is probably the last guy on the team that I ever thought I’d be frustrated with, but when they look at framing statistics, do they look at pitches in the zone? I know Willson gets a poor grade for gaining strikes on balls near the zone. Does he also grade out as just about the worst catcher at getting strikes actually in the zone? I know that arm is a weapon, but I’m really souring on him behind the plate otherwise.
- Hero - Brandon Kintzler (.065). Brandon faced two batters and retired them both after inheriting runners on first and second with one out. Brandon was the guy I’d have brought in after Lester departed.
- Sidekick - Jesse Chavez (.058). Jesse did allow a lead off single, but faced the minimum after getting a double play ball.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Albert Almora Jr. (-.157). Albert had the last hit for the Cubs in the sixth when he bounced one off the foot of Brewers reliever Corbin Burnes. He lands here for a couple of at bats. He struck out for the second out in the ninth (-.068). He also grounded into a double play in the fourth (-.070). He also made the last out in the first inning with runners on first and second (-.042). Your mileage may vary, but I’ve reached the point where I only want to see Albert as a defensive replacement. He is totally lost at the plate.
- Goat - Tommy La Stella (-.147). Don’t feel bad Tommy, you did what pretty much all of the Cubs hitters did against the Brewers bullpen. Tommy got deployed in a position where he could pull one out of the wreckage. He batted with speedy Terrence Gore on second and two outs. Tommy is a fine mid-game pinch hitter. He has trouble catching up to high end fastballs, so he isn’t really a great end of game pinch-hitter.
- Kid - Anthony Rizzo (-.101). Len Kasper half quoted a stat last night about the Cubs having a crazy good record when Anthony gets on base. He never did get on base and the Cubs lost. Anthony did drive in a run with a ground out in the first inning.
WPA Play of the Game: Tommy La Stella struck out to end the game. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras’ double leading off the fifth inning. (.090)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 18.5
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo 16
- 4th - Cole Hamels 15.5
- 5th - Ben Zobrist 14.5
Up Next: Game two of the three game set. The Cubs will send Jose Quintana to the mound. He is 12-9 with a 4.14 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-2 with a 3.83 ERA. Last time out was against the Brewers. In that one, he threw 6⅔ innings and collected the win. He allowed five hits, two walks and two runs while striking out five. He’s faced the Brewers five times already this year and is 3-1 with a 2.64 ERA, allowing 20 hits and nine runs over 30⅔ innings of work. One word of caution, the one loss was at Wrigley Field. However, I believe I recall the wind blowing out pretty hard that day and that isn’t usually the case this time of year.
Jhoulys Chacin is the opposition. He is 14-6 with a 3.59 ERA. He’s 4-3 with a 4.02 ERA over his last seven. His last time out was against Quintana. He only lasted 4⅔ innings and allowed seven hits, a walk and five runs (three earned). He’s faced the Cubs three times this year and those are the only five runs he’s allowed in 17⅔ innings of work. He dominated the Cubs in Wrigley back in August with seven innings of three hit, two walk, no run, 10 strike out ball.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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