I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like the Rafael Ortega story. One would point to Patrick Wisdom, but in that instance, I’d talk about a guy who was heralded at one point. A guy who the bloom came off of the rose along the way, but he found his way. I’m not throwing anybody under the bus, but a week ago when I talked about Ortega as maybe a guy who could be a fourth outfielder next year, there were well known writers who were quick to point out that he was the basic equivalent to fodder. And here’s the thing. I don’t think anybody disputes that.
Here’s the thing. I recognize that the Cubs haven’t exactly faced the cream of the crop since the All-Star break. The Cardinals are bobbing along in the vicinity of the break even mark. The Reds are clearly over break-even, but seem a fair bit short of playoff contention. The Diamondbacks have been the worst team in baseball, the Nationals traded off almost as many players as the Cubs did. The Rockies generally are a bottom quartile pitching team even when they are good. So we aren’t seeing Ortega do this against the cream of the crop.
And here’s the other thing. Ortega now has 126 at bats with a .317 batting average. That’s somewhere between a quarter and a fifth of a season depending on if we are talking about a long side platoon player or an everyday player. This isn’t exactly a tiny sample size. I know that this is likely to end at any time. Maybe against a playoff powerhouse like the White Sox it will. But if this continues much longer, we’re looking at one of the more remarkable stories I’ve ever seen. Ortega hasn’t hit this well since he was a 19 year-old in rookie league in the Rockies system. That year, he hit .358 with a .926 OPS in 322 plate appearances.
Right now, he’s on one of the hottest streaks that Heroes and Goats has ever seen. Today marks nine consecutive games that he has been on one of the podiums. This is his third Superhero in that time. He’s into the top five for the year on the back of nine points added to his season total over the last nine games. It’s an impressive hot streak to be sure. Wisdom and Ortega have been two of the very few fun stories that this season has produced for Cubs fans.
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 110, August 5: Rockies 6, Cubs 5 (52-58)
- Superhero: Rafael Ortega (.121). 2-4, BB, RBI, R, K, SB
- Hero: Dan Winkler (.075). 1⅓ IP (5 batters faced), BB, 2K
- Sidekick: Kyle Ryan (.060). IP (3 batters faced)
- Billy Goat: Jake Jewell (-.174). IP (6 batters faced), 3H, 2R, K (L 0-1)
- Goat: Jake Arrieta (-.143). 4IP (19 batters faced), 9H, 4R, 2K
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.140). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Trevor Story batted with a runner on first and no outs in the fifth inning in a tie game. He homered, giving the Rockies the lead for good. (.174)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Willson Contreras batted with runners on first and third and two outs in the fifth inning, the Cubs trailing by three. He doubled scoring two runs and he ended up on third base due to an error. (.167)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Frank Schwindel (2-4, RBI)
Andrew Romine (1-1, R)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +17
- Nico Hoerner +12
- Rafael Ortega +11
- PJ Higgins -9.5
- David Bote -10
- Rex Brothers -13.5
- Jake Arrieta -16
- Ian Happ -17
Up Next: The Cubs return home for the first of three games against the White Sox to start a six game home stand. Kyle Hendricks will start the opener. Hendricks and Julio Urias continue to lead the major leagues in wins. Kyle is 13-4 with a 3.71 ERA. The White Sox will send a face that is very familiar to Cubs fans to the hill in Lance Lynn. Lynn is 10-3 with a 2.07 ERA. Hendricks will have two starts on this homestand if everything stays on schedule. He’ll surely need to win at least one of these starts if he’s going to have a chance at 20 wins. Players will never admit that they care about stats like that, but at the end of the day, it would have to be an achievement Kyle would be proud of.