When a team is going good and winning bunches of games, they’ll win in a number of different ways. This past weekend, they were winning and they were doing it largely on the back of an offense, in particular Frank Schwindel. In the four-game sweep of the Pirates, the Cubs offense pounded out 30 runs, scoring at least six in every game. A team is going to win more times than not when it scores six runs.
This Reds series was different. The Cubs scored four on two occasions and 11 across the three games. This series was separated by an eyelash. The Cubs won the first game by a run, lost the second game by a run and so here we were in the finale in extra innings. The series was that close. In the end, the Cubs got a walk-off three-run homer and they got to play that song and fly that flag one more time on what has been a remarkable homestand.
Say what you want about WPA, but I don’t think there are going to be too many qualms about this one. The three players on the Hero podiums? All three of the pitchers who worked in the game. Three Cubs pitchers worked ten innings and allowed six hits and one walk. They allowed only one run. And they sent the Reds on their way frustrated. The Reds are far from done, but by winning four of six games over the last six weeks of the baseball season, the Cubs have left a giant dent in the Reds’ playoff chances.
I have made no secret that I am certainly someone who could be coaxed into “letting the rope go” on the tug-of-war that is a season. Once you are done and over with, development and health of players is paramount. If you win a game or two along the way, so be it. Oddly, if you hired me to be GM, I think I might find a way to “help” the team along to some extra losses in a down season. But, if I were the manager, I’d be managing like heck, particularly when facing a team who is still in contention as these Reds are. I’m a competitive person by nature and if I play, I’m going to play to win. To that end, I tip my cap to these Cubs. They have not quit fighting at any point.
When I last talked about this, a few of you politely pointed out that the benefits in baseball aren’t nearly as immense and as immediate as the other professional sports. While I can’t disagree with any of that, I will point out that inherently, baseball is a long run sport. Somewhat counterintuitively, microscopic differences can add up over time because the seasons are so long. The difference from the best team to the worst is probably pretty significant these days. But certainly the fifth from the 25th? And definitely the 10th from the 20th, there just isn’t that much difference.
To me, the best teams are always just trying to squeeze out an extra percent or two here and an extra percent or two there. As the rules are presently constituted, having a higher draft pick means a higher draft pool and a higher international draft pool. Again, the differences aren’t huge. Certainly, even the best scout isn’t going to tell you that player A is going to be 10 wins better than player B during his career. At least not when we are talking about two guys who with consensus are first round picks. Certainly, picking in the 8-12 range, the Cubs are going to be picking a consensus good first round pick. The way baseball works, there is a very good chance that whomever the Cubs target at their spot will be there. So then the difference is the amount of money available in each the draft pool and for international free agency.
If I want to win every year, I need to start maximizing from before a team is even drafted. I want to outdraft you, outdevelop you, outcoach you, outfinance you, outmarket you. There are so many ways to win and the more ways I do that, the better position the team is in year after year. I do think it matters. But I don’t think you need to just go into full tank mode. So I don’t blame them for not. It’s a fine line. I realize I’m at least walking through “talking out of both sides of your mouth” neighborhood. I just think the answer is nuanced and not one size fits all.
Either way, the Cubs did it again. Let’s go to the numbers on another victory. 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 141, September 8: Cubs 4, Reds 1 (65-76)
- Superhero: Codi Heuer (.447). 2IP, 6 batters faced, 2K (W 7-2)
- Hero: Alec Mills (.232). 6IP, 21 batters faced, 4H, BB, R, 3K
- Sidekick: Rowan Wick (.194). 2IP, 8 batters faced, 2H
- Billy Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.137). 0-4, DP
- Goat: Frank Schwindel (-.084). 0-3, BB
- Kid: Willson Contreras (-.083). 0-4, R, K
WPA Play of the Game: Joey Votto homered with two outs in the fourth off of Alec Mills to tie the game at one. (.128).
*Cubs Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom singled leading off the 10th. That put runners at the corners and set up the walk-off. (.127)
Writer’s Note: As you can see, the automatic runner at second creates a high expectation of run scoring. Accordingly Codi Heuer actually got a lot of the WPA for the win, by not allowing the Reds to score with that high expectancy. I’ll also note again, that Patrick Wisdom advancing to second on defensive indifference has a (-.011) value. If one of you can explain that one, I’m all ears. We’ve now seen that twice recently.
Also, if you’re wondering, Jason Heyward’s walkoff homer was .074 in WPA value.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Patrick Wisdom (1-4, R, 2K)
Jason Heyward (1-4, HR, 3RBI)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Kris Bryant +26
- Frank Schwindel +24 (-2)
- Craig Kimbrel +20
- Patrick Wisdom +17
- Rafael Ortega +15 (-3)
- *PJ Higgins -9.5
- Rex Brothers -11.5
- David Bote -12
- Zach Davies -17
- Jake Arrieta -19
Up Next: Friday afternoon, Kris Bryant and the Giants come to town. The Giants have simply been the best team in baseball for most of this season. They are neck-and-neck with the Dodgers for the top spot in the NL. Unfortunately, the one of them who finishes second will find themselves in a one-and-done for their season despite what will almost certainly be a 100-win season. The Cubs send Kyle Hendricks (14-6, 4.65) to the mound in the opener.