Thinking back, I think it is possible that we made it into late June without me writing up a glass half full/glass half empty recap. To be fair, even as I write the words, I feel a little like the glass was three quarters empty or quarter full. If last night’s game had occurred in late May when the Cubs were finishing an elite month of baseball, it maybe wouldn’t have felt quite as painful. But as it is, coming after a string of other frustrating losses, this one was pretty annoying.
If you were looking for things to be encouraged about, the Cubs did create some traffic on the bases. For the most part through this current tailspin, the Cubs have largely had no baserunners. But they got the leadoff hitter on five innings in a row last night. They did get a couple of runners into scoring position a couple of times. But of course, they didn’t cash in on any of the opportunities. A second positive was Adbert Alzolay. From a Heroes and Goats standpoint, Adbert is going to show up. But, I’m talking more about the eye test. Adbert’s stuff really stands out in comparison to all of these other Cubs starters who are relying on location and deception. Adbert clearly has the stuff to, at times, just blow away opposing hitters.
To be sure, he’s got work to do against left-handed hitting. He’s also been particularly punished by the mistakes that he has made. As a comparison, Kyle Hendricks has been allowing a ton of homers, but has largely been pretty successful on the mound, particularly since the end of April. Without getting really granular and deep diving the numbers, one would have to think that Adbert has had some combination of bad run support and bad luck that makes his results look so much worse than Kyle’s.
It’s certainly hard to hold onto the good in this one. Being excited about just getting runners on feels like a participation trophy. Being excited about the development of a starting pitcher who may not get where he’s going within this season doesn’t feel like the kind of thing that a team chasing a division title has a lot of time for. That’s invariably the double edged sword this organization has had hanging over it from day one. There is enough talent in house to win this division and maybe if things break decent to win a postseason series. That’s not nothing. Of course, this team also has a ton of talent on expiring contracts that would be incredibly attractive in a trade market. Particularly when we are in the midst of another season where the overwhelming majority of the teams are in some level of contention and there are an exceptionally high number of injuries.
This has been the problem facing this team throughout. It will eventually have to pick a lane. I suspect Jed Hoyer and his front office staff are going to really closely monitor the whole situation. At this point, it definitely feels like they are more likely to be buyers than sellers. I suspect that they will be somewhat restrained unless something really falls into their laps. They aren’t going to want to really rob the cradle to make the team better, but will surely be looking for those types of deals that are primarily fringe prospects for depth type of upgrades. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they considered dealing from the fringes of the roster to either fill holes or even to pick up an extra fringe prospect or two. While this Cubs roster isn’t loaded with elite talent right now, it does have extraordinary depth when healthy.
All of those machinations will start to play out over the next few weeks. But for now, we look at the numbers from last night’s game. 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 73, June 21: Cleveland 4 at Chicago 0 (40-33)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.091). 2-4, 2 2B, BB
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.046). 1-1
- Sidekick: Kris Bryant (.037). 0-2, 2BB, K
- Billy Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.147). 0-4, 4K
- Goat/Kid: Joc Pederson/Adbert Alzolay (-.107). Pederson: 0-4, 3K; Alzolay 4⅔IP (18 batters faced), 3H, 3BB, 3R, 5K (4-6)
WPA Play of the Game: Josh Naylor hit a two-run homer off Alzolay in the top of the fifth to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead. (.187)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras doubled leading off the bottom of the fifth. (.066)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Up next: The finale of the two-game series against Cleveland, also the homestand finale. Kyle Hendricks, who has been hot lately, starts for the Cubs. Rookie Eli Morgan, who has been hit hard in his only two MLB starts (12.79 ERA!), will be on the mound for Cleveland. This matchup sounds good for a series split.