With an off day in front of 13 consecutive games, it is time for us to take a quick peek at the year to date standings for Heroes and Goats as well as year to date team statistics. There have been nine games since we last looked in. Over those nine games, the Cubs are just 4-5, including losing five of the last seven.
Just nine games ago, the Cubs boasted a 2½-game lead in the division. Now, they are tied for first with the Cardinals and have just a one-game lead over the Brewers. All three teams have won exactly 56 games. Interestingly, the Nationals also have an identical record to the Cubs and Cardinals (56-49) and those three teams right now would be the National League Central champion and the two National League Wildcard winners.
The Phillies join the Brewers at one back. So five teams are separated by one game and three of those teams would make the playoffs. The Giants and Diamondbacks are also under four games back, so there are seven teams within easy striking range (with four more not completely out of it) of reaching the playoffs. This is setting up for a wild dash to the finish.
Let’s get down to business. First things first, we’ll look at the year to date standings for Heroes and Goats.
Year to Date Total (change since last full standings)
(# = returned to minors, * = injured list, @ = restricted list, ! = out of the organization)
- Kris Bryant 29.5 (+7)
- Anthony Rizzo 22 (-)
- Kyle Hendricks 11 (+6)
- Willson Contreras 10 (-1)
- *Cole Hamels 8 (-)
- Javier Baez 8 (+6)
- Kyle Schwarber 6 (-)
- *Daniel Descalso 4 (-)
- Brandon Kintzler 3.5 (-)
- Tyler Chatwood (PH) 3 (-)
- @Ben Zobrist 2.5 (-)
- Jon Lester 2.5 (+1)
- Rowan Wick 2 (-)
- Ian Happ 2 (+2)
- *Xavier Cedeno 1 (-)
- Kyle Ryan 1 (+3)
- #Dillon Maples .5 (-)
- #Randy Rosario .5 (-)
- @Tony Barnette 0 (-)
- Tyler Chatwood -.5 (-)
- #Taylor Davis -.5 (-)
- David Bote -.5 (+4)
- #Mark Zagunis -1 (-)
- Brad Brach (PH) -1 (-1)
- Victor Caratini -1.5 (+1)
- #Alec Mills -2 (-2)
- #Addison Russell -2 (-)
- *Allen Webster -2 (-)
- Craig Kimbrel -3 (-)
- #Adbert Alzolay -3 (-)
- !Carlos Gonzalez -3 (-)
- Martin Maldonado -3 (-)
- Robel Garcia -4 (-5)
- Steve Cishek -4 (-)
- Jose Quintana -7 (-3)
- !Mike Montgomery -7 (0)
- Brad Brach -7.5 (0)
- Yu Darvish -11 (-3)
- Jason Heyward -12 (-2)
- #Carl Edwards Jr. -12 (-3)
- Albert Almora Jr. -12.5 (-1)
- Pedro Strop -17 (-9)
At the top of the heap, we have Kris Bryant continuing to lead the standings. Can a player be a league MVP candidate while some of its fan base instead thinks it is time to move on from him? Not a question that is likely to be answered due to the massive seasons Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich are having. But it is very possible KB will finish third to the two of them and also that he would finish third or fourth among Cub fans voting for MVP just among Cubs. Kris has a reputation for not coming up with the big hit and the big time. Regardless if that is true, there is enormous value to the guy who just consistently produces day in and day out and helps put you into position to win many more days than not.
Anthony Rizzo remains in second, though he lost seven points in the standings to Bryant over these nine games. Kyle Hendricks rode two very good starts into the third position. The hottest players over the period were KB at +7 followed by Hendricks and Javier Baez at +6.
At the other end of the spectrum, Pedro Strop has dropped into last place. He’s sitting at -17 and I have to wonder if he will see many leverage situations at all the rest of the year. If not, he may just finish up last. Albert Almora Jr. is second to last at -12.5. Jason Heyward and Carl Edwards Jr. both check in at -12. Edwards has been sent back to the minors and he too will have a hard time escaping his current placement. Heyward has swung a pretty good bat most of the year, but it just hasn’t shown up consistently here at H&G.
Over the period, Strop had the worst results at -9. Robel Garcia also had a rough go of it at -5. There’s a lot of baseball to be played still and Garcia’s story had been fun to follow. Right now, he hasn’t adjusted to the way he is being pitched.
- Average: .252 was .256 (7th NL, 14th MLB)
- On Base: .332 was .337 (4th NL, 9th MLB)
- Slugging: .451 was .456 (4th NL, 8th MLB)
- OPS: .782 was .794 (3rd NL, 7th MLB)
- Runs/game: 5.05 was 5.09 (5th NL, 12th MLB)
The offense was sluggish over the last nine games. In terms of both the numbers themselves and the overall ranks, the Cubs drifted a bit towards mediocrity and away from being one of the better offensive teams in the league. They are still largely in that top tier, but they’ve drifted towards the bottom of the lead pack. They scored 41 runs over the nine games, but of course they scored 11 of those in one game Sunday. But for that one game, these drops would have been larger.
