For the first time in the long history of the Chicago Cubs, they’ve opened the season by scoring 10 or more runs five times in the first 10 games. That’s a nifty little feat. Unfortunately, it is accompanied by a 3-7 start. Last year, there was a lot of talk about the disparity in scoring in Cubs wins versus that in Cubs wins. The Cubs have averaged 12 runs per win so far. They’ve averaged just a shade over five runs in their seven losses. But here’s the deal about that. At just over five runs per game, they’d score over 830 runs. That number would be almost a 70 run improvement over the 2018 Cubs. And you can’t completely dismiss the runs they have scored in their wins. Today’s win came against Jameson Taillon, a talented young Pirates starter.
To my eye, through 10 games, the Cubs offense looks to be relentless in the way that the 2016 offense was. They work pitch counts, they look for pitches to drive and they try to keep the line moving. The ball is leaving the yard at a healthy rate, but it doesn’t seem like every batter is trying to hit a three run homer anymore. It looks to be working.
Of course, the pitching had been a mess until the last two games. There is no hedging just how bad things had been. Even on Sunday, Kyle Hendricks legitimately gave up four runs in just four innings of work. There was nothing cheap in there and if anything, he could have allowed even more runs than he did. The bullpen did throw four scoreless innings though on Sunday and they added seven(!) more of them on Monday. Combined with a scoreless ninth on Saturday, the bullpen now has 12 scoreless innings in a row. Fortunately, with 11 innings of work in two days, they have Tuesday off.
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 10, April 8: Cubs 10, Pirates 0
- Superhero: Ben Zobrist (.179). I see what you are doing Ben. I won’t question the lack of power numbers while you just keep getting on. Ben had a single, two walks, a run scored and two RBI in four plate appearances.
- Honorable Mention: Jon Lester, hitter (.124). Jon had a big RBI double to start the scoring in the second inning. He also scored a run before leaving with a tight hamstring.
- Hero: Brad Brach (.067). Brach makes his debut in Heroes and Goats with a hero placement. He lands there with two innings of work that included one hit, one walk and three strikeouts. He picked up the win after Lester left early. He’s allowed only one run over his first six innings of work for the Cubs. That BB/9 has got to come down though (10.5).
- Sidekick: Jon Lester (.054). Lopsided games produce weird WPA results. Jon lands here for two very good innings to start the game. He was touched for two hits to start the third and his velocity seemed to be down. It was the right decision to go get Jon. It’s a long season and the Cubs are going to need plenty of innings out of big Jon.
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.024). Willson has been one of the forces in the early going for the Cubs. Today though he was hitless in four at bats. He struck out three times.
- Goat: Kris Bryant (-.014). Kris hit several balls pretty squarely today. One of them went for an RBI double. A couple of them found fielders and a couple of them were fouled out of play. But there was incremental progress. Unsurprisingly, a healthy Kris Bryant will break out soon.
- Kid: David Bote (.000). I had to break a multi-way tie with this one as several players finished at .000. I gave it to Bote who is appearing in Heroes and Goats for the first time this year. David was hitless in two at bats. Everyone else who recorded a .000 was either 0-1 or threw a scoreless inning.
WPA Play of the Game: Ben Zobrist batted with two outs, runners on second and third and the Cubs leading 1-0. He lined a single and it scored two runs, including Jon Lester who might have pulled a hamstring coming around to score. (.148)
*Pirate Play of the Game: Kris Bryant lined out for the first out in the first inning after a lead-off walk. (.033)
Cumulative Standings Top 3/Bottom 3:
(# = returned to minors)
- Ben Zobrist 11
- Willson Contreras 5
- Javier Baez 5
- Kris Bryant -5
- Kyle Hendricks -6
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -8
Up Next: The teams are scheduled for a Tuesday off day. The series will resume on Wednesday, weather permitting. When the series resumes, the Cubs will look to Yu Darvish who will be making his third start of the season but first at home. Yu has thrown 6⅔ innings over two stars and has an 0-1 record and 8.10 ERA. He has only two starts against the Pirates, but the results have been good in those. He is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings of work.
Jordan Lyles will be the opposition. Jordan has made one start so far this year. In that one start, he was unscored upon in five innings of work. The 28 year-old right hander hasn’t been a regular starter since 2014 with the Rockies. He’s 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA against the Cubs in 12 appearances, half of which were starts. In his career, Jordan has an opponent OPS of .765 against right handed hitters and .816 versus left handed hitters. Expect to see much the same lineup as the Cubs deployed today.
If Yu can bounce back from two rough starts, this seems like a pitching match-up that could go well for the Cubs.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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