Despite getting a chance to travel this week and thus listen to the ESPN call of the Wednesday night’s game against the Brewers, I’ve feared that Javier Baez’ tenuous grasp on the MVP was slipping. Assuming most of you didn’t get that broadcast, I’ll sum that the consensus among that crew was that Javy was the favorite to win the award. To be sure, they talked about their being at least eight hitters with a case to win and suggested that all three of the Cy Young candidates should at least be discussed. Rick Sutcliffe as a former Cy Young was quick to dismiss a pitcher winning the MVP.
The announcers liked that Javy plays plus defense at three of the most difficult positions on the diamond. They talked about his base running skills. They didn’t talk a lot about his actually prodigious offensive numbers. I will continue to believe that it is the blend of all three of those that makes him the MVP. Alas, with a cold September and the Brewers closing on the Cubs, it would create a lot of space to create narratives for some of the other players, particularly those on the teams closing out strong. National Sports media can get lazy. I expect there will be a lot of dismissive talk because Javy plays on a very deep and talented team. But that ignores that there was a large swath of time where Javy was the only player on the Cubs with elite production. Even after Anthony got on track, the two were performing as a dynamic duo for a long time.
But then the cold September happened. Cub frustration is at a fever pitch after having to get on a plane immediately following another loss to the Brewers to play a single game in Washington D.C. and then immediately board a plane back to Chicago for a weekend series. With the Brewers cutting the lead down to a single game with a little over two weeks to play, fans, players and management alike are all on edge. And under those conditions, Javy had one of this finest offensive performances of the year. When the standings are this tight, every game, every inning takes on importance. And in those conditions Javier Baez had three hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He had an RBI double in the fourth to tie the score. A solo homer in the sixth to give the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Then he had a beautiful bunt single in the tenth to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead. He drove in three of the runs and scored the fourth. An MVP performance in an MVP caliber season, no matter what the voters decide.
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 146, September 13 - Cubs defeat Nationals 4-3 in 10 innings (85-61)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Javier Baez (.460). This is the ninth largest single game WPA score of the Cubs season and the second largest for Javy behind his June 26 game against the Dodgers. Sixth in the NL in fWAR, and in the top 10 in basically every offensive category not walk related. Even if there are some old school voters, he’s seventh in home runs and first in RBI.
- Hero - Kris Bryant (.220). Kris appears to be finding his groove a bit. He had three more hits, including a double, in five at bats and scored two of the four runs.
- Sidekick - Randy Rosario (.209). Randy picked up the save in the tenth inning to close out the game. If Pedro Strop and/or Brandon Morrow are unable to get ready in time for the playoffs, it will open up an opportunity for another arm to make the playoff roster. Randy appears to be behind a couple of other lefties, but there is definitely room right now for someone to get hot and pitch their way onto the team.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.195). Carl retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh inning and then issued a walk. A stolen base and a double followed and that was all for Carl. I know people are frustrated with Carl. Even before the Strop injury, this team was unlikely to get anywhere in the playoffs without an effective Carl Edwards.
- Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.195). Ben struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth inning as the Cubs loaded the bases with one out and failed to score.
- Kid - Terrance Gore (-.142). Gore becomes the 45th different Cub to receive Heroes and Goats points this year. Gore batted in the ninth inning, after coming into the game defensively earlier, and popped up to the pitcher to end the inning.
WPA Play of the Game: Trea Turner batted with two outs in the seventh inning, a runner on second and the Nationals trailing by one. Carl Edwards was the pitcher and he allowed an RBI double to tie the game. (.230) The third appearance of Edwards in the Play of the Game and all of them have been on the negative side of things. (Though relievers almost never appear as a positive in the Play of the Game.)
*Cubs Play of the Game: The Javier Baez bunt single in the tenth inning that scored the eventual winning run. (.175). Despite being the decisive run, the WPA score is a little less because with one out and runners on first and third, the run expectancy was higher.
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Cole Hamels 15
- 4th - Anthony Rizzo 14
Up Next: The Cubs return home to face the Reds who were off on Thursday. Before that, they took two of three from the Dodger and two of four from the Padres on a seven game home-stand. Overall, the Reds have dropped six of 10, 13 of 20 and 19 of 30. The Reds are back limping to the finish line after a nice bounce in the middle of the season. Of course that will happen to teams well off the pace as they trade off some pieces, shut down some injured ones and give a little more playing time to some younger players. These Reds are 21-20 against left handed starters and the Cubs will start three of them. So this will not be a pushover.
First up for the Cubs will be Cole Hamels. Cole is 9-9 with a 3.71 ERA on the season. Over his last seven starts, he is 3-0 with a 1.58 ERA as he has been fantastic for the Cubs. He’s been slightly less fantastic in his last two starts against the Brewers and Nationals on the road. In those two games he’s thrown a total of 11⅔ innings allowing eight hits, six walks and five runs while striking out 10. He also finally allowed his first home run as a Cub in the last start. He has faced the Reds once since coming to the Cubs and you may remember that one since it was a complete game. He allowed eight hits, two walks and one run in that one while striking out seven.
Matt Harvey will be the Reds starter. He is 7-8 with a 4.87 ERA. But he’s pitched better down the stretch. Over his last seven starts he’s 2-2 with a 4.19 ERA. His last start was a win against the Padres. In that one he threw six innings and allowed four hits, three walks and two runs while striking out 10. He’s faced the Cubs three times this year. He’s 1-0 and has allowed six runs (five earned) across 17 innings of work. Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez have both hit Harvey pretty well. Daniel Murphy and Addison Russell have smaller samples, but have both crushed him. Victor Caratini who has been catching Cole Hamels was two for three with a double against Harvey earlier this year. And for an oddity, both Randy Rosario and Alec Mills had singles against him this year.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed