Would it have been better if the Cubs had just fallen behind 6-2 and slowly faded into the night? I guess it’s just a matter of which kind of frustration you want. In that scenario, the frustration is that in the heart of a pennant race you just got wiped out by a bad team. That would be reprehensible. So it is great to see this team didn’t quit. On the road against an inferior team, they battled back.
Of course, in the end, the Cubs still came up short. Why did they come up short? It’s easy to point at Steve Cishek and the three straight walks he issued to end the game. Let’s be clear, he should be pointed at. But I’m not here for the easy finger pointing. Let’s pull the lens back a little wider. Seven Cubs pitchers appeared in the game Tuesday night. Three of them were charged with runs. Rowan Wick, Tyler Chatwood, David Phelps and Kyle Ryan all had scoreless appearances with Wick and Chatwood throwing five innings between them. None of those four pitchers were any meaningful part of the Cubs 2019 plans. Sure, Chatwood is getting paid a lot of money and you hoped that he’d evolve, as he has, from a swingman into someone who can provide a little value out of the pen.
Three pitchers allowed runs: Jose Quintana, Brandon Kintzler and Cishek. Every starter is going to have a clunker or two along the way. In Quintana’s defense, this clunker was heavily aided by a terrible inning defensively by the Cubs. The biggest impact of an error isn’t necessarily even the error and the resulting carnage of the play itself. To be sure, the three-run error that could have been a double play was huge. But the impact of having to record four, five or more outs essentially in an inning creates a huge pitch count inning. That can lead to a net result like we saw yesterday. Q was out of gas in the third inning.
Kintzler faced four batters in the seventh inning after the Cubs had gotten back within a run. He allowed two singles and a triple. Ryan and Phelps came and got out of the jam with only the two runs allowed. Then Cishek walked three straight batters after a lead off single and that was that. Neither of the two guys who were core relievers coming into the season answered the bell. Kintzler has been pretty reliable through most of 2019. Cishek has been much less reliable this year than he was last year. I’ve been tough on Joe Maddon, but it is really tough when two of your trusted relievers don’t have it on a given night. MLB games often don’t have the kind of margin of error to withstand two relievers to struggle on the same night.
Pulling the lens back wider, I won’t heap all of the criticism on Joe. There are other relievers in the pen. Duane Underwood Jr., Alec Mills, James Norwood and, of course, Pedro Strop were all available from the right side. Strop has had a series of injuries and by all appearances, the Cubs have rushed him back on multiple occasions and he’s never gotten all of the way healthy. This happens because the Cubs don’t have enough bullpen depth. They’ve had scores of options all year long, but the organization watched retread after retread get a chance at the major league level with only some fringe opportunity for in-house options. Norwood, Underwood and Mills have all been in the organization all year. All three pitched for the Cubs in 2018. Despite a plethora of pitching injuries, none of them have at any point been given any meaningful innings.
You have to give guys like that a real chance to fit in somewhere in the first three or four months of the season so that you might have some confidence in them if you need them at the end of the season. BCB’s Tim Huwe talks all of the time about developing your own talent and having cost-controlled options. Theo Epstein when he came to the Cubs talked about the perils of always having to look to free agency or elsewhere outside the organization to fill your developmental holes. This team is paying an enormous price this year because it hasn’t developed internal options.
Wick and Ryan were inspired finds for this organization. The Cubs have had a hand with improving each of them and then developing them into real weapons out of the pen. It is stupefying that none of the pitchers drafted and developed in-house are able to be trusted in any kind of situation. Adbert Alzolay is the leader in innings by a player originally acquired by the Cubs at 12⅓. Dillon Maples is the leader for a player drafted by the Cubs at 9⅓ innings. James Norwood has thrown as many innings for the Cubs this year as Victor Caratini has. The Cubs have tried 29 different pitchers this year. Yet they couldn’t find time to try to bring along any of their internal options?
I’ve got nothing. Collectively, the drafting team, the development team and the major league staff have failed in creating big league options internally. If this team fails to make the playoffs, that failure has cost this team more than enough games to be in first place. All too often in recent years coaches have been fired at the end of the season. The ax should swing higher this year. Joe Maddon wouldn’t technically be a firing, given his contract status. Jed Hoyer? Someone in the player development group? I don’t know. But this failure is bigger than the players. On September 10, with expanded rosters, Joe shouldn’t be left with zero viable options as he watches a pitcher walk off his own team.
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 144, September 10: Cubs 8, Padres 9 (77-67)
- Superhero: Jason Heyward (.536). Such a tragedy that the third best WPA game of the year by a Cub ends up in a loss. Jason Heyward has gotten back in gear. He had two hits, both homers and two walks last night. He drove in three and scored three. His season line is back up to .256/.345/.443 (wRC+ 104).
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.264). Kris also had two homers and drew a walk in five plate appearances. He drove in four and scored two. He did strike out twice. That was a very good cortisone shot.
- Sidekick: Rowan Wick (.229). Wick has been nothing short of a phenomenon this year. He threw two scoreless innings, allowing one walk and striking out one.
- Billy Goat: Jose Quintana (-.484). Jose did allow seven hits in three innings of work. That wasn’t all the fault of the defense. But he was not in any way helped by his defense in a disastrous second inning.
- Goat: Steve Cishek (-.372). Steve was only able to record one out. He allowed a hit, three walks and the winning run.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.174). Willy was hitless in five at bats and struck out twice.
WPA Play of the Game: Jason Heyward’s one out solo homer in the eighth inning tied the game at eight, completing the Cubs comeback to tie the game. (.269)
*Padres Play of the Game: With one out and the bases loaded in the second inning, Padres pitcher Ronald Bolanos hit a ground ball to Ben Zobrist. Ben threw the ball into center field and three runs came around to score. (.226)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 32.75
- Anthony Rizzo 29
- Kyle Hendricks 16
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -17
- Pedro Strop -20.5
Up Next: Cole Hamels will look to get himself and the Cubs back on track in game three of the four game set. Cole is 7-6 with a 3.95 ERA over 130 innings. In seven starts dating back to August 3, he is 1-3 with a 7.12 ERA in 30⅓ innings. Last time out, he allowed five runs on nine hits and two walks in 3⅓ innings against the Brewers in Milwaukee. He allowed two homers and he struck out three. He made his first start against the Padres since 2015 last year and allowed four runs on nine hits and a walk in just five innings. He got a no decision. Current Padres have 48 PA with a .415 against Hamels. Almost all of those belong to Manny Machado (16, .330) and Eric Hosmer (13, .000).
The Padres will have another rookie on the mound. Chris Paddack is 8-7 with a 3.54 ERA in 129⅔ innings. In his last seven starts, he is 2-2 with a 5.45 ERA in 34⅔ innings. But the last two times he started he’s been quite good. In two starts at San Francisco and Arizona, he threw 12⅓ innings and allowed only one run. No Cub has ever faced Paddack. The 23-year-old right hander has allowed a .602 OPS to RHH and a .703 to LHH. Even with the two recently good starts on the road, he’s allowed a .573 OPS at home and a .712 on the road.
This matchup doesn’t look great on paper. Let’s hope Cole has found some answers between starts. If he gets shelled again, this one could go sideways.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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