The beat goes on. The Cubs have now lost eight consecutive games. And in the nine days it took them to lose those eight game, the Brewers played and won nine consecutive games. I’m sure it has happened before, but I can’t recall a quicker collapse. After no-hitting the Dodgers on June 24, the Cubs were tied for first. The Cubs have now lost 8½ games in the standings in nine days. Oof.
One of the things that bothers me most is that I’m pretty sure I’m already at acceptance on the stages of grief. As a side note, if you are bored, google stages of grief. There are some pretty convincing pieces about the five stages and also the seven stages. Then there’s some wacky stuff looking more at 12 stages.
I find myself trying to find the precise place where atrophy started. After winning on June 13 to complete a sweep of the Cardinals, the Cubs were 38-27. They have won just four of 18 games played since then. In May, we had that odd stat that ran all of the way until the very end of the month where in every game, the Cubs either won the game (by one or more runs) or lost by one run. Starting with the game that they won against the Cards on June 13, the Cubs are 1-14 if the other team scores even one run. Okay, that was a really awkward way of say they had four shutouts. But it’s just incomprehensible that if they don’t pitch a shutout, they basically lose.
All of this is a very long way of saying that this started long before this nightmarish trip. The Cubs have scored 47 runs in their last 19 games (just shy of 2.5 runs per game). They scored seven of those runs in one inning against a pitcher making his major league debut (well, most of them anyway). Without that one fairly odd inning, they’ve scored 40 runs over 19 games. I don’t have to tell you that it’s basically two runs per game. I also don’t have to tell you that this isn’t nearly enough runs to be competitive.
Unless Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy are both heading straight to the Hall of Fame after the season, they are not fixing what is wrong with the Cubs. I remember going to the Cubs Convention after the 2017 season. Anthony Rizzo was asked about the possibility of the Cubs signing Bryce Harper. He made a comment basically suggesting that no one was going to come in and make the team’s problems go away and that they’d need to be able to solve their problems from within.
Only they never have. This was a talented group. And a great group. It has been a lot of fun. But this is another underachieving group in Cubs history. Fortunately, they grabbed one title in the process and the organization is no longer the laughing stock of baseball. Sadly, the vast majority of teams in baseball appear to be closer to winning a championship than this one is right now. This isn’t the kind of team that looks like make a few changes and everything is going to be good. It’s hard to imagine very many of the guys who are here still being here if/when the team is next a serious contender for the World Series.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they all have to go either now or at the end of the season. But most of these guys are placeholders for the next generation of stars. The minor league system does appear to be at least vaguely on the rise. And it does seem that the Cubs pitch lab project is an effective one. Hopefully, they can continue to get better and better at identifying the kinds of pitchers who they have an ability to unlock a greater skill set. Even more hopefully, I hope the Cubs find some similar success in developing honest to goodness productive hitters.
It kills me that it feels like the Cubs have a whole team waiting around for the right mistake to hit 450-foot homers off of and at the same time, there is no Cub is in the top 10 in homers. And that’s not just a one-year oddity. The last Cub in the top 10 in homers was Kris Bryant who tied for ninth when he hit 39 homers in 2016. It’s like they are simultaneously not power hitters and not contact hitters.
This is a lot of words that could probably be better said like this: Jed Hoyer has stat guys infinitely better than me. They are seeing this on so many more levels that I can pick out. Those stat guys are saying something that sounds like: “It doesn’t matter what happens between now and the end of July. Don’t be fooled. You have to tear this down and start over.” It has to happen. It has to start now.
I was fooled. As recently as the night of the no-hitter, I was looking at the fact that they’d won three of four and four of seven. Not too bad. Rough stretch. Better times ahead. That’s the problem. Better times are ahead. This team can probably put together a good second half and win 84 or 85 games if you keep them together. Part of the problem is that the preseason projections had the Central being won with that number.
The Brewers aren’t going to be held to 85 wins. They are 51-33, good for a .607 winning percentage. That’s a 98-win pace. Let’s be charitable. The second half schedule is tough. We’ll ignore that some percentage of teams (that may include multiple teams from the Central) will trade off chunks of their key players. Let’s say the Brewers drop down to a .550 winning percentage for the remainder of the year. That’s 43 more wins or 94. Not far enough? Ok, they go .500 the rest of the way. 39 more wins. That’s 90 total. Ok, the rest of the way is going to be the trail of tears? .450 winning percentage? 35 more wins. That’s 86 wins.
It’s done. It doesn’t matter what you thought about the two teams a week ago, a month ago, three months ago. The Brewers ended the Central over the last two weeks. If you dropped the Brewers all of the way down to a .400 winning percentage, you’d have a chance. But at .500, which it seems hard to imagine with that rotation, with those 90 wins, the Cubs would have to win more than 60 percent of the rest of their games. Without the benefit of a strong rotation. Without the benefit of depth or good health. It can’t happen.
Find the good deals. Trade the players. For the guys who you can get compensation for if they leave in free agency, just make sure you end up with more than their draft value. Tear it down. There’s no time like the present. This group always made a splash in the past. So find an aggressive trade partner like the Yankees or the Padres or whoever feels like a riverboat gambler. Trade them a piece or two now and help get the market going. This team is going nowhere and they are getting there fast.
We 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 83, July 3: Reds 3, Cubs 2 (42-41)
- Superhero: Kris Bryant (.219). 3-5, HR (16), RBI, R, K
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.110). 1-2, 2B, R
- Sidekick: Eric Sogard (.083). 1-1
- Billy Goat: Anthony Rizzo (-.229). 1-4, K, DP
- Goat: Javier Baez (-.162). 0-3, BB, K
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.145). 0-3, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: With the game tied at two and runners on first and third with one out in the top of the seventh inning, Anthony Rizzo grounded into a double play. (.205) The Reds scored in the bottom of the inning and that was that.
*Cubs Play of the Game: Kris Bryant singled, putting runners at first and third in the top of the seventh. (.150) All too often the Cubs fail to cash in on a situation like this.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Adbert Alzolay (7IP, 5H, BB, 3R, 6K)
Heroes and Goats Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Craig Kimbrel +18
- Kris Bryant +15
- Patrick Wisdom +13
- Jake Marisnick +12
- Ryan Tepera +6.5
- Ian Happ/David Bote -8
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- Eric Sogard -10.5
- Jake Arrieta -11
Up Next: A Sunday afternoon game on the Fourth of July. How patriotic? Two of baseball’s oldest teams. Kyle Hendricks starts for the Cubs. He is 10-4 with a 3.98 ERA. Things didn’t go great for him in Milwaukee, but he was long gone before the Brewers scored 10 late runs to win going away. Wade Miley starts for the Reds. Miley is 6-4 with a 3.09 ERA.
A reminder: Today’s game preview will post at 10:30 a.m. CT.