I feel like we are closing in on that hyperbolic magic point in sports writing where I suggest that no one would want to face the Cubs right now in the playoffs. It’s one of those sports clichés that has been handed down through the ages. No one wants to face the “hot” team. I suspect it’s mostly not true. I mean, everyone would rather face the collapsing or the over achieving team or whatever. Maybe even the team they beat pretty good in the regular season. No one wants the karma of having anything to say about who they are facing. But certainly no one wants to face the Dodgers. A deep team, stacked with post season experience and built to win. The Cubs? I’m guessing most everyone would take their chances.
But sportswriters love to throw that stuff around and boy does it sometimes make us feel good to hear it. But we’re modern Cubs fans. We’ve seen even most of our best-ever regular season teams get buzzsawed in the playoffs. So yeah, no one is fearing the Cubs, probably not since 2016. Even then, anyone remember how the Cubs like almost lost in every single round of that whole thing? Yeah, If we could use a second wish, could we get a run like the White Sox had through the 2005 playoffs? I’d like to get one more run and have it be a breeze so I could really stop and soak it in.
Massive sidetrack, off-topic blather mode off. The Cubs won a game on Saturday in which they mustered three hits. They did draw six walks, and that’s nothing to sneeze at, but three hits and six walks isn’t always going to get you any runs, much less two. But, a homer and a triple each produced a run. It wasn’t much, certainly less than you’d hope for or expect against a woeful Reds team playing out the string on the road.
Compounding that, Cubs starter Drew Smyly threw only three innings. Granted, that was by design. But still, even with the modern slightly expanded rosters, six innings of relief in a tight game is far from a lock. But no worries, that bullpen threw six scoreless innings. But of course they did. This season has taken such a dramatic turn. It is amazing how quickly success permeates a locker room. This team is now 49-49 over its last 98 games.
From June 2021 through July 2022, you could also see how fast failure can spread. If you don’t have an absolutely stacked team, you aren’t insulated from things turning on you and even then, winning is never guaranteed. We’ve all witnessed many seeming juggernaut teams come up short.
I have to say, I’m going to enjoy watching this front office try to tactically add talent to this organization without stifling what went on down the stretch here. You clearly need to add, but you also have to balance what’s here, what’s on the horizon and any signees. You can never really have too much talent. But you want the next Dylan Cease to be in Cubbie Blue and not a trade piece that ends up leading to a well-intentioned trade that didn’t quite work out. Nor do you want the next long term contract where you are jettisoning the player before the end of the deal.
These things are hard. Not a day in my life have I ever wanted that job. I wish them luck. I get it wrong often enough from back here in the cheap seats trying to second guess them. Though I have to say, I did go back to the BCB staff preseason roundtable discussion for this year. I did say 74 wins and third place. This is literally the first time since April that I didn’t think that pick looked wildly optimistic. Many of you were around in May when I was getting fairly negative and might have called them a joke and/or embarrassing. Please let me always be wrong because they have exceeded my expectations.
Three stars? Got it. Let’s start with that bullpen effort. That started with Adbert Alzolay. Nine up, nine down, four of them by strikeout. I dream of a world where the Cubs have enough healthy starters that Alzolay and Keegan Thompson start the season in the bullpen, giving them a pair of arms that can throw multiple innings and really play up out of the pen. In any circumstance, we can imagine that one or both probably starts games next year along the way, even if it is only to throw two or three innings as a quasi-opener. Still, things are going great if we can deploy at least mostly as relievers.
With the pitching performance and the almost total lack of offense, there is a strong temptation to choose three pitching stars. But I’m probably never going to pass over a late homer that essentially becomes the game winner. With the Reds not getting a runner past first after the third inning, Seiya Suzuki’s seventh inning homer was a fairly substantial nail in the coffin of the Reds.
With a nod to Nelson Velázquez, who opened the scoring with an RBI-triple and was also hit by a pitch, I have to go back to the bullpen for the third star. That is Wade Miley. He faced seven batters and essentially retired them all, an Ian Happ error being the only baserunner. Miley picked up a win for his efforts. I called Miley a reliable innings eater in that season preview. I wish I’d been right.
Now let’s see what order WPA had them in our look at Heroes and Goats for the game.
Game 158, October 1: Cubs 2, Reds 1 (72-86)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Seiya Suzuki (.211). 1-3, HR, RBI, R, K
- Hero: Wade Miley (.205). 2IP (7 batters)
- Sidekick: Adbert Alzolay (.198). 3IP (9 batters), 4K
- Billy Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.096). 0-4, 4K
- Goat: Willson Contreras (-.091). 0-3, BB
- Kid: Franmil Reyes (-.086). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki’s homer with two outs in the seventh gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead. (.242)
*Reds Play of the Game: Kyle Farmer’s two-out triple in the third tied the game 1-1. (.107)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
The award is named for Anthony Rizzo, who finished first in this category three of the first four years it was in existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest season total ever at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a Superhero down to negative three points for a Billy Goat.
- David Robertson +22.5
- Christopher Morel +21
- Scott Effross +17
- Nico Hoerner +12.5
- Drew Smyly/Justin Steele/Keegan Thompson +10
- Frank Schwindel/Daniel Norris/Alfonso Rivas -9.5
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Yan Gomes -14.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
To update again, with four games remaining there are now three potential Rizzo Award winners. David Robertson continues to lead, though his lead is fragile, down to just 1.5. Christopher Morel needs a Hero or better with no negative results to win the award. Nico Hoerner needs 10 of the final 12 points (and to not have Morel finish with a higher total) to tie. He remains mathematically alive heading to Sunday’s game. He has to reach the positive podiums to survive past that.
Up Next: The final home game of the season Sunday afternoon. If the Cubs can win, they will finish the season 37-44 at home. Disappointing for sure, but there was a massive amount of damage control in the second half of the season on that.
Marcus Stroman (5-7, 3.66) has pitched very well down the stretch, particularly in his two most recent home starts. He’ll look to keep that going. He’ll face Chase Anderson (2-3, 4.70). Let’s finish the home sweep.