The stunning and complete collapse of the Cubs continued this weekend on the North side. This is a reminder that the team was 42-33 after no-hitting the Dodgers on June 24. Since that day, the Cubs are 12-39. That’s a .235 winning percentage or a 38-win pace over a full season. I know some of this is a broken record and none of this is new. But approximately the first 35 days of that were played with most of the roster still here. The team is 4-18 since the end of the Cincinnati series that preceded the bulk of the trades. That’s a .182 winning percentage or about a 30-win pace.
A 30-win pace. I’ve not seen anything quite like this. Without doing a lot of digging or research and just eyeballing it, about half of the 22 games were against other teams involved with some amount of mailing it in themselves. I continue to see people using mathematical models and other projections and suggesting the Cubs won’t get a top five pick next year. This team is heading for oblivion.
For those who feel like a team should at least try to compete, you should be thankful that the starting rotation is beat up enough that it seems at least a little unlikely that the Cubs will decide to shut down Kyle Hendricks after a number of seasons with heavy work. Without Kyle’s starts, this team would be even worse. The Cubs are 15-10 when he starts. They are 39-62 when he doesn’t.
The only thing I can parallel this to is my experience in 1997 covering the University of Illinois football team. That was Ron Turner’s first year as head coach and they went 0-11. I had a friend with a radio show and he was able to get me press credentials for their home games. I got the experience of sitting in a press box during that season. In exchange, I’d go on the radio for a 5-10 minute spot (on a radio station that surely most of you who ever heard). Week after week, he’d ask me to talk about the game. I’d tell him that they got their brains beat in and he’d ask me if there were any positives. As one would expect, in September I was pretty upbeat. I’d tell him about some of the freshmen who were slowly getting into the mix and were making a few plays. By October, I was already getting more than a little bitter. By November, the joy of being in the press box was long gone. Going out into the cold to watch a team that basically knew they were going to lose every single game got old faster than I can imagine.
That’s how this feels to me. This space wants to be talking about the bright spots. To look at some things to be optimistic about in the future. But it is so hard to see it. On Sunday, the Cubs lost 9-1. How many positives can there be in a 9-1 loss? Ian Happ landed the Superhero spot in the Sunday game. He’s put together a potent late season run. What does one do with him though? Here’s a guy who was drafted as a bat-first player. He doesn’t really provide plus value offensively. Certainly he hasn’t here in 2021. Last year, he put together about 75 percent of a second-tier MVP candidate season. But it was a short season and more or less everyone’s 2020 was by definition a small sample size.
Frank Schwindel had two more hits. That was 40 percent of the total for the team on the day. Schwindel has really seemed like a guy who deserved to get a shot at some point in his career. But I don’t even know what to make of any of this. At some point, you wonder if teams are even bothering to fully scout your team. Could you blame them if they looked at the games against this Cubs team as like a mini-mental rest? Well, I guess if you were involved in some way the Reds and you lost two games to them last week you’d feel differently.
I’m sure that somewhere in this mix are a couple of players who will be providing contributions to this organization two, three even four years from now. Certainly that Illinois team I watched up close, that 1997 recruiting class featured players who would be stars on the 2001 team that I travelled to the Sugar Bowl to see (get crushed by LSU). And that’s in a place where you are only there for four years. That can be both a blessing and a curse when you are trying to change the culture. Certainly, if any of these Cubs are going to develop into contributors, they aren’t facing graduation and expiring eligibility. So we can hope that seeds have been planted.
But just like it wasn’t then, that’s not a lot of consolation right here, right now when this team is getting swept by the Royals. 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 126, August 22: Royals 9 at Cubs 1 (54-72)
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.066). 1-3, 2B, BB, R
- Hero: Frank Schwindel (.020). 2-4
- Sidekick: Ryan Meisinger (.010). IP, 3 batters faced, K
- Billy Goat: Alec Mills (-.329). 4 innings, 24 batters faced, 11H, 0BB, 7R (6ER), 5k (L 5-6)
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.073). 1-4, 2K
- Kid: Jason Heyward (-.064). 0-3, BB, DP
WPA Play of the Game: With first and second and no outs in the top of the second inning, Alec Mills squared off against Hunter Dozier. The game was tied at zero at the time. Dozier singled, a run scored and the runners ended up at second and third. (.138)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Emmanuel Rivera was the very next hitter. He grounded to short and the Cubs threw home for the first out of the inning. (.080)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Rafael Ortega +16
- Patrick Wisdom +14 (-2)
- *Nico Hoerner +12
- *PJ Higgins/Rex Brothers -9.5
- Zach Davies -14
- Ian Happ -15 (+3)
- Jake Arrieta -19
Up Next: The Cubs open a three game series with the Rockies on Monday night. Kyle Hendricks (14-5, 4.04) is slated to start the opener. He’ll match up with Antonio Senzatela (2-9, 4.58). Perhaps with their ace on the mound, the Cubs can win a ballgame.