Not to troll a poster of Bleed Cubbie Blue, but yesterday there was a bit of a discussion about the Jose Quintana trade back in 2017 and how it has been a disappointment. The Cubs traded blue chip prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. I never cry over spilled milk if the process was right even if the results end up wrong. I didn’t love the acquisition, but at the time, acquiring young, quality, cost-controlled pitching was all the rage. Quintana was a serious part of that 2017 team’s second half run to a division title.
Alas, Q has only had fleeting moments of domination between stretches of largely underwhelming. But there was irony the day we had that discussion because Q was lights out yesterday. He became the first Cub to throw pitches in the seventh inning this year and he finished the job, completing that seventh inning as the rains started that threatened to wash away the game.
No, I’m not trolling that poster. I totally understand the frustration. Theo has definitely seemed to have whatever the opposite of the Midas touch is when he has added pitching since the World Series win in 2016. Obviously, it wasn’t always that way. He acquired Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop and Kyle Hendricks. Those four guys represent two great trades and probably the single greatest free agent signing in Cubs history (sorry Andre). Sure, there have been some Steve Cishek‘s along the way. But there have also been Tyler Chatwood’s.
I tweeted last night that I think actually this 2019 season is trolling Cub fans. Particularly Cub fans who sit around griping and stating things as full stop conclusions. Jason Heyward has had a fantastic week at the plate. Will he turn back into a pumpkin? Who knows? Victor Caratini has been a force at the plate (unfortunately, it appears the Cubs will be without that force for weeks due to a broken bone in his hand). Jose Quintana throws the first dominant Cubs start of the year. Meanwhile, Kris Bryant has been the least productive every day player. Anthony Rizzo is off to a bit of a slow start and Javier Baez has underwhelmed between homers.
Part of this 4-8 start is that guys you’d ordinarily count on have been anything but dependable. Kyle Hendricks and Cole Hamels have each had one lousy start. The late leads blown by the bullpen? They were not blown by the shaky back off the bullpen. They were blown by Steve Cishek, Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery. Those were supposed to be the guys who get the ball to Pedro Strop who also lost a tie game.
But, on the bright side, the Cubs have now won three of five. The two losses were two nice starts by Zach Davies and Jordan Lyles combined with an eight out and a five out save by two of the tougher relievers in baseball. No matter how good a team is, they are always going to have a chance of running into good pitching and being shut down for a day. No one would lose a moment’s thought if this team were running along at 7-5 that the Cubs had dropped those last two. But they aren’t and so there is hand wringing. It certainly appears that the Cubs have righted the ship over the last five games. Let’s hope that’s the case.
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 12, April 11: Cubs 2, Pirates 0 (4-8)
- Superhero: Jose Quintana (.435). Jose was dominant in this one. He threw seven innings and allowed only four hits and one walk while striking out 11.
- Hero: Daniel Descalso (.210). I pointed out that Daniel had a rough four games, but then he came through with two hits in three at bats, including the game’s biggest hit to drive in the first run in the seventh.
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (.117). No hits for Jason, but he continued stringing together quality at bats. He did draw one walk in three plate appearances and he scored the decisive run.
- Billy Goat: Javier Baez (-.244). Javy was hitless in four at bats including producing one of the weirdest double plays I’ve ever seen. Javy fouled a ball off with runners on second and third and one out in the sixth. He thought it hit is foot, didn’t run and Ben Zobrist was out coming home. Javy was tagged out to end the inning. If the Cubs had lost this game, I can’t imagine how this play would be talked about today.
- Honorable Mention: Jose Quintana (-.116). With the bottom of the order getting on base a lot, pitchers are coming up in some key spots. Jose struck out with runner on second in the third. He also grounded out with runners on second and third and two outs in the fifth. And that’s how you run up -.116 in just two at bats.
- Goat: Kyle Schwarber (-.087). With three strike outs in four at bats, Kyle’s slump continues. Kyle has only four hits in 35 April plate appearances. One of those hits was a home run. But he’s also struck out in 12 of them.
- Kid: Anthony Rizzo (-.031). Rizzo was hitless in four at bats with two strikeouts. Anthony has 40 April at bats and six hits. One of those was a homer and another a double. Four walks and very evenly distributed hits has kept him productive. He’s scored six runs and driven in five during that time. But he’s well off of the production we all expect from him.
WPA Play of the Game: The bizarre Baez double play ends up being the largest WPA event of the day at -.203. There is a pretty high run expectation with runners on second and third and one out (even ignoring, as WPA does, that it was Javier Baez at the plate).
*Cubs Play of the Game: Daniel Descalso batted with one out and a man on second. Jason Heyward had reached on an error when three Pirates converged on a wind blown pop up and failed to come down with the ball. Heyward scampered to second where he scored on a Descalso single. Descalso moved to second on the throw home. (.189)
Cumulative Standings Top 3/Bottom 3:
(# - returned to minors)
- Ben Zobrist 11
- Jason Heyward 6
- Willson Contreras 5
- Yu Darvish/Kris Bryant -5
- Kyle Hendricks -6
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: Fresh off of their first series win of the season, the Cubs will host the Los Angeles Angels who are 7-6 in their first year under Brad Ausmus. If you’ve been paying attention, they just swept the Brewers. They also won the final three games of a four game set with the Rangers, so they are on a six game winning streak.
The Cubs will send Cole Hamels to the mound for his third start of the year. He is 1-0 despite a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings of work. Last time out he had a quality start against the Brewers with six innings of two run ball. Last year, Cole faced the Angels just one time and he got a no decision despite seven innings of two run ball. Pitching for the Rangers, he faced them four times and was 2-1. He allowed eight runs in 27 innings of work. Current Rangers have a total of 289 plate appearances against Cole with a line of .229/.294/.401. Unsurprisingly, Mike Trout has been one of the more productive Angels against Cole (.979 OPS in 29 PA). Our old friend Jonathan Lucroy has also hit him well (1.242 in 25 PA).
This Angels team should have more than a little familiarity even for Cubs fans like me who primarily only watch Cubs games. Lucroy is the catcher. Former Marlin (and Cubs farm hand) Justin Bour is their primary first baseman, Tommy La Stella is at second and Zach Cozart is their third baseman. And of course, long time Cubs nemesis Albert Pujols is their regular designated hitter. Albert has already played a couple of games at first for the Angels this year, so he hasn’t forgotten how to field yet. Trevor Cahill should be lined up to start Sunday’s game.
Tyler Skaggs will be the starter for the Angels. Tyler has also made two starts and he is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings of work. Last time out, he threw 6⅓ innings allowing one run against the Rangers. Last year, Skaggs made a career high 24 starts for the Angels and was 8-10 with a 4.02 ERA in 125⅓ innings of work. Anthony Rizzo is the only Cub with regular season at bats against Skaggs and he was hitless in three at bats.
Skaggs is left handed, so look for David Bote and Albert Almora Jr. to get back on the field. I suspect with his recent slump, Kyle Scwharber might get the day off. For his career, Skaggs has given up an .807 OPS the second time through the order (.691 first), so he appears to be one of those guys who you might be able to figure out after you’ve seen him once. Right handed hitters do hit him better (.750 OPS v .701), but not massively. His home road splits also show that he’s been better on the road (.772 OPS home, .705 away).
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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