Is it just me, or did that game have the feel of a game that neither team wanted to win? Obviously, that’s not true. As much as we throw around terms like giving games away, we know that these guys are trying. Surely there are number crunchers somewhere in the recesses of the franchise who might prefer an extra couple of losses to improve a draft pick. But even in a lot of areas of the front office, I imagine that’s not rampant. Losses lead to empty seats. Empty seats lead to empty coffers. Well, certainly not empty. There are so many other revenue sources these days. But I think we throw that around as if anyone would ever have enough money that they wouldn’t want more.
So it wasn’t two teams trying to lose. It was too not terribly good teams failing to execute in key situations. By the end of the game, the Cubs had failed to execute in a few more situations than the Cardinals did. This one had so many things. Some good defense was played. Some really good pitching. A little bit of timely hitting. The Cardinals bullpen blowing a ninth inning lead twice in a row. The Cubs generally failing to cash in all night long with men on base. But in the end, long time Cubs nemesis Yadier Molina got the last laugh. Well, until the Cubs finish one game behind the Cardinals and the Cubs draft the guy the Cardinals would have taken. Or something like that, right?
On the morning after a loss, I’m going to bring out an unpopular take. Today is just the perfect day for it. Let’s talk about Cubs who have been good at the primary job they were signed for here in 2021. (For those wondering, the order here is descending cumulative Heroes and Goats points.) Craig Kimbrel has been one of the very best closers and baseball and has resumed his place among the best closers of all time. Kris Bryant. Certainly much less so since the start of June. But a guy who has played at star level despite regular usage at five different positions. There aren’t a lot of guys who could do that. Kyle Hendricks, particularly since the start of May. Patrick Wisdom has certainly over performed a rookie minimum contract. Jake Marisnick? Your mileage may vary. He’s definitely hit lefties well and that was his primary purpose. Ryan Tepera? Certainly. Nico Hoerner? Incomplete, but if you had to say something I’d say yeah. Andrew Chafin? Absolutely. Then I start skipping more frequently. Matt Duffy? Before he got hurt, he was overperforming.
Did I miss anyone? You might put Anthony Rizzo or Willson Contreras there. They are both having down years by their own standards. Willson has an extraordinarily heavy load this year with largely no backup catchers on the roster. Rizzo’s greatest values are often defensive and in leadership. I’d argue against either of them having produced excess value, but I wouldn’t argue saying that they were pretty well break even.
But there is one more guy I can think of, for his actual role and not the “pressed into a larger role due to injuries” role. That man is Eric Sogard. His fate with Cubs fans was probably sealed when he made the roster over Nico on opening day. As if it is Sogard’s fault that the Cubs appear to have tried to mess with Hoerner’s service time. Eric Sogard was put onto the team to be the 26th man and to be a bat off of the bench. A guy with some positional flexibility. Here’s a guy that has a line of .321/.367/.357 as a pinch hitter. He’s played all four infield positions and was the sacrificial lamb on four different occasions pitching.
I’m not here to BS anyone. I’m not saying Sogard is any kind of star. If the Cubs were going to field their best 26, the absolute best and not divided up by role or position, Eric Sogard didn’t belong at any point when the team was healthy. But teams do have roles and do have positions. On a healthy team, where he could perform as that last guy off of the bench and provide some defensive flexibility, Sogard produced value. On an injury-filled team, his role just kept expanding. That’s not great. He’s just not a guy who should get regular playing time.
Turning the page, let’s look at the numbers and see how they stacked up for 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 96, July 21: Cardinals 3, Cubs 2 (47-49)
- Superhero: Eric Sogard (.394). 1-1, 2B, RBI
- Hero: Willson Contreras (.169). 1-2, 2B, 2HBP, BB
- Sidekick: Rafael Ortega (.124). 2-3, 3B, RBI, SB, CS
- Billy Goat: Ian Happ (-.511). 0-5
*This is the second lowest cumulative game score of the year for the Cubs (one day after the second highest for Happ)
- Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.336). 0-5
- Kid: Andrew Chafin (-.176). ⅓ IP (3 batters faced), H, 0BB, 0R, K, WP
WPA Play of the Game: Eric Sogard pinch hit with a runner at first and one out in the ninth inning, the Cubs trailing by one. He doubled, tying the game. (.394)
*Cardinals Play of the Game: With runners at first and third and no outs in the tenth inning, Ian Happ hit a ground ball to shortstop. The Cardinals got the force at home and then tagged out Anthony Rizzo who for some reason was just frozen between third and home. (.344)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Kyle Hendricks (6 1⁄3 IP, 26 batters, 8H, 0BB, 2R, 3K)
Jason Heyward (2-4, 2 2B)
Nico Hoerner (1-3, HBP, 2R)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Kris Bryant +17
- Kyle Hendricks +10
- Rex Brothers -10.5
- Jake Arrieta -14
- Ian Happ -15
Up Next: The fourth and final game of the series this evening from St. Louis. The Cubs will send Adbert Alzolay to the mound. Adbert is 4-9 with a 4.59 ERA on the year. He’ll matchup with Kwang Hyun Kim. Kim is 5-5 with a 2.87 ERA. On paper, this looks like a Cardinals win. Let’s see if the Cubs can tear that paper up.