A while back, I noted the curiosity that was the Cubs and 6-5 games this year. I noted it because they won back to back games and three of five by that score. But now they’ve lost two of their last five games by that score. With that, fully nine games have been one side or the other of that final score. On the one hand, that’s a little bit of a statistical oddity. Some randomness in a season.
On the other hand, in 16 different games the Cubs have played in one of the teams finished with six runs. Four of those were losses. Going deeper, eight times this year the losing team in a Cubs game scored six or more runs. There are a whole lot of runs being scored in Cubs games this year. Even with their struggles, the Cubs are fourth in MLB at 5.38 runs/game. But they are actually 11th best at run prevention at 4.37 runs/game. So what is the trend? Scoring is up across baseball this year at 4.68 runs/game. That number hasn’t finished a season over 4.6 since it was 4.61 in 2009. The last season it was higher was 2007 when it was 4.80. I’ve not studied any of this, but I’ve always perceived that scoring goes up after Memorial Day.
I’ve mostly avoided talking about the game itself. This was another one that wasn’t very close, at least until it was. The Cubs did get the tying run on first with one out in the ninth inning after a pair of home runs. They even sent Javier Baez to the plate. On other days that might have mattered, but Javy was going hitless in five at bats with a “perfect” five strikeouts.
I will use this space once again to say that if Addison Russell is going to be on this team, he should be playing nearly every day. His sample size remains quite small after getting a late start to his season. That said, in 17 games he has 49 plate appearances and a line of .289/.333/.511 (wRC+ 122). His walk rate has reached the lowest point of his career at 6.1%, but his strikeout rate has also bottomed at 20.4%. His BABIP is only slightly over his career numbers (.313 v .301).
With Daniel Descalso struggling mightily at the plate, Russell should move past him on the depth chart. Especially given that if neither player contributed anything at all offensively, Russell would still be the better choice given better defense. I said it often, Russell hasn’t lost any of his ability on the field. When he was healthy in 2018, he produced at a well above average level. The off the field stuff is what it is, and it certainly would have been defensible to cut ties. Now that they didn’t go in that direction and he is part of the team, he should be a regular on this team. At least until either Descalso gets out of his funk or a productive Ben Zobrist returns.
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 52, May 27: Cubs 5 at Astros 6 (30-22)
- Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.221). Anthony reaches the Superhero spot for the second day in a row. This is 11th consecutive time for him on any podium and the ninth time in a row he’s on the positive side. Anthony is desperately trying to carry this team. With two hits and a walk yesterday, including a two-run homer, Anthony is up to a season line of .291/.406/.604 (wRC+ 164) despite a BABIP of .273 (career average .286). The batting average is one point off his career high in 2016. The other two numbers shatter his career best (.406 v .392 and .604 v .544). The 164 wRC+ checks in at tied for 10th in all of baseball. Of course, he’s WAY behind Cody Bellinger (.383/.469/.761 wRC+216).
- Hero: David Bote (.082). David had two hits and drove in a run in four at bats. It was a mixed bag though with two strikeouts though. But his single in the ninth put the tying run on first with one out. (.081)
- Sidekick: Addison Russell (.074). Russell had three hits including a solo homer in the ninth inning.
- Billy Goat: Cole Hamels (-.453). Cubs starters continue to slump. Cole last only four innings and allowed seven hits, four walks and six runs. He didn’t strike anyone out. The Astros are a talented bunch. I wonder if Cole sometimes tries to be too perfect when the other team is good. He’s struggled against the Dodgers, the Astros and in a start last week when the wind was howling out at Wrigley against the first-place Phillies. Of course all three teams are very good as well and do that to a lot of guys.
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.155). Five strikeouts in five at bats. Including the final strikeout to end the game. Javy has been slumping for a little while now. Be it the heel or being worn down, he hasn’t been the same player the last couple of weeks. That unsurprisingly coincides with the team not playing as well. He’ll bounce back, hopefully sooner than later.
- Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.123). Just one walk in five plate appearances. He struck out twice.
WPA Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo took Gerrit Cole deep with one out and a runner on first in the first inning. (.177).
*Astros Play of the Game: Robinson Chirinos batted with the scored tied at two and runners on first and second in the third inning. He lined a double to left that scored the go ahead run. (.145).
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 14.5
- Willson Contreras 11.5
- Tyler Chatwood 8.5
- Yu Darvish/Carl Edwards Jr. -10
- Kyle Schwarber -10.5
Up Next: The Cubs will look to avoid a third straight loss and fifth loss in six games. The Astros will look for a second straight win and their fourth in five games. The Cubs will look to their ace Jon Lester to stop the skid. Jon is 3-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 47 innings on the year. He’s coming off of his two worst starts of the year. In two outings, he’s allowed 12 runs (nine earned) in just 8⅓ innings. Despite those two awful outings, Jon is 2-3 with a 2.57 ERA over 35 innings over his last seven starts. Jon hasn’t faced the Astros since 2016. He was superb in that one, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing seven hits, no walks and seven strikeouts. Jon has only made two career starts versus the Astros and the other one goes all the way back to 2008. Accordingly, current Astros have only 71 plate appearances against Jon. Over a third of those belong to Michael Brantley who has 25 PA and a .777 OPS. Josh Reddick has 10 PA and a .400 OPS. Gerrit Cole actually checks in at fourth with six PA against Jon.
23-year-old right-handed rookie Corbin Martin is the Astros starter. He’s making just his fourth major league start. In the three previous starts, he’s thrown a total of 12⅔ innings, so don’t be surprised if Martin doesn’t have a particularly long leash. Last time out he allowed four runs (three earned) in 3⅓ innings against the White Sox. In very tiny samples, Martin has gotten crushed by right-handed hitters (1.157 OPS in 27 PA). He’s actually been good against left-handed hitters (.670 in 30 PA). But I wouldn’t read anything into a guy who has less than 15 innings of experience at the big league level. A few good or bad bounces could wildly swing numbers.
Despite Jon’s recent struggles, this looks like it could be a bounce-back game for the Cubs. Remember, things are never as bad as they look when the team is struggling or as good as they look when the team is rolling.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Albert Almora Jr.
Kyle Ryan (emergency relief appearance and threw 1 2⁄3 scoreless innings)
Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)