A few years ago, I made a decision to stop watching football. At times over the last year, it’s felt like I got off the ride right before the good part. To be clear, even in football, one game doesn’t cement anything. But on Thursday night, I was really glad to be watching the baseball game, rather than the football game. The team I was watching scored early and often and this was genuinely a fun game to watch. Which team is the better mid-term bet? That’s tough to say. The Cubs are showing some signs of getting things together. But, from everything I’ve heard, the Bears are a very talented bunch. I know I don’t have to remind any of the serious Bears fans that they also lost last year’s opener to the Packers and recovered quite nicely.
Anyway, I assume none of you tuned in here to talk about football. So let’s talk about the Chicago Cubs. They are now a season high 13 games over .500 with last night’s win. They’ve won three straight overall and six straight on the road. That gives them seven wins in nine games and 12 in 17. Going all the way back to August 2, they are 18-12. Winning 18 of 30 is basically a 97-win pace. So once again, the Cubs are piling on late season wins. Yes, the Cardinals have also been doing so, but until the final 10 games of the season, the Cubs can only take care of business for one team and that isn’t the Cardinals.
The really great news is that the Cubs are getting production from a variety of sources. Most recently, Willson Contreras has returned from the IL playing very well. Ben Zobrist has returned from hiatus and provided quite a spark in his first couple of games back. And Kyle Schwarber has unlocked beast mode. His slugging percentage is up to .525. That’s .058 points higher than it has been over the last two years, his only two full seasons in the majors (it was .487 in a half season in 2015). Without too arbitrarily selecting a data set, Kyle is hitting .264/.358/.667 (154 wRC+) in 165 PA since the All-Star break. He’s done that with a 10.9% walk rate and a 17.6% strikeout rate (!). And he’s also done that with an absurdly low BABIP of .222. At .222, that’s .030 behind his season number. So arguably, he’s actually been a little unlucky during his hot streak.
If you had Kyle Schwarber leading the Cubs in homers, you are likely going to cash in on that bet. If you had him leading the team in RBI, you aren’t dead in the water yet. He trails only Anthony Rizzo (86) and Javier Baez (85) with his 81. This stretch has been very, very fun to watch.
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 139, September 5: Cubs 10, Brewers 5 (76-63)
- Superhero: Kyle Schwarber (.292). Schwarber got four plate appearances and had two hits and a walk. One of those hits was a grand slam.
- Hero: Willson Contreras (.246). Willson had four hits, including a homer and two doubles. He scored two and drove in two.
- Sidekick: Ben Zobrist (.210). Ben was a perfect five for five in getting on base. He had three singles and two walks. He scored three runs.
- Billy Goat: Jose Quintana (-.238). Jose threw five innings and allowed five hits, two walks and four runs. He struck out five. Even with the rough night, Q is 9-1 over his last 12 starts with 68 strikeouts in 69 1⁄3 innings. He has a 3.38 ERA (3.21 FIP). At 3.2 fWAR he is sitting tied for 27th among pitchers.
- Goat: Nicholas Castellanos (-.134). Nick had only one hit in six at bats. He scored a run and struck out twice.
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.134). JHey had one hit in five at bats. Now that he’s snapped a long hitting streak, hopefully he can get what had been a pretty decent season at the plate back in gear.
WPA Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber batted with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning. The Cubs had just moved into the lead 5-4. He hit a grand slam. (.263) Kyle is up to a .236/.327/.494 against lefties on the year with six homers in 104 PA.
* Brewers Play of the Game: Yasmani Grandal batted with a runner on first and no outs in the fifth, the Brewers down 4-2. He hit a two run homer. (.231)
Cumulative Standings Top/Bottom 3:
- Anthony Rizzo 34
- Kris Bryant 30.75
- Kyle Hendricks 14
- !Carl Edwards Jr. -12
- Pedro Strop -20.5
- Jason Heyward -21
Up Next: The teams will meet against Friday night for game two of a four game set. The Cubs will have Cole Hamels on the hill. Cole is 7-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 126⅔ innings. However, he has only been 1-3 over his last seven starts with a 6.43 ERA in 28 innings (yep, only four innings per start, though one of those was a one-inning start in which he left with the oblique injury that kept him out a month). Last time out, he was a bit better, but still took a loss. He threw six innings against these Brewers last weekend and allowed two runs on five hits and three walks. He struck out seven. He’s already faced the Brewers four times this year and five as a Cub. He’s 1-1 over those five starts with a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings of work. He’s yet to allow more than two runs in any start against them. Current Brewers have 234 PA against him with a .655 OPS. Ryan Braun has the most PA (50) and a .749. Hernan Perez is one Brewer who has really hit Cole well (20, 1.445, including two doubles, a triple and a homer).
In this rematch of the game from 8/31 (and also 5/11), Zach Davies will get the start. Zach is 8-7 with a 3.76 ERA in 136⅓ innings. Despite pitching well last time, Zach is just 1-5 with a 6.42 ERA in 33⅔ innings. That last start? He threw 4⅔ innings and allowed only four hits, one walk and no runs. He only struck out two. In five starts against the Cubs this year, he is 1-2 with a 4.21 ERA in 25⅔ innings. The 26-year-old right-hander has been better against righties (.712) than lefties (.481). He’s also been better on the road (.727) than at home (.814). Current Cubs have 356 PA against Davies with a .724. Kris Bryant has the most PA (51) and very good production (.924). Kyle Schwarber has four homers in just 33 PA against Davies (.976).
Let’s hope that the Cubs can keep their road momentum going.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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