I love when something I write ages well. My wife enjoys it even more when I make a proclamation and it turns out to be false a short time later. This is the burden of someone who always talks like they know everything about everything. For those who weren’t taking notes, I referenced the famous Mike Ditka quote when he said that his team may not win another game. In fairness, I said that in any other sport but baseball I’d be wondering if this team would be wondering that. So I said that obviously this team would win games, but how many more?
Certainly, one of the things I’d have said if I explored that comment further would be that to the extent this team does win more games, Kyle Hendricks is more likely than not going to be a part of it. Particularly with Willson Contreras hurt, Hendricks is the star of this team. I know that the overwhelming majority of you place no stock at all in individual pitcher wins. But Kyle does lead the majors in those with 14.
Incidentally, it’s an overreaction to completely dismiss pitcher wins. If you follow me regularly, you’ve heard me make this argument before. And if you continue to follow me, you’ll hear it again. Pitcher wins aren’t nothing. Pitcher record, particularly for relievers, is much more predictive (or documentary) as to what role a pitcher plays on the team and how fortunate their timing has been than anything. Certainly, Jacob deGrom this year, or any other recent year, isn’t a bad pitcher because he isn’t winning a lot of games.
The problem with pitching wins is always going to be a new school/old school thing. Sure, the game has changed. With it, the value of pitching wins drops with each passing year. As it turns out, that is true of other “counting” stats too. Before we had 100 different stats for everything, counting stats were of paramount importance to your Hall of Fame resume. Sure, it helped if you played on a handful of championship teams (especially if they were Yankees teams) and winning some individual hardware doesn’t hurt.
I’m fairly certain that at the time I was growing up there was more correlation between lofty counting stats than just about any measure in identifying who was in the Hall and who was not. For the longest time, the super plateaus were certain to get you into the Hall: 3,000 hits, 500 homers, and of course 300 pitcher wins. Homers were devalued by steroids and pitchers by the rise of bullpen specialization. Oddly, we know that saves are a wildly overrated stat, but we don’t look derisively at save leaders. RBIs can be as much about who the guys are in front of you in the lineup and how good a season they are having, rather than necessarily about how you did. But we don’t look down on the RBI stat either.
As a guy who loves stats, I’m always going to wonder why there is such a quest for a holy grail-like statistic. Or why a statistic has to take on super meaning. It is an accomplishment to lead the league in wins or to win 20 or whatever. It doesn’t mean that the pitcher with the most wins should win any kind of award or even necessarily receive votes for the Cy Young Award. I don’t expect Kyle Hendricks to get Cy Young votes even if he somehow manages to go forward and win 20 games and even if he is three or four wins clear of the next closest guy. Of course, that is highly unlikely. Julio Urias has been neck and neck with Hendricks for as long as I’ve been watching the stat this year.
Whatever number of games Kyle ends up winning, it is an impressive feat. This team has now won 53 games. Kyle has posted a win in 14 of them. And that’s not games that they won while Kyle pitched. That’s games that they essentially won while he was pitching. That is one of the few good things you’d say about wins. If you are losing 3-2 when you leave the game, if your team puts up a half dozen after you leave, you don’t get the win unless it happened to occur in the inning you were pinch hit for. Of course, the downside is that you can get a win when your team scores a half dozen before you ever take the mound. But again, I’ll say that 14 wins on this team is definitely an accomplishment, because of course on this team having a seven-run lead before you ever throw a pitch has actually resulted in a loss.
Hendricks has more than a quarter of the team’s pitching wins. If you want to be dismissive of that, be my guest. I just disagree with you. I hope he picks up another handful of wins. It would be at least one thing to cheer in this awful season, even if that might mean that the Cubs don’t get the highest possible draft pick. Even just having to write every day, I do not want to cover a team that loses its last 50 games. Fortunately, that possible headline is dead and buried. There are 40 left. That’s the worst they could do.
Let’s go to the numbers.
Game 122, August 17: Cubs 2 at Reds 1 (53-69)
- Superhero: Codi Heuer (.358). 2IP (6 batters faced), 2K (Sv 1)
- Hero: Kyle Hendricks (.260). 6IP (23 batters faced), 3H, 3BB, 1R, 3K (W 14-5)
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.171). 3-4, HR (13), RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Andrew Romine (-.143). 0-3, BB, 2K, DP, CS (Wow, that’s just a crazy bad line)
- Goat: David Bote (-.105). 1-4, DP
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.103). 1-4, 2K, DP (pretty unusual night with all three Goats having hit into double plays)
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Adam Morgan got Joey Votto to ground out, preserving a one-run lead. For better or worse, someone in the Cubs front office surely pictured a scenario just like this when they signed Morgan. (.155)
*Reds Play of the Game: Nick Castellanos took his former teammate Kyle Hendricks deep with two outs in the sixth to cut the Cubs lead to one. (.127)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Frank Schwindel (2-4, 2B, RBI)
Adam Morgan (1/3 IP, 1 batter faced)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Rafael Ortega +19
- Patrick Wisdom +13 (-1)
- *Nico Hoerner +12
- *PJ Higgins -9.5
- Zach Davies -11
- Rex Brothers -11.5
- Jake Arrieta -19
- Ian Happ -21 (+1)
Up Next: The third and final game of the series will complete the last trip of 2021 for the Cubs to Cincinnati. They’ll start Adrian Sampson. Adrian is making his first start for the Cubs, but he did make 20 starts over 41 appearances from 2017-2019 for the Rangers. At 29, he fits right in with the majority of this team, guys who never got a real long shot at the major league level. Though even in that group, Sampson would be fairly experienced. He threw 125 MLB innings in 2019. The Reds will counter with Tyler Mahle (10-3, 3.58). Somehow, I’m not envisioning the Cubs making it two consecutive wins for my birthday.