Time to take a mental inventory. Things involving Cubs baseball to be happy about right now. Anthony Rizzo’s bat is apparently finally getting started. Rizzo’s bat, to me, is the most important one in the Cubs lineup. I’m sure this is largely that it’s been so long since we’ve seen sustained excellence out of Kris Bryant that I feel this way. “A” game Bryant is the most lethal Cubs bat. But, Rizzo’s is important because you see a heck of a lot more right handed pitching and because when he’s really going right he also does some damage against left handed pitching.
I’m also happy that we’ve reached the last weekend of the season and the Cubs are playing meaningful baseball. I’ll never miss “playing out the string” baseball. I’ll certainly always prefer “positioning for a deep playoff run” baseball. But I’m not greedy on this point. The Cubs go into this last weekend with a chance to win their division. That’s pretty cool still to me. Winning will never get old and I’ll never take it for granted.
I’m even happier that if the Cubs continue to faceplant the last weekend of this season that they’ll get a do-over next week in the playoffs. I certainly think that, even without fans, playing three straight games in your own park is a huge advantage. You know the clubhouse, the conditions, the field, the dimensions. I really hope the Cubs find a way to finish winning the NL Central and don’t let that hot start in a short season go to waste.
I’m happy that the Cubs have Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish. I’m watching and seeing the same things all of the rest of you are. I have every reason to believe just like you guys do that the Cubs will be a quick out in the playoffs. Their bats are dormant and they don’t quite have enough pitching to just dominate that way. But In Darvish and Hendricks, they at least have a fighting chance. Two top shelf pitchers is quite a luxury to have. I appreciate that one of the hallmarks of this era of Cubs baseball has been outstanding starting pitching. From Lester to Arrieta to Hendricks to Darvish, there have been some really elite pitchers.
A baseball game happened yesterday. A few innings into it, I tried to pretend like it never happened. If there was a way to tell Heroes and Goats without acknowledging it, I would. The only amount of time I’m going to spend talking about what actually happened in this space is to explain that I had to use writer’s discretion today. You see, when a game gets lopsided fast and never recovers, you end up with a blob of players around the .000 mark. In the instance of yesterday’s game, it ended up with three players exactly at .000 and that was good for the Sidekick placement. I don’t mind leaving a .5/.5 split for a spot. The three-way split is ugly. So we aren’t doing that. So what do we have to look at? One pitcher threw two innings and allowed one run. Another pitcher threw a shutout inning. One hitter batted once and was hitless. While that pitcher who threw two innings gets credit for saving the other pitching staff members and for getting the game over, I don’t think that contributed towards putting the team closer to winning the game. So our winner is the one shutout inning.
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 57, September 24: Pirates 7, Cubs 0 (32-25)
- Superhero: Anthony Rizzo (.024). Rizzo had a double and a walk in four plate appearances.
- Hero: Jason Heyward (.014). JHey had a walk in three plate appearances. The Cubs managed only two hits and three walks. Gross.
- Sidekick: Jason Adam (.000). Congratulations, you win this spot for your scoreless inning of work. Hopefully, that will be my only writer’s discretion of this season.
- Billy Goat: Alec Mills (-.166). Some days you throw a no-hitter. Some days you throw batting practice. Mills was clubbed for eight hits, including three homers, walked a batter and was charged with four runs. It really felt much worse than that. He did survive long enough to record 11 outs.
- Goat: Cameron Maybin (-.079). Cameron has actually been a pretty solid pickup. But he went with the team momentum yesterday and was hitless in four at bats.
- Kid: Kyle Ryan (-.074). Right. Mills’ outing felt worse because I blurred it with Ryan’s which also felt like batting practice. He recorded four outs, but allowed three hits, one a homer and was charged with two runs.
WPA Play of the Game: Colin Moran homered off of Alec Mills with two outs in the first. (.103) My first instinct was to immediately turn the game off. I didn’t follow that instinct. Biggest mistake I made yesterday.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras threw out Gregory Polanco trying to steal second in the second. (.051) We’ve had some weird things showing up in H&G this week.
Who should have been given the Sidekick spot?
This poll is closed
Duane Underwood, Jr; 2IP, 3H, 1BB, 1R
Jason Adam; 1IP, 0H, 0BB, 0R
Jose Martinez; 0-1
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kyle Hendricks 18
- Jason Heyward 16.5
- Yu Darvish 16
- Ian Happ 12.5
- Jason Kipnis 11
- Anthony Rizzo -7.5
- Victor Caratini -8
- Willson Contreras -8.5
- Kris Bryant -14
- Javier Baez -20
With that, Jason Heyward moves into position to make a run at the top spot. Meanwhile, the hot streak of Anthony Rizzo has him making a late move to leave the bottom group.
Up Next: I think what irks me the most out of the last week is that Rob Manfred gets to see the Cubs and Sox playing a meaningful series this last weekend of the year. You know that series wasn’t an accident. A Cubs/Cardinals series would have been equally impactful and would also have been traditional. Of course, this shortened season and the five-team divisions and the format of 2020 meant that someone had to be playing out of division. So the Cardinals and Brewers are squaring off while the Cubs get the Sox. Whatever, it is what it is. Hopefully, with the bars largely closed down, there won’t be violence between Cubs and Sox fans over the weekend. It would be nice if we just got to see some good baseball between two teams that happen to occupy largely the same space.
I’ve not yet read Al’s most recent look at the potential post-season outcomes. From where I sit, the Cubs magic number is three. If they win one game this weekend, that pushes it to two. The Cardinals technically have six games remaining to be played. If they can go 5-1 or 6-0 in that, then very much like the Brewers in 2018, they deserved the title and it’s whatever. I don’t believe they are good enough to run that hot for four days against any opposition. This isn’t “that” Cardinals club.
In game one of the set with the White Sox, the Cubs send Yu Darvish to the mound. He’s cooled off a bit and probably dipped just out of the running for the Cy Young, even if he full out shoves tonight. Dylan Cease starts for the White Sox. This is the best matchup of the series for the Cubs. The odds-makers aren’t exuberant, but do favor the Cubs in this one. No doubt Cease will be amped up for this start in this spot.
- Rays favored over Phillies
- Yankees favored over Marlins
- Braves favored over Red Sox
- Twins favored over Reds
- Cardinals/Brewers looks like a toss-up for one of the games
- Cardinals appear to be favored in the other game (a split is just fine by me)
Too many AL/NL games for the final weekend. I hate this schedule. The Phillies and Marlins are running uphill all weekend. This is going to have a chance of putting three NL Central teams into the playoffs. Of course, the Rays and Yankees are set into their spots and will be positioning to be ready to try to go deep into the playoffs. The Braves catch a break with the Red Sox this weekend. They should almost certainly nail down the No. 2 seed in the NL. The Reds get a tough draw with the Twins. The Twins are trying to hold off the surging Indians who are trying to go from third to first in the last week of the season. Not listed here, but the Indians have the Pirates for the weekend. I assume the Pirates got all of that winning out of their system. I do not know the tiebreaker scenario between the Sox and Indians, but it is possible that the Cubs could win one game and that knocks the Sox all of the way down to third.