Regression can take on so many forms. Sometimes it is pretty to look at and sometimes it is ugly. Sometimes, it is a September win featuring significant contributions by three of your biggest stars who have had the collective worst seasons of their careers. Sometimes it is your largely unscathed closer allowing a two-run homer to tie the game in the ninth inning.
For weeks, I wrote about the Cubs being a pretty boring follow in 2020. Not because the on-field product was bad or because the core of this team became any less likable. But because you could generally tell by about the third inning and certainly by the sixth inning what was going to happen. Good start? Cubs win. Bad start? Cubs lose. They weren’t coming from behind and they weren’t blowing leads. Ok, that last part was actually one of the pluses of the season, particularly for a bullpen that looked historically bad in the beginning of the season.
The last week or so, that whole narrative has been torn up. Last week at Wrigley Field, the Cubs mounted a comeback in the middle innings against the Reds to steal one that looked like it would be one of those fall behind early and lose games. Then over the weekend, they scored four in the ninth off of arguably the most dominant reliever in baseball to grab a comeback win against the Brewers.
Tuesday’s game wasn’t anywhere near that dramatic, but it was one of the most back and forth games of the season. The Cubs scored first to lead 1-0. They allowed the next three runs to trail 3-1. They scored the next four runs to lead 5-3. That put Jeremy Jeffress on the mound in the ninth inning. But he was tagged for a two-run game-tying homer by Francisco Lindor. That set the table for a dramatic walk-off... hit by pitch.
It would be too simplistic to say that in an infinitely long season that everyone would regress to zero in Heroes and Goats. There is certainly a gravitational pull towards zero. However, the best players will defy gravity and slowly pile up positive H&G points. Similarly, certain players will sink to the bottom, racking up negative points.
Historically, Anthony Rizzo has been the most consistent H&G performer. But in 2020, he has been running last or near last for most of the season. Last night, he achieved his first Superhero placement since July 31. That moved him out of last place. Could this be the start of one of his white hot stretches? Additionally, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant have been frequent top performers in H&G and occupy the other bottom two spots. Both of them have been seeing the ball and swinging the bat better. One of the fun things about the 2020 season for me is that we reach mid-September and both the top and bottom spots for the season standings of H&G are very much in question.
One final note: The Cubs and Indians met for the third time this season Tuesday night. In case you’ve missed the stat, the Indians are 10-3 when playing the rest of the NL Central. With last night’s win, the Cubs are now 3-0 against them. The Indians have a winning record against everyone else they’ve played except the Twins (3-7). That is the oddity that is 2020. Two teams basically knocked the Indians out of winning the division. Of course, it was probably a bit more the Twins than the Cubs... unless the Cubs finish the season sweep tonight.
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 49, September 15: Cubs 6, Indians 5 (29-20)
- Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.448). Anthony had a three hit night, driving in a run.
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.191). This was the kind of table setter game the Cubs envisioned out of Bryant this year. He reached base three times with a single and two walks. He scored three times.
- Sidekick: Cameron Maybin (.165). Maybin writes his name in Cubs history with a walk-off hit by pitch. It’s the kind of event that happens so infrequently that we learned last night that Reed Johnson was the last Cub to do so. One day we’ll be reading about Cameron Maybin in the same way.
- Billy Goat: Jeremy Jeffress (-.281). As blown saves go, I’m not going to get too worked up over one inning, two walks, one hit, two runs. Not great, but he survived the inning with a tie game.
- Goat: Kyle Schwarber (-.143). Schwarber was hitless in four at bats and struck out twice.
- Kid: Victor Caratini/Ian Happ (-.093). Vic was hitless in four at bats. Happ actually had two hits and a run scored in five at bats.
WPA Play of the Game: Unsurprisingly, Francisco Lindor’s one-out, two-run, game-tying homer in the ninth inning off of Jeffress nets the top spot. (.342) Lindor was a one-man army, with a full WPA score of .517.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Anthony Rizzo singled in the ninth inning, sending Kris Bryant to third base with one out. (.188)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Yu Darvish 16
- Ian Happ 15.5
- Jason Heyward 12.5
- Kris Bryant -10
- Anthony Rizzo -12.5
- Javier Baez -13
Up Next: The final game of the two game set and the four game series. The Cubs will try to finish off the season sweep. Aaron Civale starts for the Indians against Jon Lester. The oddsmakers are slightly favoring the Indians in this one. Let’s see if Jon can continue the strong work he did last time out in Milwaukee as he looks to get back to form heading towards the playoffs.