- Hits/9: 8.4 was 8.4 (5th NL, 9th MLB)
- Walks/9: 3.4 was 3.3 (T10th NL, T19th MLB)
- HR/9: 1.2 was 1.2 (2nd NL, 4th MLB)
- K/9: 8.6 was 8.6 (13th NL, 23rd MLB)
- Runs allowed/game: 4.37 was 4.39 (4th NL, 9th MLB)
- Quality Start %: 46 was 48 (4th NL, 8th MLB)
- Average Game Score: 53 was 53 (T3rd NL, T7th MLB)
- Save %: 56 was 59 (12th NL, 23rd MLB)
- Inherited Runner Score %: 32 was 31 (8th NL, 14th MLB)
Interestingly, runs allowed per game ticked down. All of the other numbers ticked up this week. I suspect that means that even while losing nine games, the Cubs actually had some fortunate sequencing that could have otherwise lead to even more runs allowed. The Cubs allowed 38 runs over the nine games. Certainly, that is a good number. The Cubs actually had a +3 run differential over the nine games. Of course, that number was +7 yesterday alone. Oddly, the Cubs allowed exactly five runs six times in the nine games. That 38 runs happened because there were no games in which they allowed more than five runs. More odd than anything else. The save percentage takes another dive. After reaching a season-high of 61 at our 90 game checkpoint, it has dropped five percent.
- Errors: 72 was 68 (11th NL, 22nd MLB)
- Defensive Efficiency [percentage of balls in play turned into outs]: .692 was .690 (6th NL, 13th MLB)
The highest DE number of the year was .693, it dipped down as far as .682 at the 54 game check-in, but has had a fairly upwards trajectory since then. The overall error number has finally stopped trailing the league. It’ll be interesting to watch these numbers with Robel Garcia now replacing Addison Russell as the primary second baseman.
Statistical deep dive:
I’ve seen some people tweeting recently about the late losses for the Cubs and the lack of corresponding late wins. I understand that impression, because it sure feels like that, particularly lately. Of course, every game the Cubs have lost on the current road trip, the other team scored the winning run(s) in their last at bat. So certainly, that amplifies the feeling.
So, I went through all 105 games and looked at when the winning team scored the run(s) that put them ahead for good. Not all games in a subset will look equal, for instance a team might score a run in the first add a couple more later and finish off the easy win. Or, they might score three in the first, give two back quickly and then trade runs along the way, but the other team never finishes the comeback or even gets even.
The easiest subset is first. The Cubs are 4-5 in extra innings. Four of their losses are in the 10th inning. Two of their wins are in the 15th inning. But in that basket, things are pretty even. The margin is the same in the ninth inning. The Cubs have scored the eventual winning run in the ninth inning four times and allowed it five times.
In the eighth inning, the Cubs have plated the eventual winning run six times and allowed it six times. The way modern baseball is played is extremely evident in that 23 games were won in the eighth or ninth inning out of 105 played (22% of all games). This is when the game generally belongs to short relievers and when pinch hitters are most frequently deployed. Adding all of this together, the Cubs are 14-16 when the winning run scores in the eighth inning or later. You’d hope a good team would win more often than not in those games, but this certainly isn’t as egregious as it seems. Certainly, this road trip has amplified those numbers with the four late losses in six games.
If you walk it back a little further, you can probably see where bullpen depth has stung the Cubs. The Cubs are 1-4 when the winning run scores in the seventh inning. (Again, we add back and see that the Cubs are 15-20 when the winning run was plated in the seventh or later.
The Cubs are a winning team and so you know it is going to flip. The sixth inning has been fairly mundane with the Cubs 3-2 when the eventually decisive run was scored in the sixth inning. The fifth inning has been a money inning though. The Cubs are 10-3 when the winning run scores in the fifth inning. I suspect this is where you see the Cubs having an edge in starting pitching. Once one of the Cubs five veteran starters settle in, they are often going strong into the sixth. The fifth is an inning where a starter is probably just starting to see a lineup for the third time.
The fourth inning swings the other way. The Cubs are 2-6 when the eventually decisive run scores there. The third inning is often where a starter is starting to see opposing hitters for the second time. The Cubs are 5-1 when the eventually decisive run scores there.
The second inning is another inning that is extremely lopsided towards the Cubs as they are 10-3 if the eventual decisive run scores there. In total, the Cubs are 30-14 if the eventual winning run scores between the second and sixth inning. I chopped the first inning out of that because the Cubs are just 11-15 when a team scores in the first and never relinquishes the lead. There’s probably a lesson there too. Don’t be late to turn on the game. Just shy of 25% of the time, the eventually decisive run scored across all Cubs games this year.
The results then do, at least somewhat, show what it feels like. The Cubs are 41-29 if the decisive run has scored by the end of the sixth inning. As we said earlier, they are 15-20 after that point.
What are some of the reasons? Well, Cubs pinch hitters have a line of .175/.271/.267 on the season. They’ve driven in just 21 runs (three of those yesterday alone!). Oddly enough, the Cubs have a .204/.283/.381 line in the seventh inning as a team. Their team OPS is .815 over the first three innings, .803 over the middle three and .722 the final three. On the other side of things, starters have allowed a .726 OPS and relievers a .742. Not huge, but not nothing. OPS allowed is at .707 in the first three, .776 the middle three and .700 the final three.
The interesting thing for me there is that the lowest OPS is still in the final three innings. Is some of all of this just noise in the statistics? Cubs pitchers have allowed an opponent OPS of .617 in the ninth inning. Yet they have lost five games there. Bear in mind, you don’t even face the other team in the ninth inning if you are trailing on the road. So there are fewer statistics there. 25 times this year the Cubs haven’t had to pitch a ninth inning. The only inning in which Cubs pitchers do better is the second (not surprising based on what we’ve seen above - .548). They have allowed 41 walks while recording 79 innings worth of outs (this number is less than 80 of course because of walk-offs.)
This is all an interesting thought activity. I don’t know for sure that we’ve learned anything about when a game is generally lost or won, at least not anything with predictive value.
We’ll check back in on the status of things after this 13 games in 13 days stretch that is coming up. Only six of those games are at home. Nine of them are against teams over .500 and competing for playoff spots. So this is another tough stretch of games.
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