One quarter of the year is much, much too early to talk about MVPs. Kris Bryant is the MVP of the first quarter of the season in my book. He’s provided elite offensive skills while also starting games at five different positions. The picture at the top of this page shows Bryant at first base. That on top of his familiar third base position and his much more familiar positions this year in the outfield. All of it. He’s played all around the outfield. And he’s started a couple of games at first base, too. With Javier Baez getting the night off on Wednesday, I wonder if David Ross even had a moment’s thought about Bryant playing short. Surely, that’s not an ideal position for him, but his versatility has been impressive. And again, to stay extremely productive is a tribute to him.
It shouldn’t be a controversial thing for me to say, but here we are. Here in Kris Bryant’s seventh season in the major leagues, it is as true as it ever has been. When he’s healthy, he’s one of the best players in the game. Period, no qualifiers. Obviously, Mike Trout exists on a different planet than all of the other players. To be sure, it’s mighty kind of the AL sports writers to occasionally give the MVP to someone else, because Trout is the best player in baseball each and every season. After that though, there is a very wide group of very talented, high performing players. They all have their ups and their downs. Kris Bryant belongs in that group. At any given time surely there are several people in that group outperforming him. But at times he also outperforms them all.
Bryant is going so good, and the gap between him and the next best hitter on the Cubs so wide, that I would have employed the Bonds strategy on him in the ninth inning. He batted in the ninth inning with the Cubs trailing 4-3 with two out the bases empty. I’d have walked him. Every player on the Cubs is less likely to come through than Kris is. Sure, he’s a good baserunner and he has a very good chance of scoring from first on a double with two outs. I’d still do it. The Nationals didn’t and he only singled in that spot.
Wednesday was one of those games you could see coming. The pitching matchup significantly favored the Nationals on paper. They’d lost a few in a row, the Cubs had won a few in a row. Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez were out of the lineup. This one was due to be a Nationals win and that’s just what happened. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.
With that dose or reality, let’s turn our attention to the numbers. As you’ll recall, 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. And now, let’s get to the results.
Game 42, May 19: Nationals 4 at Cubs 3 (21-21)
- Superhero: Kris Bryant (.065). 1-4, BB, SB, K
- Hero: Joc Pederson (.058). 2-4, 2B, BB, K
- Sidekick: Tommy Nance (.051). 1⅓ IP (4 batters faced), 0H, 0BB, 0R, 3K, WP
- Billy Goat: Jake Arrieta (-.221). 5IP (24 batters faced), 7H, 2BB, 4R, WP, 2K (L 4-4)
- Goat: Matt Duffy (-.140). 0-1, K
- Kid: Willson Contreras/PJ Higgins (-.124). Contreras: 0-3, BB, 2K; Higgins: 0-3, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Matt Duffy pinch hit with a runner on second and two outs in the ninth inning (he came to the plate with a runner on first but KB stole second during his at bat). Duffy struck out with the potential tying run on second to end the game. (.140)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning, the Cubs trailing 4-1, Ian Happ lined an RBI-single. (.117)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Javier Baez (1-1, HR)
Ryan Tepera (IP, 3 batters faced, K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Kris Bryant +13
- Craig Kimbrel +8
- Jake Marisnick +7
- Jason Adam/David Bote -6
- Javier Baez -7
- Zach Davies -11
Up Next: The fourth and final game of the series Thursday afternoon. Trevor Williams will start for the Cubs. Trevor is coming off of a two-inning, 42-pitch effort in Detroit last time out. Trevor has been a much better pitcher at home so far this season and he and the Cubs will be hoping that continues to be true. The Cubs can win the series with a win today. Otherwise they’ll have to settle for a split of this four game set.