Spending a lifetime watching and following baseball could really make you indecisive if forced to make a decision. That is one of the reasons that I don’t envy the jobs of major league managers. What leads me to this thought? Ian Happ, of course. We’ve seen it so many times. An established major league player has a terrible month, or two, or even three. But by the end of the year, he’s ended up right about where he always does. Of course, sometimes a guy has just lost it. Or the league has caught up and they just can’t make an adjustment.
My gut says that Ian Happ has first-round talent. Particularly, I think it’s important to note that he has first-round talent with his bat. One doesn’t have to have a particularly long memory to remember another guy who had a bit of success for a while at the major league level and was a first round draft pick but never really recovered once things started heading south. In this instance I’m talking about Albert Almora Jr. Albert always seemed like a great guy, but recall he was always known as a glove-first player. To me, that’s the rub here. Ian was known as a guy with a great bat with the question being: What position he could play competently?
Another key difference with Happ is that he has had quite a bit of success at the MLB level. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing that there was a season where Almora was talked about (almost entirely by Cubs fans) as a possibility to make the All-Star team. He’d gotten off to a torrid start at the plate and had one of the highest batting averages in the league. I’m not telling any of you anything you don’t already know, but having pop makes so much difference. Happ’s offensive profile plays up, because when he is making good contact, he’s got good power.
So then there is 2021. Happ had just a horrible first three-plus months of the 2021 season. Let’s break out some numbers:
- Games 1-24 (ending on April 30): .133/.293/.173
- Games 26-104 (ending on August 12): .190/.380/.362
- Games 105-129 (ending on August 25): .378/.452/.811
That is including Wednesday’s doubleheader where Happ had another big game in the nightcap. Note: That last group of games is a pretty small sample, just 42 PA. But he appears to be back playing to his level. It’s frustrating that he didn’t do this earlier. You can slice and dice a lot of things and you don’t want to oversimplify it too much. But, to say the least, one of the things that happened to the Cubs post-2016 was the slow erosion of switch-hitting bats. Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist were obviously a big deal. Dex was gone right away. Ben was around through parts of the 2019 season, but his bat tailed off and he wasn’t in the lineup as much after 2016. Ian Happ was meant to fill some of that hole. But Happ spent much of the 2019 season in Iowa before really exploding in 2020, having a second tier MVP season before tailing off at the very end after a fluke injury.
So it would be a very big deal if Ian could get straightened out. If Ian could have produced early in this season, it would have lightened the load on other guys. I will always think the biggest issue with the 2021 Cubs was the lack of quality starting pitching. They just got no consistency after Kyle Hendricks. But, production from Ian and Jason Heyward could have balanced things out and this team could have piled on more wins in the first half of the season before things fell apart. I imagine this organization is in a better place in the long run because of the way things have transpired. But it’s certainly not outlandish to think that with a little more here and a little more there, they could have competed in 2021 and none of this had to happen.
We’ve got two games to cover today, let’s get 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 128, August 25: Cubs 5, Rockies 2 (56-72)
- Superhero: Patrick Wisdom (.251). 1-3, HR (21), 3RBI, R, 2K
- Hero: Austin Romine (.207). 2-3, HR (1), RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Codi Heuer (.104). 1⅓ IP, 4 batters faced
- Billy Goat: Matt Duffy (-.065). 0-2, BB, R, K
- Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.053). 0-3
- Kid: Andrew Romine (-.045). 0-2, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom batted with runners on first and third with two outs in the fifth inning and the game tied at two. He hit his 21st homer of the year and it propelled the team to victory. (.346)
*Rockies Play of the Game: With two outs and a runner on second in the third inning, the game tied at one, Brendan Rodgers singled, putting the Rockies ahead. (.135)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game for Game 1?
This poll is closed
Adam Morgan (IP, 3 batters faced)
David Bote (2-3, HR, RBI, R)
Game 129, August 25: Rockies 13 at Cubs 9 (56-73)
- Superhero: Adrian Sampson (.596). 2IP, 8 batters faced, H, BB, R (0ER), 4K
- Hero: Matt Duffy (.511). 1-2, R
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.327). 2-5, HR (14), 3RBI, R, SB
- Billy Goat: Trevor Megill (-.481). ⅓ IP, 3 batters, H, 2R, K, HBP
- Goat: David Bote (-.293). 1-4, R, K, DP
- Kid: Jake Jewell (-.286). IP, 7 batters faced, 3H, BB, 4R (L 0-2)
WPA Play of the Game: Ian Happ batted in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 2 of the double header. There were two runners on and the Cubs were down three with one out. He launched a game-tying, three-run homer, his 14th of the season. (.479)
*Rockies Play of the Game: Connor Joe faced Trevor Megill with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning, the Cubs leading by three at the time. Joe hit a grand slam, giving the Rockies the lead. (.454)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game for Game 2?
This poll is closed
Rowan Wick (IP, 3 batters faced, K)
Frank Schwindel (2-4, BB, RBI, R)
Jason Heyward (2-5, 2B, R)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Rafael Ortega +17 (-2)
- Patrick Wisdom +17 (+3)
- *Nico Hoerner +12
- *PJ Higgins/Rex Brothers -9.5
- David Bote -12 (-2)
- Ian Happ -12 (+1)
- Zach Davies -14
- Jake Arrieta -19
Up Next: The Cubs have an off day before heading “on the road” to face the White Sox this coming weekend for three games on the South Side. In the first game, the Cubs are scheduled to start Keegan Thompson (3-3, 2.42 ERA). The White Sox will go with Dallas Keuchel (8-7, 4.71). Solely looking at the pitchers, this one doesn’t look like an automatic loss. But obviously, right here, right now the talent difference between these two teams is enormous.