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2020 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 59

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Cubs clinch NL Central despite 9-5 loss

Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

When the format for the 2020 season was announced, it was pretty clear that it would be possible for a team to have a hot start to the season and then just ride it to the playoffs. The Cubs are certainly one such team. They came out of the gate like gang busters. In a down year for the NL Central, a 13-3 start was basically enough to win the division. That is how the Cubs are division champions despite going only 20-23 since that start.

It never matters how you get in, just that you get in. It certainly helps if you can slide into the highest possible seeding as well. Playoff games can sometimes be tight matchups and every little bit helps. Certainly, it would have been great if the Cubs had challenged the Braves a bit more for the No. 2 seed in the NL. But it really doesn’t matter, particularly when all of the games after the first round will be neutral-site games.

The Cubs will host their first round opponent. They will almost certainly greet that opponent with Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish. Their offense has shown at least a few signs of life this week. Anthony Rizzo’s bat had a pretty good week. Willson Contreras had a monster game Friday night and Kris Bryant returned and had some good swings on Saturday. Javy Baez and Kyle Schwarber also homered Friday night.

I have no delusions that this team is a legit contender. But, sometimes things just break well for you. When the White Sox won a World Series in 2005, I didn’t think they were a particularly great team, though they had a particularly great playoff run. Sometimes things just go right. I don’t mean to pick on the Sox, that is just a team that comes to mind (because of those inane Strat-O-Matic drops in game). Certainly, there have been wildcard WS winners, and a Cardinals team that barely broke .500 in the regular season (in 2006). The list goes on. This team shouldn’t win. But it doesn’t mean it won’t. The pieces are there. It’s not impossible that they could win. I’ll take it.

If the Cubs can get by that opponent, they would be the lower seed if the Braves win. But you just can’t know. There are going to be higher-seeded teams that lose in the first round., possibly even the highest seeds. On any given day, there is the chance your starter just doesn’t have it. There is a chance that the other team’s starter has out of this world stuff. You can get buzz sawed.

I’ve approached this 2020 season looking to find the fun. The world hasn’t been a lot of fun this year. So having baseball was an escape from the insanity of daily life. We’re going to get to extend that on with Cubs baseball at least a little while longer. I’m taking that as a blessing and I intend to enjoy it to the end.

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 59, September 26: Sox 9, Cubs 5 (33-26)


Source: FanGraphs

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Kris Bryant (.334). Two hits, including a grand slam. He scored twice. Amazingly, but probably not surprisingly, this is Kris’ first Superhero of the year.
  • Hero: Ian Happ (.090). Ian had a hit and was hit by a pitch in three plate appearances. He scored once.
  • Sidekick: Javier Baez (.051). Javy had one hit in three at bats.

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Jon Lester (-.306). Jon probably didn’t deserve this spot. A missed pop up and a weird grounder rolled into a big inning against Jon. He was charged with six hits, three walks and seven runs. He did strike out three. I will forever hate that a pop up that lands between two fielders isn’t some kind of error. Granted the conditions were tough last night. But that’s just not Jon’s fault.
  • Goat: Ryan Tepera (-.285). Ryan inherited the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning. Granted, the hitter has a chance to be AL MVP, but the Cubs led at that point 5-4. The three-run double from Jose Abreu capped what was a five-run rally.
  • Kid: Jason Heyward (-.153). Jason struck out three times in four at bats. Jason has an .848 OPS. If he played his last game of the regular season yesterday, then he fell just .001 short of his rookie season for the best OPS of his career. Five seasons with the Cubs, each one had a higher OPS than the one before and he still plays really strong right field defense.

WPA Play of the Game: Kris Bryant (.348). If you don’t realize how much Kris’ bat could mean to the Cubs, you don’t remember healthy Kris. His grand slam yesterday was a very big deal, even if it was only one at bat. (.348)

*Sox Play of the Game: Jose Abreu’s double with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning gave the Sox a 7-5 lead. (.313)

Poll

Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 96%
    Kris Bryant
    (59 votes)
  • 3%
    Other
    (2 votes)
61 votes total Vote Now

Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)

  • Yu Darvish 19
  • Kyle Hendricks 18
  • Ian Happ 14.5
  • Jason Heyward 12.5
  • Jason Kipnis 9
  • Kyle Ryan -7
  • Victor Caratini -8
  • Anthony Rizzo -8.5
  • Kris Bryant -11
  • Javier Baez -19

Fitting. The Cubs top two pitchers who led the way throughout are in the top two spots. Their top two hitters who led the way most of the time are sitting third and fourth. With almost all of the precincts in, I’m prepared to call Yu Darvish the Heroes and Goats Player of the Year (recognizing that there is the slightest chance of being wrong... Kyle Hendricks could pitch Sunday). Ian Happ and Jason Heyward could still swap spots as they did last night if one or both play. At the bottom, Javy is going to occupy the bottom spot. Stunning and sad. Hopefully he gets squared away for the playoffs. I enjoy that if Bryant plays and finishes with a Hero or Superhero that there is a chance to have only a single player with a double digit negative score (while there will be four with a double digit positive).

Up Next: One last game against the Sox. The White Sox are one game out of first place. So this one is certainly important for them. I didn’t research tie breakers, but I’ll presume since the Twins haven’t yet clinched the AL Central that the White Sox would win the division if they win and the Twins lose. I’m not certain that there is a massive difference between spots two through four in the AL which are all up for grabs. I do know the Twins want no part of yet another series with the Yankees. For those not paying attention, basically every time the Twins make the playoffs they face the Yankees and get trashed.

Adbert Alzolay will get the start for the Cubs. He looked excellent in relief earlier in the week. Jose Quintana started that game and I’d expect him to throw at least an inning or two in relief in this one as he tries to get ready for the playoffs. The Cubs may very well use a number of guys for an inning or two. The White Sox send Reynaldo Lopez to the mound. The oddsmakers are seeing this one going to the White Sox.

Scoreboard Watching:

  • The Giants‘ playoff hopes are on life support, but they are still alive. They face the Padres, but they are favored.
  • The Indians host the Pirates. They are heavily favored to win. I believe if they win and the White Sox lose, they take the second spot in the division, though both are in regardless.
  • The Twins host the Reds. Rich Hill and Sonny Gray throw the finale. I believe the Reds can finish anywhere from fifth to eighth in the NL. The Twins should be able to finish anywhere from second to fourth in the AL. The Twins are favored.
  • The Phillies are also on life support. They visit the Rays. They are favored, throwing Aaron Nola.
  • Last but certainly not least, the Brewers and Cardinals are facing each other. Neither has clinched a playoff spot yet. Couldn’t happen to a finer pair of foes. I’d be amused if they played about 30 innings trying to solve this one. The Brewers are favored with old pal Brett Anderson on the hill. The Cardinals send Austin Gomber to the hill. He’s thrown a total of 25 innings this year, making three starts and has a 1.80 ERA. There remain scenarios where the Cardinals could be forced to fly to Detroit for a makeup doubleheader Monday.

All of these games start around 2:15 Central time, so this will all play out in real time. Should be a wild day, particularly in the NL, but also in the AL Central. Tomorrow we’ll be able to talk about who is playing who. Unless of course that Cardinals DH matters.