One can never know what happens when you play the “what if?” game. What if Kyle Hendricks had been pulled a batter or two earlier? What if Willson Contreras didn’t look back as he was approaching third base? I don’t know how coaching has changed through the years, but when I played I was always told to pick up your third base coach as soon as possible and let them identify where the ball is. Would that have mattered?
I love Willson Contreras. I’ve never detected a moment in his time with the Cubs where he wasn’t giving 150 percent very visibly. Heck, the stories all of the way back to him in Venezuela always have him going all out trying to get better, to be all he can be. I’m not going to criticize him. I’m just pointing it out as unfortunate. I didn’t play it back several times and I can’t say if it slowed him down. All I’m saying is... what if he’d made it? Could Yu have nailed down the 1-0 lead? Might the Cubs have approached the seventh differently even after the homer if that only made it 1-1?
We can never know the answers to those questions. There isn’t a lot to be gained even by asking them. Sadly, I started talking a few weeks ago about knowing how this season was going to end. It was glaringly obvious that it was going to end with a whimper. The bats would be shutdown. The pitching, no matter how effective, was never going to win a series where the offense mustered a total of one run.
This has become the story of this era of Cubs baseball. I’ve enjoyed the run throughout. If you don’t love these guys, then I’m not sure you are watching the same thing I am. Most of these guys, the core of the group, feel almost like children to me. Yeah, I get mad when they screw up or when they don’t get the job done in the way I know they can. But I never stop loving them. I always support them. One of the reasons I get as frustrated as I do is because all I ever want is for them to achieve all of the things they are capable of.
The story is, if your pitchers can execute the plan against this team, you are gong to beat them. That sounds overly simplistic, of course. Of course if you execute the plan against just about any team, you are probably going to beat them. This is how a dominant Dodgers team is eliminated from the post season every year. But, the plan against this Cubs offense isn’t rocket science.
I don’t do a lot of bringing tweets into my writing, but I saw one that Al hasn’t grabbed and so I’m going to do that. This statistic may be the most telling one I’ve seen about the core of this Cubs team. I present it without further comment.
Baez/Bryant/Rizzo, in the postseason since 2016: 19 for 141. That’s a .134 batting average. 51 K’s. 6 BB.— M@ (@MattSpiegel670) October 2, 2020
With that, another season comes to a close. I approached the 2020 season as a welcome distraction from the real world. It was unusual, not ideal, sometimes fun. I wanted to really take as much of that fun as I could from it. There was so much fun early on that it started to feel like real, authentic baseball. The problem is, that made the end hurt just like it normally does. The frustration was real all over again. Now the baseball is just one more frustrating part of this awful year. Before we close the books on the season, we look at one last 2020 game through the eyes of Heroes and Goats.
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.
Wild Card Game 2, October 2: Marlins 2, Cubs 0 (0-2)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.122). Willy was on base three times with a pair of hit by pitches and a walk. I’m only half kidding when I suggest that maybe he should get a look up top next year.
- Hero: Craig Kimbrel (.067). What a fun redemption story Craig might have been if the Cubs offense had shown up for the playoffs. It was a bit of a tightrope, but he recorded four outs, allowed no hits, he walked two and struck out two.
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (.053). The Cubs managed five hits and Jason had two of them.
- Billy Goat: Javier Baez (-.185). 2020 was a totally lost season for Javy. He graded out as one of the worst hitters in baseball. That’s a hard thing to say and often was hard to watch. This team continues to draft and develop shortstops. Hopefully they don’t need them sooner than later. Javy was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Goat: David Bote (-.169). Bote was also hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Kid: Kris Bryant (-.156). KB was just as lost for most of the season as Javy. For him, we can at least say that injuries derailed his season. That works as an excuse. Of course, this is third consecutive year that he’s lost time to injury. Some tough decisions are in the not too distant future to me, Bryant is one of the most difficult ones. Some players are just injury prone. Some have a lot of injuries early in their career and then don’t have problems as their career moves along. Kris was another Cub who was hitless in four at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Garrett Cooper homered with two outs in the seventh. That was the only run the Marlins ended up needing. (.215)
*Cubs Play of the Game: After the Marlins put runners at first and second with no outs in the fourth inning, Yu Darvish coaxed a double play grounder off of the bat of Brian Anderson. (.123)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Up Next: The offseason begins. Of course, Al and BCB will have all of the scoop, most of the rumors and plenty of discussion about the moves this team makes heading into 2021. For me, I’m tentatively planning to bring back Historical Heroes and Goats for another season. We’ve done 1984, 2003 and 1969 in past years. This year, I’m looking at one of my favorite Cubs seasons: 1989. I love that season for its contrast. At 10 years old, I looked at the 1984 Cubs team and was confident in saying that team was going to the playoffs. Yeah, I didn’t know a lot about baseball yet. But in 1989, I confidently looked at that team on opening day and thought it might be one of the worst teams I’d seen in my short time as a Cubs fan. Boy, was I wrong. That team captured a little magic, got hot and just rolled momentum into one of the most enjoyable rides I’ve ever been on.
And so, we close the door on another Cubs season. It’s been fun. Thank you all for your support. If you’ve read one piece I’ve written, made one comment, voted in one poll, then I’ve appreciated you. I’m proud to be a teeny, tiny part of Cubs nation. Without all of you, I’d be just another guy sitting on his couch. Now, I’m a guy sitting on his couch and writing stories about the team I love for a handful of loyal readers. Pretty neat. I’ll never stop appreciating that. Take care of yourselves. We’ll get’em next year.