Anthony Rizzo has been on some kind of a tear lately and so it is fitting that he was the Player of the Game, responsible for the Play of the Game and just continued piling up the numbers on Monday. Let’s look at this in increasing chunks. August 15 to present (80 PA) Rizzo is .388/.475/.746. If we expand to July 15 (203 PA), the numbers increase to .359/.453/.635. If we expand to June 15 (307 PA), the numbers are .314/.410/.521. And if we go all of the way back to April 19 when his statistics had bottomed out from his early season injury issues, he has 523 plate appearances and a line of .293/.386/.500. In 2017, he had a .273/.392/.507 line, so he is essentially the same player he was last year. He had an .899 OPS in 2015 as well. 2016 would be an outlier in the group as he was .928 that year (and also .913 in 2014). Anthony Rizzo is one of the most consistently excellent hitters in Major League Baseball.
The bullpen melted down a bit yesterday, allowing runs in both the eighth and ninth innings after Anthony Rizzo’s dramatic home run to give the Cubs a lead. Carl Edwards Jr. and Steve Cishek both battled their control and lost. The strike zone got a lot of attention in the game, but looking at both the WGN pitch box and the Fangraphs scatter plot this morning, it really doesn’t look that bad. To me, this game boils down to wildness among the Cubs relievers. The Daniel Murphy miscue that opened the floodgates in the fifth was revealed to have been a balk anyway, so the error didn’t end up mattering. Edwards walked a third of the batters he faced and allowed hits to another third. Cishek hit two of the five batters he faced and walked another. Those numbers won’t get it done.
As for the last play of the game, I’ll say this. Kris Bryant needs to be more aware of the situation there. First, the play has to be to the plate with the game on the line there. Second, one of the reasons it has to be is that Kris Bryant was positioned well off of the line on the play. He’s almost all of the way out to the hole between short and third. Usually in late situations the third baseman stands almost on top of the line so as not to allow a ball to get down the line. With the bases loaded in the last inning, that isn’t a thing, so he’s off the line. Typically with the bases loaded in a normal situation, with less than two outs in a close game, you play corners in and middle of the infield back for a potential double play. Kris has to be aware of the situation. Stepping on third is a very slow developing play and is never going to get a double play if Christian Yelich is respecting 90 and you know he’s going to in the ninth inning of a rivalry game. I do not know if Kris would have been able to get the out at home regardless, but the play absolutely had to be there. With the bases loaded, Willson Contreras would not have had to get a tag down, so I raise the chances from none with a fast Keon Broxton busting down the line to slim.
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 137, September 3 - Cubs rally back to take the lead then falter late in 4-3 loss (81-57)
THE THREE HEROES:
- Superhero - Anthony Rizzo (.549). Anthony had three hits in four at bats. He drove in two runs with a dramatic eighth inning two-run home-run. This is the fifth largest WPA game of the Cubs season to date.
- Hero - Ian Happ (.118). Ian had three plate appearances and drew two walks. He was along for the ride on Rizzo’s big home run, so that was a key walk he drew there.
- Sidekick - Cole Hamels (.055). Cole had his worst day as a Cub. He threw six innings and allowed five hits, one walk and two runs. He struck out five. May that forever stay his worst game as a Cub. He does keep his streak of reaching one of the Hero places in every game he’s pitched with the Cubs.
THE THREE GOATS:
- Billy Goat - Carl Edwards Jr. (-.317). Carl recorded two outs, allowed two hits, walked two batters. He was charged with one run. Both outs were strike outs. Talk about a mixed bag. I was very surprised Carl was allowed to work as long as he did.
- Goat - Jesse Chavez (-.163). Jesse lands here because he was pitching when the winning run scored. He got a grounder, albeit a smashed grounder, that was fielded cleanly. That was just about everything Jesse could do with one of the best hitters in baseball these days.
- Kid - Daniel Murphy (-.155). Daniel was robbed of a double by a Ryan Braun diving catch. That one might have changed the complexion of this game had it gotten down. Instead, Murphy records a hitless in four at bats day.
WPA Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo’s two-out, two-run home-run in the eighth inning nudges out David Bote’s game-tying home-run on July 26 for the third largest WPA event of the season. (.474)
*Brewers Play of the Game: Mike Moustakas’ walk with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning to tie the game. (.265)
- Superhero - Javier Baez 22.5
- Hero - Pedro Strop 21
- Sidekick - Anthony Rizzo 17
With two players at 15.5 and one at 14, this is the most wide open race to the finish that Heroes and Goats has ever seen. This season’s WPA contributions have been spread around to a large number of players and so there are quite a number of people with a very real chance of winning the full season Superhero award.
Up Next: The two teams will meet again tonight with the Cubs looking to even the series and the Brewers looking to continue to chip away at the Cubs lead in the division. The Cubs will send Mike Montgomery to the mound. Mike is making his second start since coming off of the disabled list. He is 4-4 with a 3.82 ERA on the season. I know I’ve seen some people worry about Mike’s workload this year, but he’s actually right now 27 innings below his load from last year. Last time out, Mike lasted 4⅓ innings and allowed eight hits, one walk and four runs. He looked pretty good through four innings but when he went back out for the fifth, a talented Braves team beat him up more than a little bit. He did strike out six in that game. I look for him to bounce back tonight. Mike did face the Brewers back in June and despite being the losing pitcher, it was one of his better starts of the year. He lasted six innings and only allowed two hits and one walk. Unfortunately, one of the two hits was a home run and despite only giving up that one run, he was the loser.
Wade Miley is on the mound for the Brewers. The lefty has only thrown 57⅔ innings on the year, but he’s been very effective in that time. He’s got a 2-2 record and a 2.19 ERA. Over his last seven starts, he is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He’s been the victim of poor run support a lot. Last time out he threw 7 1⁄3 innings and allowed five hits, one walk and one run in a no decision in Cincinnati. The last time he faced the Cubs was July of 2017 when he lasted just 4 2⁄3 innings and allowed nine hits, four walks and seven runs. Prior to that, he’d had three wins and a no decision in his previous four starts against the Cubs. Even with that seven run performance, Wade has a 4.31 ERA over 31 1⁄3 innings in his last five starts against the Cubs (dating all of the way back to 2013). Addison Russell and Albert Almora Jr. have both homered against Miley in very small samples, so they may both be in the lineup. Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist have seen Miley the most and none of them have hit him well at all. I would suspect that Zobrist and Murphy may both head to the bench.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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