The Cubs made a minor deal yesterday for a left-handed pitcher. Because it is “trade week” it gets a little extra attention. But, this one didn’t have a ton to do with the trade deadline. The Giants had a roster crunch and Derek Holland had under performed for them. The Cubs traded for him to add another option from the left out of the bullpen. They also recalled Ian Happ. A left-handed reliever, who is dominant against lefties but gets crushed against right-handed hitters, and a player who spent almost four entire months in Triple-A are unlikely to cure what ails the Cubs.
Still, after making a deal and bringing back Happ, there was optimism. Especially coming off of a rare road win on Wednesday. With an off day Thursday, maybe this would be the day. Kyle Hendricks was sharp, only allowing two hits and two walks over five innings. Gio Gonzalez was sharper through five. The Cubs had sent the minimum 15 batters to the plate in five innings. Then Albert Almora Jr., of all people, broke up the no-hitter with an infield hit. David Bote followed with a homer.
Joe then sent Kyle Schwarber to the plate for Hendricks. Hendricks’ pitch count was a bit inflated, having thrown 90 pitches through five innings. Certainly, one would think that he could have thrown another inning. That would also have saved Scwharber’s bat for later in the game. But, Joe went for the jugular and made the momentum play to try to put a big number up following the Bote homer.
Schwarber came up empty and by and large so did the Cubs for the remainder of the game. After Bote’s homer, the Cubs managed just two more hits, both by Kris Bryant and both were singles. They managed no other base runners the rest of the night. That’s not going to get it done.
The Cubs dropped to 9-12 against left-handed starters. They dropped to 19-29 on the road. They dropped to second place. The Cubs dropped. Period.
The Cubs continue to struggle. One game and even one series in July don’t make or break a season. The thing is, this isn’t about one game. The struggle is real. This has been going on for a very long time now and there aren’t a lot of signs of improvement. The Cubs are extremely ineffective on the road and largely ineffective against left-handed pitching. A team that only gets production from three left-handed hitters on any given day should not struggle this badly against left-handed pitching. Three of the Cubs’ top four bats are right handed. Schwarber and Jason Heyward both spend some time on the bench against lefties. On a night like last night, the Cubs starting position players were six right-handed hitters, two left-handed hitters and a switch hitter. Gonzalez had been fairly hittable by right-handed hitters. Gio is 4-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 career starts by the Cubs now.
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 103, July 26: Cubs 2, Brewers 3 (55-48)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.279). Five shutout innings, two hits, two walks. Five strikeouts. Kyle appears to be back to form, though he still hasn’t won a game in over a month (in part due to missing time to an injury).
- Hero: David Bote (.198). David had a two-run homer. The Cubs only extra-base hit in the game. He batted three times.
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.096). Bryant continues to surge. He reached three times in four plate appearances with two singles and a walk. The Cubs have five total base runners and Kris was three of them.
- Billy Goat: Pedro Strop (-.467). Pedro has been a rock in the Cubs bullpen almost since the day he got here. 2019 is devolving into a full on train wreck for him. He inherited runners on first and second with one out. Hit a batter, got an out, then allowed a two-run single. This gives Pedro three of the top eight negative WPA games of the year for the Cubs and four of the top 12 negative WPA events on the season for the Cubs.
- Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.172). Anthony batted behind Bryant. So he gets all of the negative points for making outs behind the one guy getting on base. Including, a double play in the first inning.
- Kid: Brandon Kintzler (-.168). Brandon was summoned with two outs in the seventh and a runner on second to face Christian Yellich. He allowed an RBI single but then got out of that inning with the Cubs leading 2-1. He got the first out in the eighth before allowing a walk, a stolen base, and hitting a batter. Both runners were allowed to score by Strop.
WPA Play of the Game: Ben Gamel’s bases loaded, two-out single in the eighth inning off of Pedro Strop propelled the Brewers to victory. (.511)
*Cubs Play of the Game: David Bote’s two-run homer in the fifth inning gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead. (.232)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 29.5
- Anthony Rizzo 24
- Willson Contreras 11
- Jason Heyward/#Carl Edwards -12
- Albert Almora Jr. -14
- Pedro Strop -17
Up Next: Jon Lester looks to stop the bleeding for the Cubs who have lost four of five, dating back to the last game of their homestand. Jon is 9-6 with a 3.87 ERA in 107 innings on the year. He is 4-2 with a 4.35 ERA on the season. Last time out, he received a rare no-decision. He struggled a bit against the Padres, but limited the damage from 12 hits over six innings to just four runs. He didn’t walk any for the second straight start and third time in five starts. Jon won his only start against the Brewers on May 12 at Wrigley Field. In that one, Jon went 6⅔ innings and allowed nine hits, one walk and one unearned run. He struck out six. Last year, Jon pitched twice against the Brewers going 1-1 but only allowing three runs in 11⅔ innings, including six shutout innings in Milwaukee. Current Brewers have 152 plate appearances against Jon with a .729 OPS. Lorenzo Cain leads the way (31, .937).
Chase Anderson starts for the Brewers. Chase is 5-2 with a 3.90 ERA in 83 innings on the season. Chase is just 2-1 over his last seven starts with a 3.72 ERA in 36⅓ innings. Chase hasn’t worked past the sixth inning in a very long time. The last time he recorded an out in the seventh inning was July 4, 2018. Chase hasn’t started against the Cubs this year after starting four times against them last year. He was 1-2 in four starts, but only allowed three runs in 24 innings of work.
Chase is a right-handed pitcher with extreme reverse splits in 2019. He’s allowed an .877 OPS to right-handed hitters and a .527 to left-handed hitters. He’s been tough at home with a .646 OPS allowed. Current Cubs have 188 plate appearances with a .639 OPS against Chase. Jason Heyward has the most PA (26, .542), but Kris Bryant (25, 1.099) and Willson Contreras (16, 1.563) have had the most success.
Must wins can really only happen in baseball in elimination games. The Cubs, though, could really use a win right now.
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