Heavy sigh. Here we go again. Friday afternoon’s game ended with the same verse as many of the previous ones. The Cubs need a closer. The funny thing is, that isn’t quite the right assessment of Friday’s game. Steve Cishek is a perfectly reasonable choice for closer. He’d thrown 11 games without allowing a run. Over that time, he threw 13⅓ innings, converted four saves. Pitched more than an inning three times. He’d registered a 2.26 FIP over that time. He struck out 13 over that time and walked only four.
The argument then is that the Cubs need more relievers. The Cubs shopped in the bargain basement this offseason, trying to keep down the team payroll for an in-season acquisition. That decision has to this date, completely blown up in their faces. They added Rowan Wick (1 IP, 1 ER), re-signed Kyle Ryan (16 IP, 9 ER), signed Kendall Graveman (recovering from Tommy John surgery), signed Colin Rea (Iowa), re-signed Allen Webster (11 IP, 7 ER), signed Junichi Tazawa (Iowa), signed Tony Barnette (IL), signed Brad Brach (19⅔ IP, 6 ER), and signed Xavier Cedeno (2 IP, 0 ER). Collectively, that is 49⅔ innings at the big league level and 23 earned runs allowed (4.17 ERA). That’s not terrible. It’s the literal definition of “meh.”
They got what they paid for. The problem is, it wasn’t altogether difficult to see that they needed help. That said, the biggest problems for the Cubs have been Mike Montgomery (7 ER in 13⅓ innings), Pedro Strop (6 ER in 10⅔ IP), and Carl Edwards Jr. (9 ER in 8⅓ IP). Steve Cishek, Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Kintzler have been effective. A team needs at least seven effective relievers and the Cubs have been rolling with just three. This is the first time Strop has had extended struggles as a Cub. Edwards has never struggled like this at the MLB level. Montgomery at least, has looked better of late.
Broken record alert: the Cubs will add a reliever and likely multiple relievers at the deadline. Every single team with reasonable resources will add relievers in-season. The Cubs have added them in each of their contention years dating back to 2015. Over recent years, the Cubs have added:
- 2018 Jesse Chavez, Brandon Kintzler, Jorge De La Rosa
- 2017 Justin Wilson
- 2016 Mike Montgomery, Joe Smith, Aroldis Chapman
- 2015 Rafael Soriano, Clayton Richard, Tommy Hunter, Trevor Cahill and Fernando Rodney
Even in 2015, when they were much less of a sure thing to make the playoffs, they were continually adding to their depth in the pen. I’m wrong about plenty of things, but in the preseason preview, I suggested that if the Cubs could have any one thing go right, I would want it to be bullpen health. This bullpen has been anything but. It’s gotta get healthy and the front office has to add. This front office is not going to let this team go down in flames without adding a reliever. The team is good. It has a legit chance at winning the World Series. Dumping a few games in April and May could affect their chances by a small amount, but it won’t torpedo those chances. This team is too good.
Buckle up. It’s going to be a wild ride.
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 49, May 24: Cubs 5, Reds 6 (29-20)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.280). Willson came through with an RBI single to give the Cubs a lead in the bottom of the eighth.
- Hero: Anthony Rizzo (.144). Anthony had two more hits in four at bats, scored two runs and drove in one with another mammoth home run.
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.109). Kris also added two more hits in five at bats. He scored one and drove in two with a homer of his own.
- Billy Goat: Steve Cishek (-.708). Steve faced three batters, walked one, allowed a two run homer and hit a third. That was it for him. He notches the worst WPA day of the Cubs season to date.
- Goat: Addison Russell (-.124). Addison batted twice today and struck out twice. He’s struck out in nine of his first 39 plate appearances since being recalled. It just feels like it is every single time. His line is down to .200/.263/.314 (wRC+ 56). Of course, at 39 PA, those numbers could move in a hurry if he had a good day at the plate.
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-110). Jason had one hit in four at bats. He also struck out once. He lands here because of his fly out in the eighth with a runner on second and only one out in a 4-4 game. (-.071)
WPA Play of the Game: Unsurprisingly, the Eugenio Suarez home run with one on and no outs in the ninth inning is the play of the game. (.570) This is the largest event of any kind in the season to date.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras’ RBI-single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. (.280)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Willson Contreras 10
- Tyler Chatwood 8.5
- Anthony Rizzo 7.5
- Yu Darvish -7
- David Bote -8
- Carl Edwards Jr. -10
Up Next: Game number 50 on the season for the Cubs. They all count the same, but the milestones always feel like they matter a bit more. The Cubs will be hoping to avoid losing a second consecutive game. The Reds will be looking to win a second consecutive.
Yu Darvish gets the call for the Cubs. He is 2-3 with a 5.06 ERA in 48 innings on the season. Last time out, he got a no decision after throwing six innings against the Phillies. He allowed four hits, three walks and three runs. He struck out seven. He faced the Reds on May 15 and also got a no decision. He threw 5⅓ innings and allowed five hits, and two runs. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out 11. Last year on May 20, he won a game against the Reds in which he threw six innings allowed two hits, three walks and one run. He struck out seven. Current Reds have just 61 plate appearances against Yu with a .658 OPS. Joey Votto leads the way with 12 PA (.533 OPS). Derek Dietrich has only 7 PA, but has three hits including a homer (1.571 OPS).
Tyler Mahle will be the opposition. Tyler is 1-5 despite a 3.51 ERA over 51⅓ innings. Last time out he got his first win of the season when he threw six shutout innings against the Dodgers. He allowed four hits, two walks and struck out five. He faced the Cubs three times last year and was 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 18⅔innings of work. The 24-year-old right-hander has allowed a .564 OPS against right-handed hitters and a .861 against lefties. Current Cubs have just 67 plate appearances against Mahle with a .592 OPS. Anthony Rizzo has the most PA (9, .347 OPS). Javier Baez has four hits, including a triple and a homer, in eight plate appearances (1.625 OPS).
Hopefully the Cubs can bounce back behind Yu.
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