What a stunning turn of events the second to last week of the season ended up being. A week which featured the Cubs playing seven games in seven days. On Monday, the Cubs won. They were two games back of first place and just half a game behind the top wild card spot. Granted, they were only one game ahead of the Brewers in a battle for the last spot. Six consecutive losses followed, by a total of seven runs. The Cubs are now seven games back of first, the Brewers are now tied with the Nationals for the top wildcard spot, both four games ahead of the Cubs.
The playoff hopes are all but dead. This team suddenly appears to be heading out on one final road trip playing out the string. Nearly every key Cub player is banged up in some way or another. Make no mistake, at this time of the year, injuries, bumps and bruises are a reality for virtually every regular major league player. But these Cubs by and large aren’t dealing with minor aggravations and nuisance level injuries. No doubt, some of these Cubs are heading for off season surgeries, while others will start their offseason by rehabbing injuries.
Surely, for the first time in a handful of years, this offseason is going to bring significant change. Something went wrong. Obviously if anyone knew a quick fix for any of it, they’d have done it. And certainly, some of what happened was just random dumb luck. The Cubs were with no doubt, the gambler who just kept rolling craps this season. All too often, no matter which button was pushed, it was the wrong one or at least turned out wrong.
For me, that will be the final takeaway to the 2019 season. If you are one of the players and coaches who isn’t back next year, please don’t think that Cubs fans think that anyone is saying that this was your fault. A team wins as a group and loses as a group. To the last man, everyone played their heart out, but this time that just wasn’t good enough. The odds are, we loved you most of the time that you were here. You probably contributed to one or more playoff teams and we almost certainly treasure some of those contributions. But change comes. And it is definitely coming. I’m not sure how closely I could watch if it didn’t. The core of this team is dynamic and exciting. But the sum of its parts just isn’t good enough anymore. That’s been hard to watch this season.
Perhaps, some of what’s held them back goes back to those varied injuries that are affecting so many of the players. Perhaps some of them will get healthy, have renewed motivation and rebound from this. But I don’t think the Cubs can just rest their hopes on that. I believe that sweeping changes are necessary. Boy, am I glad that I don’t have to decide who stays, who goes and what the best path forward is. I’ll be sad to see people go. But with change should come renewed excitement for the future.
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 156, September 22: Cubs 2, Cardinals 3 (82-74)
- Superhero: Nicholas Castellanos (.223). Nick had a terrific run as a Cub these last two months. He added two more hits, including a solo homer. He scored both Cubs runs.
- Hero: Kyle Schwarber (.058). Kyle had a single and a walk in four plate appearances.
- Sidekick: Pedro Strop (.051). Pedro appeared one final time at Wrigley Field as a Cub. He struck out two and walked one. Pedro will almost certainly be gone. Simultaneously one of the best relief pitchers in the history of the Cubs and one of the least appreciated.
- Billy Goat: Yu Darvish (-.255). It was hard to blame Joe Maddon for letting Yu try to finish this. The bullpen has been a mess lately and there simply aren’t enough healthy bodies among the guys you usually count on to get the last few outs. It didn’t work and so Yu ends up getting the loss despite pitching fantastically again. Yu officially threw 8⅓ innings, allowed seven hits, no walks and three runs. He struck out 12.
- Goat: Ben Zobrist (-.251). Ben was hitless in four at bats. He left runners on second and third with one out his first time up, grounded into a double play his second, and then made the first out in the bottom of the ninth. Rough day at the plate.
- Kid: Nico Hoerner (-.112). Nico had one hit in four at bats. The big culprit for him here is the last out of the game with a runner on base in a one-run game.
WPA Play of the Game: Paul Goldschmidt doubled with one out in the ninth inning to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. This was the last batter Yu Darvish faced. Three hits in the ninth inning ended up being one too many. (.299)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Nicholas Castellanos hit a solo homer leading off the sixth inning to break a 1-1 tie. (.172)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 35
- Kris Bryant 34.75
- Kyle Schwarber 16.25
- Jose Quintana -12.5
- Pedro Strop -19.5
- Jason Heyward -20
Up Next: The Cubs get their final off day of the season Monday and then head to Pittsburgh for three more against the hapless Pirates. The Pirates have lost nine straight to fall to 65-91. Talk about a team that has changes coming. They totally cratered in the second half.
Kyle Hendricks gets the start for the Cubs. Kyle is 11-9 with a 3.37 ERA on the season. He’s 3-0 with 3.02 ERA over his last seven starts. Last time out, he recorded a no decision against the Cardinals in the series opener. He threw 5⅓ in that one and allowed eight hits, one walk and four runs. He’s 1-1 against the Pirates this year, allowing four runs in 16 innings of work. Current Pirates have 148 PA against him with only a .559 OPS. Adam Frazier is one Pirate with some success against Kyle with a 1.269 OPS in 14 PA.
The Pirates have 23-year-old rookie Mitch Keller on the mound. Mitch is 1-5 with a 7.74 ERA in only 43 innings of work. He’s 1-4 with a 6.68 ERA over his last seven starts. He lost last time out to the Mariners, allowing two runs on six hits and two walks in five innings of work. He started against the Cubs on August 18 and allowed six runs on seven hits and two walks in just 4⅓ innings. He was the losing pitcher that day. Current Cubs have 24 PA against him with a 1.315 OPS. Nicholas Castellanos has six PA, three hits, a walk, a double and a homer for a 2.067 OPS. Jason Heyward adds a double and a walk in just three PA (2.667).
This looks like a chance for the Cubs to get back into the win column and keep their minimal playoff hopes alive.
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