It’s good to be back after a long weekend off. The Cubs didn’t show any signs of rust as they returned from four days off with a 7-1 win over the Indians. Those of us who weren’t particularly following the Indians learned from Al in the series preview that the Indians haven’t been scoring a ton of runs, so the single run they scored isn’t super surprising. But we also learned that they hadn’t allowed more than four runs in a game, so the seven runs was a pleasant surprise.
The story remains the same. The Cubs have been relying on good starting pitching and timely hitting to lead this team to victory. I don’t think I’d be far off in saying that the three losses were the three worst starts the Cubs have had to date. It’s a small sample, but in 2020 it does seem more true than normal the old baseball saying that momentum is the next night’s starting pitcher.
It’s also possible that the horrid start that after the bullpen has had to the season, things are starting to iron out a bit. To be sure, over the last few games the pen has pitched largely in low leverage situations, so we don’t want to prematurely celebrate the accomplishments they’ve had. But it would certainly fit with the pattern of how the Cubs have operated in recent years. They amass a large quantity of fungible arms, sift through them and figure out which ones might be the most effective. While this approach is likely to never produce an elite bullpen, it has year in and year out produced a Cubs pen that has been statistically above average.
On a team with very good starting pitching and solid offense, statistically above average is going to produce a very competitive team. Of course, you’d love to have guys who you could just hand the ball to and know the game was over most nights. For this year, I suspect the biggest problem is that it is a bit harder than usual to rotate through potential options. The waiver wire is a little less active than it is in some years and of course there is no Triple-A baseball being played. So there is less of a next man up situation than in an ordinary year.
Regardless of how all of this plays out, the Cubs are sitting at 11-3 at this point, that’s the best winning percentage in baseball. Were this a 162 game season, we’d be enjoying the ride but cautioning that it is very early. In a 60 game season, some teams have already reached the 30 percent mark in games played. Obviously, 30 percent is still comparatively early. But, the totality of baseball history tells us that at that point in the season, around two months in a normal season, the results stabilize pretty well. Teams that have the best record are increasingly likely to reach the playoffs.
Focusing solely on the Cubs, prior to 2020, the Cubs have won at least 11 of their first 14 games seven times since 1900. They made the World Series five times and won it three of those five. So this strong start has some very positive significance. Nothing is ever guaranteed. But this has been an impressive start to the managerial career of David Ross and an excellent sign for a core group of Cubs who some wondered if the window had closed. It appears to be very much open.
Game 14, August 11: Cubs 7, Indians 1 (11-3)
- Superhero: Jon Lester (.325). Jon was very good again, allowing only three hits and two walks over six innings. He allowed one run and struck out four.
- Hero: Jason Heyward (.183). Heyward had three hits in four at bats. The big blow was a three-run homer.
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.110). Ian had two hits and a walk in four plate appearances. He scored one run and drove in another.
- Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.106). Rizzo was hitless in five at bats.
- Goat: Victor Caratini (-.105). Vic was hitless in three at bats.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.043). Contreras had a hit, an RBI and a run scored in four at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Jason Heyward’s sixth inning two-out, three-run homer blew the game wide open. (.118)
*Indians Play of the Game: Adam Plutko coaxed a ground ball off of the bat of Victor Caratini with runners at first and second and one out in the second inning. The Indians turned the double play and Plutko escaped unscathed.
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3, Bottom 3)
- Ian Happ 8
- Jon Lester 7
- Jeremy Jeffress, Alec Mills and Jason Kipnis 5
- Nico Hoerner -5.5
- Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant -8
Up Next: The Cubs finish the mini series in Cleveland with a chance for another series sweep. They’ll send Kyle Hendricks to the mound. The Indians counter with Carlos Carrasco. The oddsmakers are leaning towards the Indians in this one. With two good pitchers matching up, this looks to be a good one.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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