These Giants are a lot of fun at a party, no? The Cubs had a nice run of games recently. Sure, they played some teams who have packed it in for the year. But then, so have the Cubs. I mean, they packed it in harder this year than just about anyone I can remember. Only, they found a strategy that maybe would work for a white flag situation. If you could get your hands on some late 20s and early 30s guys who never really got a chance, you might roll silly season baseball.
Look, I don’t know any more than you do. There have been a lot of interesting snippets of things this Cubs season. Somewhere around half of the people still under contract to the Cubs are at least intriguing thoughts to be on next year’s roster. I fear that many more of the interesting players are guys you’d like to be roster spots 21-26 types than roster spots 1-20. I envision the front 20 spots on the roster as your starting lineup, at least your top four starters, your top bench player or two and your top handful of relievers.
Now don’t get me wrong, a large number of these guys will be in those positions next year for this team. But really, the only two guys who are absolutely known commodities are Willson Contreras and Kyle Hendricks. Then there are a good handful of guys who are likely to be in more or less the position they are. Justin Steele has a heck of a leg up on a spot in the rotation. Probably Adbert Alzolay too, even though they’ve moved him to the pen. Most of the bullpen will be back and the bulk of them have shown flashes.
Then there is the lineup. Nico Hoerner needs to play somewhere when he’s healthy. Quickly, you get to the triumvirate of most productive players the last few months. Patrick Wisdom, Rafael Ortega, and Frank Schwindel. If I told you that one of them would be your fifth infielder, one of them your fourth outfielder and one of them your DH next season, you wouldn’t be too bothered by any of that. But are you honestly confident in just handing each of them one of the starting spots for next year?
Don’t get me wrong. All three are great stories. All three absolutely have earned a shot for next year. But how many do you envision as consistent performers next year for this team? One? Two? Surely, Ian Happ is also one of those guys for next year. I don’t even have to ask how most of you feel about him. A number of you at various points this year have called for the Cubs to just move on from him.
I’m going to guess right now that the “experts” peg next year’s Cubs team at about 75 wins. And I’m going to bet they miss that in one direction or the other by more than five. There is no way anyone is going to have any idea how good next year’s team can be. Even with some key targeted acquisitions with a metric ton of salary coming off of the books, you just aren’t going to be able to look at the team and project a great deal of success. Meanwhile, the Cardinals seem to be able to roll out an 85-win team at will, the Brewers have one of the most promising starting rotations in baseball and have been coming in with 90ish wins of late. The Reds continue to appear to be a team on the upswing. They have to swing all of the way up at some point, no? And the Pirates? Yeah, they are pretty much just always bad.
So the Cubs aren’t in a pushover division. They aren’t going to have a lot of guys who you can look at and just lock in say a .270 average and 25 homers or 150 innings with an ERA below 4. Certainly, they are going to be a team that could get things rolling and sneak up on some teams. Or they could just get blown out of the water, look to make more trades at the deadline and to keep amassing talent. I have no doubt the needle will turn upward in the not too distant future. But 2023 isn’t too distant. Not to me anyway. Your mileage will vary.
Between that, a lot of hard feelings that have crept in over recent years, maybe (hopefully not, but probably) some lingering effects of the pandemic, labor strife, etc. this will be the most interesting offseason of ticket sales in my lifetime. Will they burn through the waiting list in earnest? I’m sure I’m not the only one who put my name on the list after the 2016 season. I’m also sure I’m not the only one who will pass when given the chance. I won’t have a ton of need for season’s Cubs tickets from Florida. (Though maybe a mini-pack for the Rays?) You don’t just lose 40 years of history with a team. But could my go-to baseball hat next season be a Rays cap? Inquiring minds wonder.
Let’s go to the numbers, as garish as they were. 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 143, September 11: Giants 15, Cubs 4 (65-78)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.129). 2-3, 2RBI, K
- Hero: Frank Schwindel (.107). 3-4, 2B, R
- Sidekick: Jason Heyward (.023). 1-2
- Billy Goat: Zach Davies (-.383). 2IP, 13 batters faced, 4H, 3BB, 5R, K (L 6-11)
- Goat: Manuel Rodriguez (-.134). 0IP, 5 batters faced, 2H, 3BB, 5R
- Kid: Patrick Wisdom (-.122). 0-4, 3K, DP
WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and third with two outs in the second inning, Brandon Belt homered off of Zach Davies to make it 5-1 Giants. (.224)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Frank Schwindel batted with a runner on first and no outs and the game still scoreless in the first inning. He doubled. (.101)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Dillon Maples (2IP, 6 batters faced, BB, K)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Frank Schwindel +28 (+2)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +14 (-1)
- Rafael Ortega +14
- *PJ Higgins -9.5
- Rex Brothers -11.5
- David Bote -12
- Jake Arrieta -19
- Zach Davies -20
Both ends of the spectrum finally changed hands and they did it on the same day. With just 19 games to go, we have a new leader and a new cellar-dweller. But 19 games is a fairly long time. Can Schwindel win this award?
Up Next: Justin Steele (3-2, 3.75 ERA) gets the series finale. He’ll face Logan Webb (9-3, 2.64) for the Giants as San Francisco goes for the sweep.