The vultures, they are a-swirling. After the 14-4 loss on Monday, I started to see the quantity of tear it down people growing exponentially. Certainly, the only thing worse than a five-game losing streak is your main competitor simultaneously having a seven-game winning streak. I don’t know if Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss will make it worse. They lost by a single run to one of the best pitchers in the league. Brandon Woodruff would be hearing early Cy Young talk if the 2021 Cy Young race didn’t appear to hinge on Jacob deGrom’s health. Things can and do change quickly, but unless things turn very dramatically on deGrom, if he makes say 25 starts, he’s going to run away with that award in a landslide.
Zach Davies wasn’t great, but he wasn’t why the Cubs lost. The bullpen righted the ship. But the offense just wasn’t able to do much with Woodruff or the Brewers pen. To be clear, again, no one else is doing much of anything with Woodruff. Certainly, going into the game without Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo felt like fighting with both arms tied behind your back.
It’s hard to complain about injuries when virtually everyone around baseball is dealing with them. Injuries are absolutely out of control this season. For the Cubs, it decimated their infield depth. The most players I’ve logged in Heroes and Goats in a season was 50 in 2019. Last night, Jose Lobaton became the 44th Cub already this year to appear in this feature. They are going to shatter that number if this doesn’t slow down.
It has led to way too many at bats for Eric Sogard who has played really well... when deployed as the 26th man on the roster. A bench bat and spot start guy to give a guy a day off or just to give the lineup a different look. When he starts getting penciled into the lineup three, four, five times a week, it just isn’t a good thing.
It was great to get a look at Sergio Alcántara, but he’s not ready for the big leagues at this point in his development. The Cubs may have trouble sneaking him back off of the roster though, so maybe he’ll stick around. Certainly his glove plays off of the bench. But you’d certainly like to see him getting regular playing time for developmental purposes.
Nico Hoerner is due back very shortly and that should give the Cubs a boost. David Bote shouldn’t be too far off. His biggest value is dropping Sogard and Alcantara on the depth chart. He’s a good bench bat as well.
If you are calling for them to break up the team right now, I hope you were also doing so 10 games ago, 20 games ago and 30 games ago. As a baseball fan, one of your very important things to do is to not get too wrapped up in either the highs or the lows. This team is flawed. But then so are almost all of them around baseball. The Dodgers team that just took three of four and at times made the Cubs really look overmatched has a fanbase that is growing restless due to how ordinary they look at times. They are supposed to be one of the top handful of teams in baseball.
This Cubs team has plenty of warts. Above all else, they just don’t have enough starting pitching. You really need to have three guys who you expect are going to win more often than not and two guys who give you a fighting chance. If we charitably give the Cubs Zach Davies as a second pitcher who you expect to win, they are still one short in the first column. I’ll give you Adbert Alzolay in the second column, but they need another one there too. The lineup is what it has been for years. It is a group of talented hitters that the sum of their production always seems to be a little less than what the individual talents would otherwise add up to.
All of the above said, I might be a crazy man, but I’m adding and not subtracting from this team. I think it is foolhardy not to try for one more run out of this team. They almost certainly aren’t going to win it all. But they can still win a division title. The Brewers have already played a ton of games against some of the weaker teams in the league, some of whom the Cubs haven’t seen yet. Of course, a weaker schedule doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does matter that the Cubs have already finished their slate against the Padres, Dodgers and Mets, who all appear to be playoff contenders. Don’t forget, they actually won the season series against all three of those teams and overall went 13-7 against them.
I would certainly identify the “core” prospects and not trade any of those. Certainly, we don’t want to see anymore of our former top prospects making All-Star teams in other team’s uniforms. But, if we could add to this team using guys who are projected to be depth and filler rather than stars, I’m all for it. If you’ve not seen a team with an elite bullpen over chieve in the playoffs, you haven’t been watching long or closely enough. But you’ve got to have passable starting pitching and just enough offense or your bullpen can’t steal you games.
Let’s go 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 80, June 29: Brewers 2, Cubs 1 (42-38)
- Superhero: Joc Pederson (.094). 2-4, BB, SB, K
- Hero: Willson Contreras (.082). 1-3, 2BB, K
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (.068). 0-2, 2BB, K
- Billy Goat: Eric Sogard (-.347). 0-4
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.286). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Jose Lobaton (-.140). 0-1
WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and second in the eighth inning, the Cubs trailing 2-1, Eric Sogard faced Brad Boxberger. Sogard hit a line drive, but is was caught and turned into a double play at second. (.211)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Javier Baez tripled leading off the fourth inning. (.116)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Cubs bullpen (4IP, 0H, 1BB, 4K - 14 batters faced)
Javier Baez (1-3, 3B, BB, HBP)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Patrick Wisdom +14
- Kris Bryant +12
- Jake Arrieta -9
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Eric Sogard -11.5
Up Next: The third and final game of the set with the Brewers is Wednesday afternoon. Jake Arrieta will start for the Cubs. He is 5-8 with a 5.32 ERA on the season. He was pretty decent last time out in a game the Cubs ultimately lost 6-2, but he wasn’t involved in the decision. Lefthander Aaron Ashby will make his MLB debut for the Brewers. Don’t expect to see a lot of Ashby, the nephew of former major leaguer Andy Ashby. He is a reliever and will likely only pitch an inning or two.