I was in Milwaukee on business Friday morning and early afternoon. I even drove past Miller Park. I considered staying in Wisconsin and grabbing a ticket to the game. Boy, am I glad that I did not. Instead, I came home, went to a choral and music performance at my daughter’s school that my daughter was involved in. Boy, did I win that decision.
Oh, I followed the game on my phone between acts. But I didn’t have to watch that game. The Cubs appear to think they have discovered a new market inefficiency. Fall behind eight runs and see how it ends. Unfortunately, the answer is, in yet another loss.
There appear to be two pressing issues around the Cubs that are generating the most conversation. I’ll weigh in on both. First, the one that was most a part of last night’s game. Carl Edwards Jr. He seems like a really cool dude. I’d love for him to succeed and to become the star that his talent says that he could be. Carl should not be a member of the 2019 Cubs at this point. At minimum he should be with the Iowa Cubs. And in the bigger picture, Carl is absolutely someone who looks like a prime candidate for a change of scenery. It is hard to get anything of value at all for a guy with a 32.40 ERA over his first four appearances (totaling 1⅔ innings of work). He also has a 4.8 WHIP and has allowed two home runs in less than two innings of work. He is a flat out disaster right now.
The other issue is Joe Maddon. I do not believe he is imminently going to be fired. I do believe it is increasingly obvious that, barring a stunning turn of events, he will not be the manager of the 2020 Cubs. I still have absolute belief in Joe’s abilities. But for whatever reason, it just isn’t working anymore. It’s not Joe’s fault that Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana have combined to allow 19 earned runs in 18⅔ innings. Sadly, I didn’t include Kyle Hendricks in that calculation, because his start with the eight runs allowed in 4⅓ innings included six unearned runs. Jon Lester is the only Cubs starter who has really given the Cubs any chance to win. The bullpen has been terrible to say the least, but through seven games, this is the worst performance I believe I have ever seen out of a starting rotation to start the season.
Absent one of the Cubs leaders, say Anthony Rizzo or Jon Lester, going to Theo Epstein or someone in the front office and saying that they absolutely believe this is Joe’s fault, I don’t see an early season firing. Would they consider say a late August parting of ways out of mercy if things go really south? Yeah, I imagine that’s possible. Particularly if the feeling is mutual. But I do not believe that they will send him to the firing squad.
How low can this go? I frankly don’t know. The bullpen isn’t a work of art by any stretch of the imagination. But, between the MLB team, the Iowa team and the injured list, I believe there are enough pieces to make the bullpen good enough to not cripple a team with a strong offense and starting rotation. The offense has shown up. I don’t want to hear any BS about except against Texas they’ve been bad. Two things on that. One, you can’t dismiss almost half of a team’s body of work just to make your narrative. Two, every player and every team piles up numbers against bad pitching. The best teams and the best players are the ones who don’t fall off as much against good pitching. The Cubs have averaged over six runs per game this year. The Cubs have the fourth highest team OPS at .890. Instead of saying that three of those games were against the Rangers, note that four of those games are against the Braves and Brewers. Both were division winners last year and both teams have decent pitching. Not great, but decent.
So, the pieces are clearly there to right this ship. I don’t believe this is a 90 loss team any more today than I did when Pecota made what I still believe to be a ridiculous projection for this team. I’m going to believe that was an insulting projection unless and until this team loses its 76th game. At that point, maybe, just maybe I’ll accept that they are on their way to more than 80 losses.
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 7, April 5: Cubs 10 at Brewers 13 (1-6)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.087). Willson officially only had one hit and one walk on the night. He was also hit by a pitch. The hit was a home run. He scored twice. It’s early to say it, but All-Star level Contreras appears to be back.
- Hero: Daniel Descalso (.067). Daniel has been fantastic so far as a Cub. He had three more hits last night, including his first home run as a Cub. He drove in three and scored two.
- Sidekick: Albert Almora Jr. (.024). Albert had a pinch hit single in the Cubs belated ninth inning rally. He drove in a run and scored another. I will note as a counter point to the Cubs offense that indeed some of the numbers are being piled up on secondary relievers because the Cubs are so far out of every game that leverage relievers aren’t getting much work against them.
- Billy Goat: Jose Quintana (-.369). Boy, do I hate that in the end I’m going to regret the Quintana trade. He didn’t lead the Cubs to a World Series, though he did have a big part in a division title the year he got here. And man ,do I wish the Cubs still had Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease right about now. Q allowed eight hits, three walks and eight runs in three innings of work. The Brewers took him deep three times.
- Goat: Carl Edwards Jr. (-.067). Carl allowed a home run to the first batter he faced. That might as well count as two runs because he inherited a runner. He did manage to record two outs and even strike out a batter.
- Kid: Javier Baez (-.049). Javy struck out four times in four at bats. That is 11 strike outs in his first 31 at bats of the season. It’s an admittedly small sample size, but not a great trend line.
WPA Play of the Game: Everybody’s favorite Brewer, Ryan Braun, batted with two on and two outs in the second. The Brewers were already up 3-0. Braun belted a home run. (.119)
*Cubs Play of the Game: In the first inning, Mike Moustakas batted with runners on first and second and no outs. The Brewers were already up 2-0. Q coaxed a double play ball that helped limit the damage in the inning. (.068)
Cumulative Standings Top 3/Bottom 3:
- Willson Contreras 8
- Ben Zobrist 5
- Daniel Descalso 5
- Kyle Hendricks -3
- Randy Rosario -3
- Albert Almora Jr. -3
- Jose Quintana -3
- Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: Game two of a three game set with the Milwaukee Brewers. Cole Hamels will face Corbin Burnes in a battle of two guys who had a rough first start of the season. Hamels allowed five earned runs in five innings. He battled a tough strike zone in that one, so let’s hope he can take a step forward in this one. Cole’s career stats will always be a little deceptive against the National League because many of them were piled up years ago as a Phillie. Cole has made 15 career starts against the Brewers and is 7-3 with a 3.60 ERA. In 2018, he had one start against the Brewers and a 3.00 ERA in six innings of work. They only posted an OPS of .534 against him.
Corbin Burnes allowed four runs in five innings of his first start. The 24 year old right handed pitcher appeared in 30 games out of the bullpen for the Brewers last year and posted a 2.61 ERA over 38 innings of work. He had 4⅓ innings of work against the Cubs last year over four games. He allowed Cubs hitters a .919 OPS with two home runs in just 16 at bats.
The sample sizes above are meaningless. But I’m just going to say that it is extremely hard to lose seven times in a row for any team, regardless of talent. Additionally, it is hard to win seven times in a row, regardless of talent. The Cubs are going to win this game.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed