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2022 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 14

Cubs bats are missing in action as the losing streak reaches four.

Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve started seeing some early statistics suggesting that this April is on pace for the least productive month for MLB hitters since 1968. They appear to be using a ball with less carry early this season. Homers and steals down. I’d imagine there are some sample size issues with reading too much into that data. But it would appear that the Cubs aren’t the only one not scoring. But that doesn’t make it much less frustrating that the (not at all) vaunted Pirates pitching staff has held them to just nine runs while winning three of the first four contests between the teams.

I wondered heading into the season if the Cubs weren’t headed for fourth place. I was told that this Pirates team would be really bad and that the Cubs would be better than I’m giving them credit for. I’m still seeing a Cubs lineup that lacks firepower. The three breakout stars from the second half of last season are all struggling in the early going. Seiya Suzuki shows all kinds of promise, but there will be growing pains from a guy still in his first 100 plate appearances in MLB. There just isn’t enough fire power up and down the lineup. The starting rotation looks decidedly meh and that leaves the lone bright spot as the bullpen. This does not look like a fun team to follow for 162 games. Well, 148 of them from here.

But we’ll try to stay positive. Let’s get to our three positives from Friday night’s game. Number one is an easy one. Hit number one of the season for Michael Hermosillo. It was a two-run double. It was the decided emotional high of the game. It tied the game at two against old pal Jose Quintana. I’ve not seen much of Michael and what I’ve seen hasn’t moved the needle for me, but I see many in the Cubs community who have seen more be upbeat on him. In any world, he’s wearing Cubbie Blue and I’m cheering for him, so I’m happy to see him make what was at the time a significant contribution to the game.

Number two is just as easy. Keegan Thompson was filthy. He faced only 13 batters in completing four innings of work. That was despite allowing a pair of hits and a walk. That’s some efficient work. Keegan is making a very strong case to get a start at some point. I’m still firmly in the leave him as a weapon out of the pen camp. But I certainly understand where the enthusiasm comes from. Kudos to Keegan for making that decision a difficult one.

The Cubs have now used only one reliever in two of the last three games. Granted they used six in the other one, but the net result is that those eight pitchers have each appeared in only one game over three days. Everyone other than Keegan should be ready to go for today’s game.

The third thing I liked was Nico Hoerner’s three-hit game. Nico has bumped his average up to .273 and his OPS to .721 with that performance. As long as he continues to carry a positive middle infield glove with that offensive performance, he’ll be a valuable piece. It would certainly help if he could draw some walks. He doesn’t have much pop, so he has some of the Albert Almora Jr. problem. Without power and without a very high on base percentage, it’s hard to be too productive on batting average alone. I think Ichiro Suzuki is one of the only players that comes to mind who was able to survive almost entirely on batting average. Of course Ichiro had a Hall of Fame level hit tool, plus plus defense and plus plus speed. No mere mortal can sustain production that way.

Let’s get to the numbers from last night’s game.

Game 14, April 22: Pirates 4 at Cubs 2 (6-8)


Source: FanGraphs

Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.

THREE HEROES:

  • Superhero: Michael Hermosillo (.184). 1-2, 2B, 2RBI, K
  • Hero: Keegan Thompson (.129). 4IP (13 batters), 2H, BB, 4K
  • Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.083). 3-4

THREE GOATS:

  • Billy Goat: Drew Smyly (-.267). 5IP (22 batters), 6H, BB, 4R, 4K (L 1-1)
  • Goat: Nick Madrigal (-.178). 1-5
  • Kid: Willson Contreras (-.135). 0-3, BB, K, DP

WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the second, the Pirates were leading the Cubs 2-0. Michael Hermosillo had a two-run, game-tying double off of Joe Quintana. (.214)

*Pirates Play of the Game: With runners at second and third and two outs in the top of the second inning, Roberto Perez delivered a two-run single for the first two runs of the game. (.180)

Poll

Who was the Cubs player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Michael Hermosillo
    (5 votes)
  • 87%
    Keegan Thompson
    (69 votes)
  • 6%
    Nico Hoerner
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
79 votes total Vote Now

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
  • Keegan Thompson +8
  • Seiya Suzuki +7.5
  • Jason Heyward/Ethan Roberts/Nick Madrigal -6

Up Next: As I noted yesterday, the Cubs are 4-2 in day games (2-6 now at night). So hopefully the last two games of this series will remain daytime affairs. Kyle Hendricks (0-1, 6.08) will face Zach Thompson (0-1, 9.00). Kyle is 7-13 with a 4.89 in 31 career April starts. That’s more or less the equivalent of a full season’s worth of work and represents easily the worst month for him. At .334 and .456, this is the worst month by both on base and slugging percentage.

We also see a .317 BABIP significantly higher than the .286 he’s allowed for his career. While that number can sometimes suggest that there is some bad luck in the numbers, I’m inclined to look at all of these numbers together and confirm what the eyes tell us. That is, Kyle takes some time to really nail down his command of his pitches. The net result is the cratering of results across the board. He allows more walks and more hard contact. His results rely on deception and without that command, he can find himself vulnerable.

Let’s hope he starts putting it together today.