Sunday afternoon’s game was a wild one. Both teams ended up using nearly their entire roster. There were 10 homers. There was a player carted off the field. There were lead changes. There was a catcher playing third (after the injury) and a pitcher pinch hitting. Unfortunately, there was also a Cubs loss. There have been too many of them already in this early season.
I certainly didn’t follow spring training as closely as our fearless editor Al Yellon, but very much like he did, I figured that this Cubs team would have a competitive pitching staff. Sure, nearly every team in baseball every single year has to churn through a bunch of relievers (and in some cases starters) to find the best bunch. That’s all normal. I’m sure the Cubs bullpen will be better 60 days from now than it is right this very minute. But I thought this rotation would be decent to good. At 4.7 innings per start (through Saturday’s game), the Cubs starters are throwing the fewest innings per game of any team in the National League (tied with the Pirates).
The Cubs bullpen hasn’t actually been bad. The simple statistic is this: the Cubs haven’t yet won a game in which they’ve allowed five or more runs. And in 28 games, they’ve allowed five or more runs 13 times. The math isn’t hard, they are 12-16, they’ve lost all 13 of those games. They are 12-3 when they hold opponents to four or fewer runs. To be fair, most teams lose when they allow five or more and most teams win when they all four or less. But most teams don’t allow five or more runs 13 times in 28 games.
Because of all of that bad pitching, an offense that has started to produce more days than not is being lost in the shuffle. Kris Bryant is having a renaissance year. Though that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Unless you are surprised that he’s healthy. When he’s healthy, Kris Bryant is one of the best hitters in baseball. His problem has been staying healthy. The question on the remainder of his career will be if you think he is a player who will continue to be nagged by injuries throughout his career. Or, is this somewhat fluky?
For reference, the offense has been held to two or fewer runs nine times. They are winless in those games. So that same math tells us that if the Cubs score even just three runs in a game, they are 12-7. Winning 12 of 19 games is a 102-win pace. Baseball is so simple, isn’t it? If the Cubs score at least three and allow fewer than five, they pretty much win every time. The bad news is that the pitching staff is allowing “too many” runs in almost half of their games. If the Cubs don’t get that squared away, this team is going to lose a ton of games.
After that grim data, we’ll get 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 28, May 2: Reds 13, Cubs 12 (12-16)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.387). 3-5, HR (2), 2B, 3R, 3RBI, K
- Hero: Andrew Chafin (.310). IP (3 batters faced), 0H, 0BB, 0R, 1K
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.265). 3-5, 2HR (8,9), 2B, 3RBI, 2R, K
- Billy Goat: Trevor Williams (-.540). 2⅔ IP (16 batters faced), 6H, 4BB, 6R, 2K
- Goat: Jake Arrieta (-.320). 0-1, K
*Jake Arrieta entered the game as a hitter. Ordinarily we ignore pitchers when they are hitting and hitters when they are pitching. But technically, Jake Arrieta was a hitter in today’s game.
- Sidekick: Alec Mills (-.319). IP (8 batters faced), 3H, 0BB, 3R, 2K, 2HBP
*Cubs bullpen 6⅓ IP (31 batters faced), 10H, BB, 7R (6ER), 7K, 2HBP
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted with two on and two out in the top of the eighth with the Cubs losing by three. Tejay Antone was on the hill. Happ hit his first homer since Opening Day and tied the game. (.346)
*Reds Play of the Game: With Jake Arrieta pinch hitting with runners on second and third and two outs in the tenth inning, the Reds summoned Ryan Hendrix. He struck out Arrieta as the Cubs twice failed to put the ball in play after getting the bonus runner to start extra innings. (.320)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Javier Baez (2H, HR)
Nico Hoerner (2H, BB)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +11
- Jake Marisnick +7
- Adbert Alzolay/Kris Bryant/Dillon Maples +4
- Jason Adam/David Bote -6
- Ian Happ -7
- Zach Davies -11
Up Next: The Cubs return home on Monday and will host the Dodgers in a three-game set. Kyle Hendricks is in line to start the opener. The Cubs will have their work cut out for them in the series, facing Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw in the first two games of the series and then old pal Trevor Bauer in the series finale. Runs will likely be at a premium this week. After this series, the Cubs finally get a day off.