I hope we see the image of Codi Heuer and Willson Contreras a whole lot more in 2022. I think Heuer has some very interesting potential at the back of the bullpen. It would seem likely that the Cubs bullpen will be a wide-open competition in spring training 2022. It’s hard to see the team making a huge splash on a free agent reliever this winter. With a stated intention of trying to compete in 2022, they are going to need a fairly aggressive roster overhaul. I’d think they’ll go with quantity in the bullpen rather than zeroing in on one or two big ticket relievers to bring in.
With the way things have gone the last few years with Cubs relievers, I’d actually be inclined rather than aiming high, to aim low, as in buying low. You have to be starting to understand at this point a profile of the type of pitcher who you can help in the Pitch Lab. Identify one or two of those guys and bring them in and see what you can do. There are a number of intriguing options in house like Heuer, Rowan Wick, and Manuel Rodriguez. Also, most likely some of Keegan Thompson, Justin Steele, Adbert Alzolay and Adrian Sampson won’t be in the starting rotation. All of them have skills that might play out of the pen. I like the idea of a volume approach to the pen.
The Cubs’ win Wednesday night prevents them from having any chance at being a 95-loss team. It also almost certainly locks them into the seventh overall draft pick in the first round in 2022. They are three games behind the Marlins for the sixth pick and three games ahead of the Twins for the eighth pick. With just four games remaining, obviously either of those is still possible. But none of those three teams is particularly likely to win even three of their remaining four games. With all of that settled and little to play for in St. Louis over the weekend, I’m going to be rooting for two things. Very long baseball games and Cardinals losses.
Willson Contreras takes the top spot tonight. Contreras has been a +10 in Heroes and Goats since September 11 and finishes the season as one of the team’s hottest hitters in that regard. It seems likely that the overwhelming strain of basically catching 80 percent of the games ran Contreras down this year. His numbers tailed and he just wasn’t has productive as he’s been in years past. But he’s been quite good down the stretch and on Wednesday night, he drove in all three Cubs runs. A reminder of just how excellent he is when he is healthy.
Willson and Kyle Hendricks are two of the most important things for this Cubs off season. The Cubs will be the best that they can be in 2022 if those two are on top of their game. Those two have been part of the core of the Cubs since the summer of 2016 and it has been weird to see them have any kind of struggles.
I’d also like to acknowledge the MLB debut for Trent Giambrone in this game. I’ve seen so many interesting things today about the move that brought him to the big club for the last few games of the season. First: The biggest picture — he was the 65th player to appear for the Cubs this year, establishing a National League record. He was also the 40th different Cub to appear as a Cub for the first time. That continues to extend the team record. It’s been a whirlwind to say the least. Also, he’s the sixth member of the Cubs’ 2016 draft class to appear in the majors. That’s a fun number because they didn’t draft that year until the third round (after signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward). For those not keeping track at home, those six are:
- Thomas Hatch - 3rd
- Tyson Miller - 4th
- Stephen Ridings - 8th
- Michael Rucker - 11th
- Zack Short - 17th
- Trent Giambrone - 25th
With nine other players from that draft class having reached at least as high as Triple-A, that class is likely to still add at least one or two more.
On that fun note, let’s turn our attention to the numbers from Wednesday’s game. 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 158, September 29: Cubs 3 at Pirates 2 (68-90)
- Superhero: Willson Contreras (.378). 2-4, SF, 2B, 3RBI
- Hero: Codi Heuer (.198). IP, 3 batters faced (SV 2)
- Sidekick: Rowan Wick (.141). IP, 4 batters faced, walk
- Billy Got: Sergio Alcantara (-.184). 0-5, 3K
- Goat: Matt Duffy (-.113). 1-5
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.057). 1-4, BB, 2B, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs trailing 2-1, Willson Contreras batted with two outs in the seventh and runners on second and third. He doubled giving the Cubs the lead and propelling them to victory. (.357)
*Pirates Play of the Game: In the bottom of the sixth, the Cubs were winning 1-0 with Kyle Hendricks on the mound. Brian Reynolds came to the plate with a runner on first. He tripled and that tied the game. (.268)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Rafael Ortega (2-4, BB, R)
Frank Schwindel (2-4, BB, 2B, R)
Trayce Thompson (1-1, 2B, R)
Scott Effross (IP, 3 batters faced, BB)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
- Frank Schwindel +33
- Kris Bryant/*Patrick Wisdom +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Nico Hoerner +16
- Rafael Ortega +16
- Trevor Megill -10
- Rex Brothers -11.5
- David Bote -16
- Jake Arrieta -19
- Zach Davies -25
Totally remarkably, Frank Schwindel is going to win this, despite not being part of the team until July 30. The Patrick Wisdom injury pretty much eliminated the Tank’s last remaining contender.
Up Next: The third and final game of the series against the Pirates and the final game of the season series against them as well. The Cubs are 13-5 to date against the Pirates. Justin Steele (3-4, 4.86) makes his final start of the year. He’ll face Miguel Yajure (0-1, 4.85).