Sometimes this feels like the proverbial broken record. This makes at least three straight years now where the Cubs are pushed to the brink of a premature end of their season because their offense is missing in action. Sure, it happens to teams in the postseason. The Reds and Braves had 12 scoreless innings before the Braves eventually walked that game off in the 13th inning. But, that game was started by Trevor Bauer, a leading Cy Young contender. As frustrating as it would be to see that high-powered Braves offense get stifled like that, A) they won and B) it makes sense, not to mention C) they’ll probably put a crooked number or two on the board today.
There have been very few players that have come through the Cubs system in the last half dozen years that I haven’t warmly embraced. Even down to some of the quirky end of the bench and cameo guys, we cheered them. We enjoyed their story. We were sorry to see a lot of them go when they did ultimately go. If Theo Epstein has one weakness that I’ve seen, it is his stubborn refusal to move on and change things. An argument can be that the Joe Maddon era dragged on about a season too long. Certainly an argument can be made that this core has been kept together too long.
Of course, I also trumpet the successes of this loyalty in this spot. Jason Heyward woefully underperformed the substantial free agent contract he signed here before the 2016 from the start. But he worked hard and became one of the only two regularly potent bats in the lineup this year. Yu Darvish is another signing that looked bad at the start. He spent most of his first year injured and then struggled in his second. But since then he’s developed into another contender for the Cy Young this season. Craig Kimbrel appears to be another signing that got off to a horrendous start, but it looks like he might have turned things around.
Loyalty is a commendable trait. Stubbornness is not. Of course, it isn’t always easy to see where one stops and the other starts. It feels all too soon to be writing a post mortem article. Hopefully, Yu will step up and the offense will provide him some support. The Cubs should be able to handle this Marlins team. Failure to do so would be just that. Failure. It’s baseball. In short series, anything can happen. But, this Marlins team should have been the best possible matchup for the Cubs. Their two best starters available to start the two games. Both of them right-handed against a team that struggles with right-handed starters. But even in that equation, there needs to be offense.
The core of this team Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javier Baez have to varying degrees been completely impotent this season at the plate. Big games usually need big performances from big players. This team prioritized offensive weapons when it was being built. The offense shouldn’t have been the weakness. But it is and so here we are. Hopefully, they get things turned around in a big hurry.
And 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) 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. With that, let’s get to the results.
Game 1, September 30: Marlins 5, Cubs 1 (0-1)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.144). It comes as no surprise that Ian was the Cubs top performer. He was for most of the regular season, leading the team in OPS despite a rough September. He had two hits, including a homer to produce the lone run.
- Hero: Kyle Schwarber (.063). Kyle had two walks before being pulled for a defensive replacement.
- Sidekick: Andrew Chafin (.007). Retired the only batter he faced.
- Billy Goat: Jeremy Jeffress (-.130). Jeffress is one of those guys who doesn’t have a huge margin of error. He was very successful through most of the regular season, but many had pointed out that it was more and more of a tightrope walk as the season wore along. He allowed three hits in five batters faced, including a two-run homer that buried the game.
- Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.121). David Ross got greedy. He was really praying he could steal one more inning out of one of his two aces. He put him out there for the seventh. I would have looked at that inning as “first hit, you are done.” Instead, Ross allowed Hendricks to allow fairly solid singles to the eighth and ninth hitters in the Marlins lineup, then face the top of the order again. It was at least one batter too far. He allowed a three-run homer and with the ineffectiveness of the offense, that spelled doom.
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.099). JHey was hitless in four at bats, striking out once.
WPA Play of the Game: Corey Dickerson’s three-run homer off Hendricks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. (.414)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ homered with two outs in the fifth to provide the Cubs their only run of the game and the first lead of the series. (.154)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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