It’s always interesting to wonder how much stock team management can put into trends. Let me explain the trends I’m talking about. Kyle Hendricks has a 3.21 ERA over his career but he has a 4.78 ERA in March/April starts. Kyle Hendricks pitches at or near Cy Young level from May until the end of the season. Zach Davies has a 3.81 career ERA, but a 5.24 March/April ERA. Zach Davies pitches at or near Cy Young level from May until the end of the season.
Both Hendricks and Davies started 2021 slow. Hendricks had five April starts and he was 1-3 with a 7.54 ERA. Davies was 1-2 with a 9.47 ERA in five April starts. Those poor starts led Hendricks to throw only 22⅔ innings in April and Davies even fewer at 19. Basically, Hendricks was giving you about 4½ innings and allowing four runs. Davies was giving you four innings and allowing more than four runs while he was in there. These two pitchers were tabbed to be the top two starters in the Cubs rotation. That’s one heck of a trust fall to have to do each season. How much do you have to start wondering if this is the year that they just don’t recover?
Hendricks has made eight starts after April. He’s 7-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 52 innings. That’s more than six innings per start. A striking difference. Davies has made nine starts since the start of May. He is 3-1 in those nine outings (the team is 7-2) with a 1.86 ERA in 48⅓ innings. He’s still only at a little over five innings per start, but he’s putting the team in a position to win every time out. The Cubs are 14-3 with these two starting since the start of May. These two were getting their brains beat in in April, but now they are leading the way. The Cubs were 11-15 in April, but they were 3-7 when Hendricks/Davies started. So that is 8-8 when they didn’t. The Cubs are now 27-12 since the start in May. But they are 14-3 when one of those two starts. So they are 13-9 when they don’t. Still respectable, but flat out dominant when one of those two are starting.
For the season, the Cubs are 38-27. That’s a .584 winning percentage, or if you prefer about a 95-win pace. The Cubs are 27-12 since May 1. That’s a .692 winning percentage, or if you prefer a 112-win pace. When Hendricks or Davies starts a game this season for the Cubs, for the season, the Cubs are 17-10. That’s a .629 winning percentage, or a 102-win pace. Since May 1 when Hendricks or Davies starts, the Cubs have a, .824 winning percentage or a 133-win pace.
How much can one trust historical numbers and trends? The Cubs trusted them and stayed the course after an abysmal April from the two pitchers they counted on most. Now they are reaping the benefits. As this season nears trading season, one has to wonder how much the Cubs do rely on historical trends. If they do, they’ll be looking at this. Hendricks has a career ERA of 3.65 in the first half of the season and a 2.78 after. Davies has a 4.15 ERA in the first half and a 3.61 in the second. These are two pitchers who have a track record of getting better as the season wears on.
With these two leading the way, if they stay healthy, the Cubs are going to be in contention until the end. If the Cubs can either pair the two of them with a third starter or a dominant offense, this team can win 90-95 games. If they pair them with both, they can win more than that. There are a lot of ifs in there. Baseball is always a truckload of ifs, buts and maybes. There are so many unknowns, so many twists, so many turns. Since the Cubs started being competitive in 2015, this team has had a long and successful stretch. The longest and most successful stretch in the modern history of the franchise. Your mileage will vary on how you stack them up with the Cubs teams from the early 1900s who did at least manage two championships.
Since they’ve returned to competitiveness, one of the things they’ve done is add talent in season. And, specifically, they’ve often made an early move or two, not waiting until the 11th hour to add onto the team. I see some questions about what Jed Hoyer should do. Obviously, there were narratives before the season even began that with so many expiring contracts, this might be the time to trade some stars and restock the minor leagues. Right now, on the morning of June 14, the Cubs sit two games off the best record in the NL. They are trending in the right direction. Jed and his crew should be working the phones. They should be sending their reduced scouting staff out looking at other team’s talent. (They should be trying to see if they can hire back some of the departed now that they are back to capacity at the park). This team is in the hunt. Give them some more weapons and let them hunt.
Let’s dive into the numbers and see what they tell us about last night’s 2-0 victory over the Cardinals that completed a three game sweep. 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 65, June 13: Cubs 2, Cardinals 0 (38-27)
- Superhero: Zach Davies (.335). 6⅔IP (23 batters faced), 2H, 2BB, 0R, 6K (W 4-3)
- Hero: Ryan Tepera (.136). 1⅓IP (5 batters faced), 0H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Sidekick: Craig Kimbrel/Anthony Rizzo (.071). Kimbrel IP, 4 batters faced, 0H, BB, 0R, 3K (SV 18), Rizzo 1-4, RBI, K
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.069). 0-4, K
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.038). 0-3, K
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.031). 0-3, K
WPA Play of the Game: Joc Pederson batted with a runner on third and two outs in the third inning. He put the ball in play, hitting to Cardinals shortstop Paul DeJong. DeJong made an error and the Cubs capitalized, scoring the runner from third and then adding a second run two batters later. (.107)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: Dylan Carlson led off the seventh inning with a double, injecting some life into the game for the Cardinals. (.086)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 4/Bottom 4)
- Craig Kimbrel +17.5
- Kris Bryant +16
- Patrick Wisdom/Ryan Tepera +11
- Jason Heyward/Eric Sogard/PJ Higgins -9.5
- Javier Baez -10
Up Next: The Cubs travel to New York for four games with the Mets. You likely recall that the Cubs and Mets played three games towards the end of April and the Cubs swept the series and outscored the Mets 23-8 over the three games. I can assure you, this four-game set will not be so easy. The Mets are 32-25 and sit atop the NL East. In the first game of the series, the Cubs will send Jake Arrieta to the mound. Jake was very good last time out in San Diego, holding the Padres to one run over five innings. Jake has a 6.40 ERA in seven road starts this year. The Mets counter with David Peterson. Peterson is going through some rough times, with a 9.88 ERA over his last four starts. Of course, the same was true of last night’s Cardinals starter and that didn’t work out too well. Let’s hope Jake can keep it close and the offense/bullpen can combine to pull one out.