Wednesday night the Cubs played their first non-competitive game of 2022. Wednesday night the Rays bats were clicking and they had one of their best offensive performances of the young season. Their offense was one of the best in baseball last year and a big reason why they won 100 games last year. The last two nights they showed some glimpses of getting back on top. Cubs pitching was the unfortunate victim of those efforts.
In a game that had to be moved up by more than an hour in order to get in even the five plus innings that did happen, there wasn’t a lot to be really excited about. This was a pretty lopsided affair. The Rays ambushed Marcus Stroman with four runs in the first inning and after that, the only real question was going to be if the teams could get the requisite five innings played. Still, we take our look at three positives from the game.
First, Stroman battled into the fifth inning. He clearly wasn’t on his game, though he did strike out seven. I didn’t look for postgame comments, but I don’t imagine Marcus did a lot of excuse making and likely just tipped his cap to a good team saying that he needs to execute better the next time. But I’m sure the accelerated game time interfered with his normal prep on game day for a start. To be fair, that would be in effect that both teams dealt with, but some players are more creatures of routine and habit than others. But, my point in this positive is that by gutting through close to five innings, the Cubs only had to use one reliever. They are coming to the end of a stretch of 13 consecutive games. In this early part of the season, the bullpen has gotten a ton of usage with short starts by a number of starters. By giving most of the pen a night off, there should be an awful lot more bullets in the chamber for the weekend series.
Second, Daniel Norris. The one reliever that did get into the game was relatively effective. Daniel hasn’t gotten a lot of work early in an extremely deep pen with expanded rosters. He hadn’t worked in five days. He was greeted by an RBI double, allowing the eighth and final run charged to Stroman. But he faced five more batters after that and struck out three of them. He ends up being a bit of a hard luck Kid in this game. In ordinary circumstances if a reliever faces six batters, allows a double and then retires five straight, they are going to end up with a positive WPA score.
Third, Frank Schwindel. I was one of many who wondered what season number two of the Frank the Tank experiment would look like. Through 12 games it looks like this: .261/.292/.457. No question you’d like to see those first two numbers tick up, but the power has been there. One number to keep an eye on is an early .263 BABIP for Frank. I always caution reading too much into BABIP without watching a lot of film. It can be easy to say that a guy is hitting into a lot of bad luck when that number is down. But it could also mean that a player is A) hitting right into a shifted defense or B) they are making a lot of weak contact. Still, Frank had a BABIP of .348 in his breakout half season of 2021. One would certainly expect in both instances that the number would revert much closer to league average. In this year’s case, that means Frank probably will nudge up that batting average and with the power he is already generating, that’s a decently productive bat at first for the Cubs while they rebuild.
Let’s get to the numbers from yesterday’s game.
Game 12, April 20: Rays 8 at Cubs 2 (6-6)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Ian Happ (.043). 1-3, R, K
- Hero: Frank Schwindel (.042). 1-3, 2B, RBI
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (-.003). 0-1, BB
- Billy Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.413). 4⅓ IP (24 batters), 8H, 2BB, 8R (7ER), 7K (L 0-2)
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.041). 0-2, K
- Kid: Daniel Norris (-.036). 1⅔ IP (6 batters), H, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and a runner on first, the Cubs were already trailing 2-0 when Francisco Mejia faced Marcus Stroman. Mejia delivered a two-run homer. (.147)
*Cubs Play of the Game: The Cubs were trailing 5-0 when Frank Schwindel batted with runners on first and third with one out in the third. Frank doubled, giving the Cubs their first run and setting up their second. (.084)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
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Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 3/Bottom 3)
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.
- Ian Happ +10
- Seiya Suzuki +8.5
- Drew Smyly/Keegan Thompson +6
- Kyle Hendricks/Chris Martin/Marcus Stroman -5
Up Next: The Cubs open a four-game series at Wrigley Field against the Pirates. Mark Leiter Jr. will make his second start as a Cub. The first one featured two good innings before the bottom fell out in a start in Colorado. He’ll hope to improve on that performance in the friendlier confines of Wrigley.