When last I wrote, I said that we were due for another wild day. The day exceeded my expectations by as much as half. I’d be surprised if a new record wasn’t set for both number of deals and number of players moved. The Cubs were not the only team that appeared to be trying to trade away everyone that wasn’t signed to a long term deal. The Cubs traded nine players from their active roster. That by itself is more than one third of a team. If we throw in the two players traded before the season (fuzzy math since some of the players didn’t co-exist as teammates), that was 11 players traded since the end of last season. That’s a massive turnover. And it doesn’t even get into the number of guys who were allowed to leave after last season via free agency.
I saw it said elsewhere and I think it was so perfect that I’m going to steal it and write it here. People are going through all different kinds of things. Some are sad, some angry, some nostalgic, some are just ready to move on. I’m a bit of all of those things, but if you’ve been following me you know that I’m mostly ready to move on. To me, if we are honest with ourselves, we’ve known in some way that this was coming since 2017. We hoped it would be different, but this team competed a little less each year. The core players were not open to the deals that the management group were offering and so the tea leaves were always telling us that they were going to break up the band at some point.
Some of my favorite memories of this last group of Cubs weren’t in 2016 or even 2015. It was earlier than that. I saw Kyle Schwarber play in Kane County. I saw Kris Bryant at Iowa. I followed the minor leagues every single day. I think I drove our Josh Timmers and Tim Huwe up the proverbial wall asking them questions and trying to understand how the tapestry that is the minor league system works. But I learned to spend more time following the minor leagues than I did the big league team. They weren’t winning and year after year, different levels of the organization were winning championships. This organization was learning to win. In some ways, I look forward to dialing back into what Josh has to write. To reading Tim’s pieces on player development and scouting. To scouring the internet where fine writers like Bryan Smith write for Bleacher Nation, to name one of several who work the minor league beat well. To reading what Arizona Phil sees on the back diamonds in games that don’t get box scores, much less televised.
By most accounts, the talent level had already been rising in the Cubs system. I saw that said this year despite two very highly thought of prospects in Brailyn Marquez and Miguel Amaya more or less losing the better part of their season to injuries. Some of that increase in the talent level came from the four young men acquired in the Yu Darvish trade. At least a couple of which have made a real impact in a short time. These trades today significantly added to the upside of this organization in the long run. Of course, it gutted the on field product in the short term.
I had to literally laugh out loud as I was preparing for writing this piece. I keep a spreadsheet on which I track the cumulative standings for Heroes and Goats as well as some information about the top and bottom WPA total game scores for the year. To help myself eyeball updating the sheet, I highlight a row when a player is either out for the season via injury or out of the organization. At any given time, there might be as many as a half dozen guys highlighted by the end of the year. The sheer number of guys highlighted in the last couple of days is staggering.
I told you yesterday that I was officially naming the season-long winner as the winner of the Rizzo. I’m telling you now that an interesting competition has arisen. Kris Bryant is the leader in the clubhouse. He’ll be frozen at +26. Craig Kimbrel will be locked in six back of him. Those two were first and second to date. Ryan Tepera and Jake Marisnick were sitting seventh and eighth respectively. Joc Pederson, Javier Baez, Andrew Chafin and even Pedro Strop way down at +1 were all in the top 20 for the season to date. Even Nico Hoerner, who sits in fourth place, is injured. And Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele, who are ninth and tenth, are presently in the minors. This is a crazy year.
Of course, all of this is unprecedented. This series was started in 2015. It has never been run on a sub .-500 team. With so much of the top talent traded away, this team is very likely going to continue to be a sub-.500 team. This is all uncharted territory.
The Cubs gave it the old college try on Friday night. They faced another team that had been gutted by trades. They had to recall a half dozen players from the injured list and the Iowa Cubs just to fill out a team for the game. Some of those guys appeared in the game. A couple of them making their major league debut. Alas, the result was very much the same as they lost 4-3, dropping to five games under .500 for the first time this year.
Let’s take a look at the numbers where we’ll see there was a couple of decent performances and a couple of really ineffective ones. 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 105, July 30: Nationals 4, Cubs 3 (50-55)
- Superhero: Patrick Wisdom (.101). 1-3, BB, 2RBI
- Hero: Sergio Alcantara (.088). 2-4, 2B, R
- Sidekick: Rafael Ortega (.053). 2-4, 2B, RBI, R, 2K
- Billy Goat: Matt Duffy (-.316). 0-4, K, DP
- Goat: David Bote (-.169). 0-4, K
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.088). 1-4
WPA Play of the Game: Matt Duffy batted with a runner on first and no outs, the Cubs down by one in the ninth inning. He grounded into a double play. (.244)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom batted with runners on second and third in the eighth inning with the Cubs trailing by three. He singled, driving in two runs and cutting the lead to one (where it would stay). (.133)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Manuel Rodriguez (IP, 3 batters faced, 2K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 4/Bottom 4)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +14
- Nico Hoerner +12
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Rex Brothers -10.5
- Jake Arrieta -14
- Ian Happ -17
Up Next: Kyle Hendricks should be next up to start for the Cubs. Kyle is somehow 12-4 on this team. He has a 3.85 ERA. It appears that he may be opposed by Joe Ross who is 5-8 with a 3.80 ERA, though the Nats have not officially announced this.