I had a personal opportunity to get away for a few days this week. That coincided with the final two games of the Tigers series. Obviously, I’m very aware of the things that went on in the two games, though I didn’t follow either closely. I’m also very aware of the things going on around the world and the world of sports, but in this space, we will always talk solely about baseball and not the things going on in the backdrop. Certainly, the players don’t play in a vacuum and certainly nobody can say for sure what kind of an impact the world at large has on the in game product. But again, we’re not going to talk about that here.
Baseball games were played and so we’ll look at what actually happened. The very short version is that the Cubs lost two straight games Tuesday and Wednesday to the Tigers. The first of those two losses was in blowout fashion. The second one was a weird one. Things went well early in the Wednesday game, but then Ryan Tepera had his first rough outing and ultimately, that probably cost the Cubs a game. It’s always hard to place the blame on one guy, but the vast majority of the Tigers damage occurred with Tepera on the hill. And the deficit ended up being too large for a come from behind attempt.
The Cubs have just too many missing and ineffective bats right now. That leaves them with very little margin for error and when things go sideways, they just don’t have the ability to go toe to toe right now. I’m going to keep using those words though. Right now. If you tell me that Kris Bryant is never going to contribute for this team and that Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, and Willson Contreras are going to under achieve their numbers, then I’m going to tell you that the Cubs are in a lot of trouble. But I don’t believe that.
Only time will tell. But the two losses were at least mitigated a bit by losses by other teams in the division and so the Cubs continued to lead the NL Central, at least for a bit longer. That Cubs hot start to the season has bought them some margin for error. If they can right the ship, they still have a very good chance of winning the division. If they can do that, they’ll have at least a puncher’s chance with two very good starters at the top in Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, a third with a ton of post season experience in Jon Lester and a deep offensive core who all also have a ton of experience.
This is why we try to never get too high when things are going great. The tide almost always turns. But we also want to try not to get too low when things are going badly. The tide should turn again. This team hasn’t fought its last fight. Not yet anyway.
With that, we turn our attention to these two games against the Tigers 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 29, August 25: Tigers 7, Cubs 1 (18-11)
- Superhero: Duane Underwood Jr. (.103). Two batters faced, two strikeouts. Can’t beat that.
- Hero: Kyle Schwarber (.018). You know it’s a rough night when one walk in four plate appearances lands up here...
- Sidekick: David Bote (.017). ...and it isn’t a lot better when that same line lands you here.
- Billy Goat: Tyler Chatwood (-.201). Tyler got roughed up. He allowed three hits and five walks while recording only four outs. Getting charged with only two runs wasn’t bad at least.
- Goat: Victor Caratini (-.093). Vic struck out all three times he batted. Ouch.
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.091). He did account for the lone Cubs run with a solo homer.
WPA Play of the Game: Cameron Maybin came up with a runner on first and no outs in the bottom of the sixth. At the time, the game was only 2-0. He Doubled in a run and then advanced to third on an error. (.083)
*Cubs Play(s) of the Game: Well, this has never happened before. Three plays had the same top point value. Kyle Schwarber drew a walk leading off the top of the sixth with the Cubs trailing 2-0. Duane Underwood’s strikeout of Niko Goodrum with the bases loaded in the second to end the inning matched that WPA. Also, Tyler Chatwood induced a ground out with the bases loaded to end the first. (.052)
Game 30, August 26: Tigers 7, Cubs 6 (18-12)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.230). Three hits and a walk in five plate appearances. He only managed to score one run though.
- Hero: Jon Lester (.198). Five innings, eight hits, one walk, one run. Five strikeouts.
- Kid: Nico Hoerner (.160). Nico filled up the box score even more. He matched the three hits and a walk, but did it in four plate appearances. He scored twice and drove in one.
- Billy Goat: Ryan Tepera (-.496). The worst (consequential) relief outing by a Cub in about a month (Craig Kimbrel, July 27). Tepera came in with two outs and the Cubs leading 3-2 with a man on third. His sequence went as follows: single, single, single (with an error), double, single, strikeout. He allowed one inherited run and then three of his own.
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.147). Javy did have an RBI on a sac fly in the third inning. He also had a first inning single. The outs he made in his other three at bats really sunk him.
- Kid: Anthony Rizzo (-.130). Rizzo had a similar line of one hit in four at bats. He actually drove in two runs, but had the same story where the outs really dragged him down.
WPA Play of the Game: Ex-Cub Jeimer Candelario batted with runners on first and second and the score tied at three with two outs in the sixth. He singled, driving in one. Ian Happ made an error on the play allowing the runners to move up to second and third. (.173)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted with a runner on second in the ninth inning with the Cubs trailing 7-5. He singled, putting runners at the corners with no outs. (.137)
Heroes & Goats for Friday’s game against the Reds will post at 10:30 a.m. CT.