Pitchers hitting home runs is fun. Pitchers winning games is more fun. Cole Hamels basically said as much in his own post game interview. Cole Hamels recorded wins in four of his first five Cubs starts. In six starts since then, he’s yet to record a win. Wins are certainly not the be all, end all of stats, but it isn’t great that he stopped recording them. In his first seven starts as a Cub, he allowed no home runs. After having allowed 23 home runs as a Ranger, that was a welcome sight. He’s now allowed six home runs in his last four starts.
In five September starts, Cole has a 4.75 ERA (5.06 FIP). His K/9 is still at 8.31 and his walks at 2.97. Both of those are good numbers. His BABIP is .296, so that isn’t out of whack. His LOB% at 74.4 looks pretty normal too. The big difference is the 1.78 HR/9 and 17.6% HR/FB. To contrast that, in his dominant August, he had an 8.77 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, .292 BABIP, LOB% 90.5, and HR/FB 0.0%. That lead to an ERA of .69 (FIP 2.28). That strand rate was never going to be sustainable, nor was that HR rate. When we simply combine those 11 starts, he ends up with a line of 8.57 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, .294 BABIP, 83.3% LOB, 11.5% HR/FB, .78 HR/9 leading to an ERA of 2.47 and a FIP of 3.50. So, either this is just a really odd sequencing of six dominant starts and five rougher starts or Hamels is trending in a very disturbing direction. You take your pick of interpretation.
The net result was another Cubs loss. I think my favorite reaction to a clunker of a game is that the team lacked urgency. I always love that the idea that the Cubs decided that yesterday was a game they could just punt so they were just messing around. I imagine all of the way down to the Orioles, almost every player on every team shows up with the idea that tonight is going to be a good night. I’d think the big difference (other than of course talent) is that if you are on the Orioles and you allow two first inning runs, the reaction is something like “damn, we lose another one.” As opposed to if you are on the Cubs when you allow two runs in the first and your reaction is “oh, tonight is one of those fun come from behind type of wins!”
I didn’t watch much of that last game in Arizona. If you told me that night that the Cubs mailed it in, I’d probably believe you. I know that game played in a little over two hours. Clearly, the Cubs played that particular game with one eye on the door. That said, the portion of that game that I did watch, the Cubs were driving up pitch counts on the DBacks starter. So even then, they weren’t employing the strategy that would get them out the door the fastest. So I never really think lack of urgency is a very accurate descriptor. Now if you wanted to say that last night the Pirates looked like the better team. I get that. When your starting pitcher stifles the other team, that does an awful lot to making you look good. A two run homer in the top of the first doesn’t hurt either.
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 156, September 24 - Cubs stifled by Pirates in opener 5-1 (91-65)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Honorable Mention - Cole Hamels (.065). In two at bats, he struck out and homered. The homer provided the only run of the game for the Cubs. But, we ignore the results of pitchers while they are hitting so...
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.059). Anthony was one of only two Cubs to reach base twice. He had a walk in the sixth and a single in the eighth. The walk lead the Cubs to their best scoring chance as it put runners on first and second with no outs. Alas, Kyle Schwarber followed with a ground ball double play.
- Hero - Alec Mills (.013). Alec retired three batters starting with one out in the eighth, walked one, struck out one and didn’t allow any runs.
- Sidekick - Jamie Garcia (.011). Jamie faced three batters and retired two of them. The other one came around to score after Jamie left. WPA penalizes the guy who allowed the inherited runners, not the guy who put them on base.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Kyle Schwarber (-.184). Kyle reached base once in four plate appearances, that was via the walk. The double play he hit into in the sixth was a massive turning point in the game and it landed him here (-.174)
- Goat - Ben Zobrist (-.167). Ben was hitless in four at bats.
- Kid - Jason Heyward (-.085). Jason did have a hit. However, he made the last out in the sixth inning with runners on first and third (-.076)
WPA Play of the Game: Francisco Cervelli batted with two outs and a runner on first in the first inning. His two-run home-run was the big blow of the game. (.180).
*Cubs Play of the Game: Cole Hamels hit a solo home run for the Cubs lone run in the third inning. (.108)
- Superhero - Pedro Strop 22
- Hero - Javier Baez 20.5
- Sidekick - Kyle Hendricks 17
- 4th - Anthony Rizzo 15
Up Next: Game two of the four game set is tonight. The Cubs will send Mike Montgomery to the mound. Mike is 5-5 with a 3.75 ERA. Over his last seven starts, he is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA. In four starts since coming off of the disabled list, he is 1-1 and has allowed nine runs in 18⅓ innings. However, his last time out he threw six strong innings in Arizona. He allowed only four hits, one walk and one run on a solo homer. He struck out eight. He’s made two starts against the Pirates this year and won them both. In fact, dating back to August of 2017, Mike has made three career starts against the Pirates and he is 3-0 with a .96 ERA over 18⅔ innings of work. Maybe Mike is just the right guy for the job tonight.
Chris Archer is the Pirates starter. He is 5-8 with a 4.49 ERA on the season. Chris has made nine starts for the Pirates and in those he is 2-3 with a 4.86 ERA over 46⅓ innings. The transition to the National League has not been a smooth one in the early going. Last time out he did pick up a win, but it was against the Royals, an American League opponent. He threw seven innings allowing six hits, one walk and one run. He struck out eight. Chris hasn’t faced the Cubs yet this year. He faced them twice last year and split two decisions, winning the one in Wrigley Field. He allowed five runs over 12 innings of work. No Cub has even 10 plate appearances against Chris.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Cole Hamels (the hitter)