Phew. Where to go with this one? After Patrick Wisdom’s pinch homer, I had all planned out some things to say about him. I haven’t talked about him a whole lot, despite his ascent to the top levels pf the Heroes and Goats standings. But then the inning from hell happened. One is the story of the game and the bigger picture, the other is one of the feel good stories of the season.
I guess we start with the bad. How’s about that for some serious regression? The Cubs bullpen is good. No question. Is it probably one of the best in baseball? Debatable. I don’t think you could conclusively say that they aren’t. But I don’t think there is any question that their numbers were freakishly above what most of them had ever accomplished at the major league level. That is, with the obvious exception of Craig Kimbrel. So this was definitely a spot where you knew that they would fall off of their perch at some point. Just too many guys with long scoreless inning streaks. It doesn’t work that way, you know?
But man, 10 runs in one inning? That’s an awful lot of simultaneous regression. Ryan Tepera has now struggled twice in a row. In the scheme of things, that’s the only one that matters. You have to hope that this is just a rough spot and that there is nothing wrong physically with him and that he’s not fallen into tipping pitches. The Cubs’ bullpen was their clear strength. As they get into facing teams that have legitimate post season hopes and as the season wears on, you are going to start getting into some more serious scouting. These teams have either picked up on something, be it a tell or be it a too consistent plan of attack. You don’t blow up everything you’ve done when you are having this fine of a season, but you do make sure there are no glaring leaks. And you do consider a tweak.
As for Patrick Wisdom, I have to admit I’ve spent too many years seeing everything the Cardinals do be right. So since they let him go, I keep assuming that this is all some weird mirage. How could a Cardinals cast off actually be valuable? So I’ve really tried not to get too much into the hype or even the hyperbole. I mean, don’t get me wrong, my daughters and I will announce his at bats when we are watching as something like “here comes the best player in baseball.” But it’s all in jest.
So then I wasn’t surprised when Patrick started to struggle a bit. Let’s be clear, no one is as good as he was performing when he first came up. Once again, regression was going to be a thing. And it was. It came and he started to struggle and he started to strike out. But I do watch a guy like him. The first thing I see is that he plays really steady defense. Even on a night where he strikes out three times, he’s making the plays that should be made. That’s so important for a player just starting to get his look at the major league level. Be good at the parts that you can control. Make the plays on defense. Be smart when you do get on base. Hitting is hard and there are going to be slumps. But be valuable when you get a chance to.
So he crossed that off. Then the next thing is: so they’ve adjusted to you. What do you do next? I have read a couple of his interviews and he talks a good game about putting in the work. Let’s go to the numbers. On the season, Patrick has a line of .277/.341/.699. Obviously, those numbers play for 30 out of 30 teams. We know he’s had an incredible run. But let’s break it down into chunks. In the first 13 games he played this year, he put up a line of .412/.444/1.088 with seven homers. Yep, that’s where we came up with that Best Player in Baseball tag for him. In his next 10 games, he dropped all of the way down to .172/.294/.379. But what can we pull out of that? Five walks and two homers. So he was providing some offense even while struggling pretty bad. Also, we’ll note that all hitters go through this. No reason to beat the guy up over it. Then his last nine games. He’s hitting .200/.238/.500. He’s not getting regular starts now. He did hit two homers, but he only drew one walk in 21 plate appearances.
So we see his numbers tailing off. I think I wasn’t interested in getting on the hype train because this was going to happen. So it felt like getting pumped up just to get inevitably disappointed. But then there was that homer last night. That’s a big-time homer. It gets lost in the shuffle of a 14-4 loss, because at a quick glance at the box score, it’s a two-run shot late in a blowout. Only this wasn’t a 14-4 type of game. That homer was on the road against the team the Cubs are almost certainly going to compete with down to the wire for a division title. That homer tied the game at four. This game had all of the familiar signs of a ho hum Cubs loss to Milwaukee. It was a script we’d seen a lot on the road this year. The Cubs jumped ahead 2-0, but then the Brewers got it right back. Then the Brewers tacked on a third and a fourth run.
Things were looking bleak. Then Patrick Wisdom hit that game-tying homer. That’s not nothing. That’s a pretty big clutch homer. Look, you certainly don’t want to buy that Wisdom stock right now. It’s certainly buying high. If you bought it really early this year, you should probably have already cashed out on your big win. But, he sure looks the part of a guy who could be a solid contributor with some pop. As guys generally are from the Cardinals system, he appears to be very fundamentally sound. As noted, he plays steady defense and we haven’t seen any baserunning blunders from him yet. At minimum, he looks like a serviceable fifth infielder/corner guy with good pop. Maybe he peaks out a little higher than that. What a nice find.
What a shame that gets lost in the shuffle of a 10-run collapse by the pen. I really liked the Wisdom story better than the bullpen collapse. But we certainly can’t skip that part. Though I did end up not talking about the Cubs loading the bases just ahead of that collapse. What a bad time not to punch through a run or two. Maybe the whole sequence of the game changes.
But either way, that’s four straight losses if you are counting. Things don’t get any easier from here. At least not in the immediate future. Let’s go to the numbers and recap last night’s game so that we can throw this one away. 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 79, June 28: Brewers 14, Cubs 4 (42-37)
- Superhero: Patrick Wisdom (.276). 1-1, HR (11), 2RBI, R
- Hero: Ian Happ (.136). 2-4, HR (9), BB, 2RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Andrew Chafin (.078). IP (4 batters faced), H, 0BB, 0R, 0K
- Billy Goat: Ryan Tepera (-.366). ⅔ IP (6 batters faced), 2H, 2BB, 4R, K (L 0-2)
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.170). 0-4, BB, CS, 2K
- Kid: Kyle Hendricks (-.159). 6IP (27 batters faced), 7H, 2BB, 4R, 4K
WPA Play of the Game: Seriously, that Wisdom homer was a big deal. A two-run, game tying homer in the seventh inning. That ends up being the top play, even in a loss. (.276)
*Brewers Play of the Game: With one out and runners at first and second in the eighth inning, Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled, driving in the go ahead run. (.250)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: Top 3/Bottom 3
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Patrick Wisdom +14
- Kris Bryant +12
- Willson Contreras/Eric Sogard -8.5
- Jake Arrieta -9
- PJ Higgins -9.5
Up Next: Game two of the three game set Tuesday night in Milwaukee. Zach Davies will make the start for the Cubs. Zach was very memorably part of a no-hitter in his last start. He’s 5-4 with a 4.31 ERA on the season. He’ll match up against Brandon Woodruff who is 6-3 with a 1.89 ERA. Brandon has to have quiet moments where he is frustrated that his fine season has very little chance at this point to get any serious Cy Young consideration. In most years, you’d know that if you could even vaguely duplicate what you’ve done in the back half of the season, you’d have a very good chance. His only chance at this point appears to be a Jacob deGrom season-ending injury. Needless to say, this is another very tough matchup for the Cubs.