The late-season crash of the Cubs has continued. The losing streak has reached eight, the Cubs were officially eliminated from any remote possibility of a last-minute rise from the dead. And so, the focus officially moves forward to the offseason and the decisions that lie ahead.
Of course, before we get to that offseason, there are four more games remaining and for the purpose of Heroes and Goats, we also have last night’s loss to recap. Even in another frustrating night, there were still Heroes and there were still Goats.
This will forever stand as a lost season for Ian Happ, who spent four months in the minor leagues after having spent the last two seasons largely with the big league club. Wednesday night, he had a big night with a couple of hits and a walk, including a late game-tying home run. That homer and strong performance pushed his season line to .240/.314/.480. That pushed his season wRC+ to 103. Fangraphs has him at .8 WAR. That would amount to something like a 2.4 full season number. I’ll also note that Happ’s BABIP this season is at .268, well below his career number of .327. That career number is buoyed quite a bit by an amazing .362 for Happ in his 2018 season. Happ runs well and has some pop. It would not shock me for him to have a number early in his career that trends a little higher than major league average. But the 2018 number is surely inflated and maybe even the career number as well. But, his 2019 number is almost certainly deflated. So, it’s reasonable to assume that Happ’s bat would settle in a little bit higher than it has in 2019 in limited time.
Happ continues to represent an intriguing piece. He plays decent defense at a number of positions. So far, in 2019 his defense has rated out as positive by Fangraphs. It rated negatively and provided a drag on his overall value in 2018. Could some of that represent small sample? Yeah, absolutely. But, the word that came out of Iowa this year was that Ian had put in a lot of work defensively and that he appeared to be making some improvements.
Ian has never been known for his glove. But if he can play average defense with some positional flexibility, that bat definitely plays. Ian was taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft. Certainly, in hindsight with full knowledge of how things have gone, you’d have loved to have grabbed Walker Buehler who went at No. 24 or Mike Soroka who went at No. 28. But Ian has more bWAR than any hitter taken in the first two rounds. To find hitters that have outproduced him to date from that draft, you have to move all the way to the third round where Brandon Lowe and Harrison Bader were taken.
That last note is the last thing I’ll focus on today. Harrison Bader was taken with the 25th pick in the third round. Teams are always trying to emulate the Yankees or the Dodgers or the Red Sox. The team that everyone should want to be like the St. Louis Cardinals. The team that made no moves at the trade deadline and still sits at the top of the National League Central. I can’t praise them without a constant reminder of the stupidity that is the Cardinals getting gifted an extra pick every single year by MLB. A team that has finished below .500 one time since 2000 and that has drawn over three million fans in 21 of the last 22 seasons doesn’t need any help. But, I tip my hat to the Cardinals organization. They draft and develop players as well as any team in the major leagues and better than most. That is a model organization.
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 158, September 25: Cubs 2, Pirates 4 (82-76)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.309). The Cubs only had six hits and Ian had two of them. He also drove in both runs and had a walk. I hope Ian gets a chance to be the Cubs lead-off man in 2020.
- Hero: Brad Wieck (.071). Wieck was summoned with two outs in the seventh and a runner on third. He got out of that inning without any damage, retiring the first batter he faced (.073). He went back out for the eighth inning and got an out, then issued a walk. He was pulled at that point, but that run ultimately scored. That resulted in a line of two batters retired, one walk issued, one run allowed, but a positive WPA.
- Sidekick: Jon Lester/Brandon Kintzler (.012). Both men registered as positive. Jon threw six innings, allowing eight hits but no walks. He was charged with two runs. Kintzler retired the first two batters he faced, then allowed a triple.
- Billy Goat: David Phelps (-.329). David followed Wieck’s departure with a walk, two wild pitches, a sacrifice fly and then another walk before finally getting a strikeout to end the inning.
- Goat/Kid: Nicholas Castellanos/Nico Hoerner (-.127). The two had matching nights of no hits in four at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ’s lead-off homer in the seventh inning tied the game at two. (.206)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Erik Gonzalez doubled with two outs and a runner on first in the fourth inning to tie the game at one. (.165)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 35
- Kris Bryant 34.75
- Kyle Schwarber 19.25
- Jose Quintana -12.5
- Pedro Strop -19.5
- Jason Heyward -20
Up Next: Two teams meet on Thursday night with mirror performances over their last 10 games. The Cubs won the first two and then lost the next eight. The Pirates lost the first eight, then won the next two. The Cubs will be trying to salvage one win out of this set. The Cubs have already won the season series, with a lead of 11-7.
Jose Quintana will make his final start of the year. Jose is 13-8 with a 4.55 ERA in 166 innings. Over his last seven, he is 3-1 despite a 6.53. Jose has allowed four or more runs in five of his last six starts. In his last three, he’s allowed 16 (14 earned) over just 8⅔ innings. That has tanked what had been a pretty decent season up until that point. He’s made five starts against the Pirates this year and is 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA, so maybe he’ll go out with one more good one.
Joe Musgrove is 10-12 with a 4.49 ERA in 164⅓ innings. He’s 2-2 with a 3.86 ERA over his last seven starts. He’s only had one bad start in that stretch, in late August where he allowed six runs (five earned) in just five innings against the Nationals. He’s faced the Cubs three times in 2019, and he’s 0-1 with four runs (two earned) in 16⅔ innings. He was fantastic in his last two starts against the Cubs in 2018, winning each and allowing one run over seven innings in each. Overall, that’s a 2-1 record and a 1.17 ERA in 30⅔ innings over his last five starts against the Cubs.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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