Today is a different day. Looking at this game by itself, I don’t really lose much sleep over a relatively unknown Padres rookie having a strong outing. Chris Paddack threw six scoreless last night. Even with that result, he sits at 9-7 with a 3.38 ERA (3.99 FIP) over 135⅔ innings. He’s allowed just one run in his last three starts, covering 18⅓ innings. Am I making excuses for the Cubs? Absolutely not. Should they be able to hit Paddack? Probably. But even the best team has clunkers.
Were I to worry about the offense, I’d have the same worry that has persisted since last year. Yes, every team gets shut down. The problem for the Cubs for almost two full seasons now is the frequency at which they are just shutdown. Even at that, all teams go through ruts. The best teams don’t usually have extended ruts. But as I’d assume most of us remember, the 2016 Cubs did have a long rut in the middle of an otherwise dominant season. It can happen for sure. So without looking up data, I doubt these Cubs or last year’s Cubs are a massive statistical outlier. That said, if I were involved with running the team, I’d be looking to change the mix on the offense. It feels like that too many of the hitters are too similar and there isn’t enough picking each other up.
I’m going to continue to not dwell on what the offseason should bring. That time will come soon enough unless things take a dramatic turn for the better. The Cubs are now four out in the division race with 17 to play. That there is any hope at all remaining centers on seven games against the Cardinals. Amusingly, I was accurate in that Colorado would be a challenge for them. They have lost the first two games there, but it hasn’t mattered as the Cubs have also lost both days. I guess technically it matters, because the Cubs aren’t six back. But they failed to gain. The Cubs are 3½ behind the Nationals. That feels like a totally insurmountable gap with no head-to-head games and with how well the Nats have played over the last four months.
That leaves the Cubs trying to hold off a horde of challengers. The Brewers are now tied with the Cubs. The Phillies and Mets are each two back. The Diamondbacks are 2½ back. With the Cubs’ struggles and the Christian Yelich injury, there are some crazy scenarios possible. To be sure, all of the most likely scenarios have either the Cubs or Brewers getting in. But without a massive number of games between the five teams within 2½ games for the last wild card spot, there are an endless number of possible scenarios including some wacky ones that end with a bunch of teams tied.
To be sure, nothing is over yet. It’s bleak. But this team certainly has the ability to pick up a win this afternoon, come back home and take care of business at home in such a way as to make the last road trip of the season meaningful. It’s pretty plain to see though that this team isn’t the team that you’d expect based upon the statistics on the back of their baseball cards. Too many of them are either hurt or have gotten away from their proper mechanics while trying to play hurt at various points this year. Most of the stars of this team are shadows of themselves right now. Perhaps four straight postseason trips have worn them out. Perhaps it is just random dumb luck that seemingly every significant player has struggled with injuries this year. Whatever the case, this team is less than what one would expect looking at the collection of talent.
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 145, September 11: Cubs 0, Padres 4 (77-68)
- Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.051). Anthony Rizzo had a lead off triple in the second inning. That was probably the pinnacle of the night for the Cubs who managed only three hits. They didn’t balance on that pinnacle long, as he never moved from third.
- Hero: Cole Hamels (.049). Cole wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t very good either. He allowed four hits, four walks and one run in 4⅓ innings. He struck out six.
- Sidekick: James Norwood (.045). James is the 48th different Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats this year. He threw 1⅓ innings, allowed one hit, one walk and struck out two. I don’t know if James is any good, but he’s certainly one of the guys I wish we’d seen more of at some point this season to get a better idea of whether he is or isn’t. Too many guys the Cubs used this season were bad to have given so little time to internal talent possibilities.
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.128). Willson struck out twice in three at bats.
- Goat: Brad Wieck (-.080). Brad is the 49th different Cub to appear in H&G. The last two years, 45 different Cubs appeared in this space. The box score shows a third of an inning, no hits, no walks, no earned runs for Brad. He had a throwing error in the sixth inning that gave the Padres a run.
- Kid: Kyle Schwarber (-.074). Kyle was hitless in four at bats. He struck out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Manuel Margot’s homer leading off the fifth inning made it 1-0. (.154) Cole Hamels was part of the PoG once in the first 114 games. This makes six times in the last 31 games that he’s landed here, basically every time he’s pitched.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Rizzo’s triple leading off the second inning. (.101)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Kris Bryant 32.75
- Anthony Rizzo 32
- Kyle Hendricks 16
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Jason Heyward -17
- Pedro Strop -20.5
Up Next: The finale of the four-game set. The Cubs will be looking to salvage a split and a three-win road trip. The Padres will continue to try to play spoiler and look for a third straight win. Yu Darvish will pitch for the Cubs. He is 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 157⅓ innings. He is 2-2 with a 2.98 ERA over his last seven starts (42⅓ innings). Last time out, he got yet another no-decision, despite throwing five scoreless innings in Milwaukee. He allowed three hits, one walk and struck out seven. He pitched against the Padres three times in 2017, going 1-1 and allowing nine runs in 16 innings of work. Current Padres have just 48 PA against Yu with a .392 OPS. Most of those PA belong to two people, Eric Hosmer (15, .343) and Wil Myers (10, .500).
The Padres will start Dinelson Lamet. Apparently, that’s happened before, though I can’t remember it in the slightest. He started a game against the Cubs in May 2017 and got a win. This year, Lamet is 2-4 with a 3.95 ERA in 57 innings of work. He missed the entire 2018 season due to injury. In seven starts dating back to July 30, Lamet is 2-2 with a 3.46 ERA in 39 innings of work. Last time out, he pitched reasonably well but took a loss. He threw six innings, allowed six hits, one walk and three runs (one earned). He struck out four. He hasn’t gotten a win since August 17. Current Cubs have 24 PA with a .792 OPS against the 26-year-old right-hander. One of those was a Kyle Schwarber homer, but there is no significant data. No Cub has more than four PA and that was Daniel Descalso who is unlikely to see the field.
Yu has thrown well for a long time. I believe he’ll deliver a much needed victory to keep the Cubs playoff hopes from being further damaged.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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None of the above