Well, it’s not exactly Bryzzo, but there are the first and third basemen of the Cubs celebrating a fourth straight victory. One doesn’t have to have a crazy good memory to remember the days when it seemed like this team might never win another game and the talk that this might be the worst collective team the Cubs ever fielded. Instead, that period of time feels now like a quasi-spring training or early April for a team trying to find itself.
Certainly, the quality of competition has to do with what is going on. But, also guys are finding their roles and in that, there are more consistent contributions up and down the roster. On August 16, this team lost its 12th straight game and fell to 17 games under .500. It certainly looked like this was an elevator falling down a shaft with no bottom. But since then, this team is 9-6. Whatever the relative talent level of this team is in modern baseball, there are definitely worse teams being fielded in a lot of cities around the league. For what it’s worth, this team is going to get Willson Contreras back within the next few days and then the lineup they field will be even more credible.
I can’t stop myself from playing a stupid “What if?” game. This team lost 11 in a row in June and 12 in a row in August. That’s 23 losses. The Cubs are 61-54 in all other games this season. That’s a .530 winning percentage or about an 86-win pace. That is going to be right about where the second wild card spot breaks out. The sequel of that “What if?” game is looking at the 3-13 record the Cubs have against the Brewers. If the Cubs win three more of those games, this whole season sequences different. That second long streak happened after the team was broken up. If the Cubs are three games closer to first, does Jed pull the trigger on a white flag sell off?
I think, as painful as it is to see so many of our favorite players now scattered across the league, I’m happy with where the organization is. I answer that question or one similar to it just about every week for Super Bowl Nation. Are you confident in the direction of the Cubs organization? I think the Cubs are a better team in 2023 for the things that have happened since the 2020 baseball season ended. They certainly weren’t better in 2021 and who can know about 2022, but I’m confident that the needle for the future of this team is pointing up.
The Cubs have put together a group of placeholder players with an adequate “replacement level” player at each position. They need a lot of help in the starting rotation to be sure. But, for the first time in forever there are some internal options to try to fill some of those spots. Adbert Alzolay, Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson all rise at least to intriguing. Justin Steele was the first Cubs drafted pitcher to win a game for them in forever this week. That’s an embarrassing number that was amplified by the presence of some very good pitchers the Cubs acquired in free agency and via trade (see Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, not to mention John Lackey for a time).
We all see this for what it is. I always hated the stupid "dead cat bounce" term. But this is more that then any kind of renaissance. None of these guys are ascending stars. But, they can certainly be adequate space filler while talent develops. Get back to box checking and patience. One can certainly wonder if Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ moved too fast and didn’t learn things on or off the field that might have made them more consistent players. Of course two of those guys have shiny championship rings and it is hard to imagine that tile being won without either one of them.
There is certainly some promising young talent bubbling up in the Cubs system. Another attempt at waves and waves. It’s probably a really ridiculously high bar, but I’ve always thought an organization should graduate one player from the minors who is a realistic Rookie of the Year candidate each year. The Cubs had Kris Bryant win Rookie of the Year in 2015. Willson Contreras burst onto the scene in 2016. Then Ian Happ came in 2017. But then the line stopped. Of course, it stopped because Eloy Jimenez and Gleyber Torres became ascending stars for other teams. Dylan Cease now looks to be a rising star. Now here in 2021, after so much development was wiped out in 2020, Brailyn Marquez and Miguel Amaya, who were projected by most as the top prospects in the system missed so much time. Someone hire a bodyguard and bubble wrap for Brennen Davis, who looks to be the next big thing out of this system.
I have to stop myself. I feel like somewhere in the back of my head is Harry Caray saying that the Cubs are going to win and that it may be sooner than people think. Nothing like a relatively meaningless four-game winning streak in September to make things look a little less dismal than they’ve been.
On to Heroes and Goats for Friday'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 136, September 3: Cubs 6, Pirates 5 (61-75)
- Superhero: Frank Schwindel (.312). 3-4, HR (8), 2RBI, R, K
- Hero: Michael Hermosillo (.207). 3-5, HR (3), 2B, 3RBI, 2R
- Sidekick: Rowan Wick (.161). IP, 3 batters faced, 3K, (Sv 2)
- Billy Goat: Alec Mills (-.184). 5⅔ IP, 25 batters faced, 7H, 5R (2ER), 6K
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.088). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Matt Duffy (-.067). 0-3, BB, R
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and a runner on second, the Cubs were leading by two in the sixth inning and Anthony Alford was the batter. Alec Mills was still on the mound. Alford hit a game-tying, two-run homer. (.251)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Frank Schwindel homered with one out in the bottom of the sixth, snatching the lead right back for the Cubs. (.181)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Ian Happ (3-4, 2B)
Sergio Alcantara (1-1, 3BB, R)
Trevor Megill (1 1⁄3 IP, 4 batters faced, 3K, W)
Codi Heuer (IP, 3 batters faced, K)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +18
- Frank Schwindel +17 (+3)
- Rafael Ortega +16
- *PJ Higgins/Rex Brothers -9.5
- *David Bote -12
- Zach Davies -14
- Jake Arrieta -19
Up Next: As I write this Saturday morning, I’m still seeing the Pirates starter as TBD. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound looking for win number 15. For what little recognition that category gets, he’s one win behind Juilo Urias for the major league lead. His career high is 16. I still think he’s got a very good shot at beating that this year. But he probably needs to collect a win today if he’s going to do that.