To this point in the season, the Cubs have been led by three men. They’ve gotten contributions up and down the roster at various times, but by and large three men have done the heavy lifting. Rightly so, Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel have gotten the majority of the attention. Bryant put up MVP-type numbers through the end of May and even now, he’s been the steadiest and most consistent offensive contributor. Craig Kimbrel is having a dominant season out of the bullpen. That bullpen has been the shining star of this Cubs team and he is like the rudder to that ship. He’s completely locked down his job and allowed everyone to settle into roles behind him.
Kyle Hendricks has anchored the starting rotation. He’s sitting there with a 3.84 ERA (100 ERA+) which looks rather ordinary. I know I’ve highlighted these numbers before, but as long as this run continues, I’m going to keep highlighting them. First of all, you can tell me how much you don’t like the win stat or that it is a meaningless number. I will tell you that it is a clearly flawed statistic that has lost more and more utility as the average innings pitched of a starter have declined through the years. But, it’s not nothing that Kyle now leads the majors with 10 wins.
Going even deeper than that, Kyle is 9-1 with a 2.53 ERA since the start of May and he’s now won eight straight starts (2.25 ERA over that span). Certainly in a year where Jacob deGrom is putting up numbers surpassing even MLB’s most recent dominant span of pitching by Jake Arrieta in 2015 and 2016, it’s understandable that Hendricks’ numbers aren’t eye-popping. A pitcher usually doesn’t need to be as dominant as deGrom to give his team a chance to win every time out. Kyle is doing that and it’s working. For whatever reason, the Cubs are getting him just enough runs every time out.
The Cubs have scored 46 runs over the eight straight wins for Hendricks. I assure you deGrom would salivate over those numbers. But 12 of those runs scored in a single start and it’s fresh in our memory that last night while Hendricks was in the game, it was scoreless for several innings and then the Cubs scored a single run while he was in the game. They did rally for four more in the inning he was pinch-hit for, then added two more runs later.
Certainly, the Cubs wouldn’t be where they are without Bryant and Kimbrel, but don’t forget Hendricks as one of the keys to this team. Like Bryant, Hendricks clearly stands out next to the people in his grouping of the roster. Bryant has clearly outperformed the hitting group. But at the same time, there are a number of guys putting up decent numbers in that group, particularly compared to other major league hitters in a year where offense is sinking to all time lows. But Hendricks really stands out in a group that aside from flashes of excellence from Zach Davies and Adbert Alzolay, has been a patchwork group that hasn’t been caught up in the wave of dominant pitching that is defining the 2021 season.
It feels good to have a win to recap. Optimistically, the Cubs have now won two out of three. We can just ignore the six games before that, right? Let’s 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 74, June 22: Cubs 7, Cleveland 1 (41-33)
- Superhero: Kyle Hendricks (.358). 6IP (22 batters faced), 4H, 0BB, 0R, 5K (W 10-4)
- Hero: Kris Bryant (.127). 1-3, HR (14), BB, RBI, 2R
- Sidekick: Rafael Ortega (.054). 1-2, R
- Billy Goat: Jason Heyward (-.041). 0-3
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.038). 1-4, HR (10), RBI, R, 2K
- Kid: Jake Marisnick (-.032). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Kris Bryant came to the plate in a scoreless tie with one out in the fourth inning. He launched his 14th home run of the season and untied that score in a hurry. (.138)
Cleveland Play of the Game: Ryan Lavarnway led off the third inning against Kyle Hendricks with a double. (.069)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Joc Pederson (1-3, 2B, 2RBI)
Willson Contreras 2-4, ( HR (12), 2RBI, R)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Kris Bryant +14
- Ryan Tepera _12.5
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Ian Happ -10
- Jason Heyward -10.5
Up Next: The Cubs get a rare and much needed Wednesday off.Thursday night they start a stretch of 10 games in three cities over 11 days. The first stop is in Los Angeles for four games. The Cubs will send Zach Davies to the mound. Zach had been on a nice run of his own since the start of May, but he got rocked by the Marlins last time. It was one of those games that felt like an old boxing match where you kept looking at the trainer to throw in the towel after the boxer was on the ropes the whole first round.
The Dodgers haven’t officially named any starters yet for the series, but we can infer them relatively well. Trevor Bauer is starting Wednesday for the Dodgers and so the Cubs will see the rest of their starters barring any unexpected changes. That would set up Walker Buehler for the Thursday game. Walker is 7-0 with a 2.38 ERA. The Dodgers have been dealing with a ton of injuries, but it looks like Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts could both be back in action by the time the series begins. Max Muncy returned from his own injury last night.