Baseball has a funny sense of humor, particularly on a game versus game bases. Regardless of what level it is played at, baseball generally wants to be played in the largest quantity that makes any logistical sense for the players at the level. That’s because in one game samples, you can get some pretty odd results. The easiest one of those odd results on Friday was the Cubs pitching staff, mediocre at best, holding the powerhouse Yankees to just six hits over 13 innings.
But what led me to think of baseball’s sense of humor was Jason Heyward. If you follow the team closely on the internet, you’d have read a lot of comments this week about Jason. With a host of players coming off the injured list and some convoluted roster issues, there were a lot of opinions. Many of those opinions involved Jason Heyward landing on the bench or, in many cases, on the street. But there he was on Friday night, in the lineup and playing his familiar right field position. Oh, and hitting a home run and a double, thereby scoring and driving in the only run. He was also thrown out at the plate in one of the few other scoring chances the team had.
I have eyes and I see what everyone else sees. I understand the frustration and the disappointment around Jason. We can all wonder what might have been had he been able to continue the career progression he had before he came to the Cubs. But it just has never clicked for any extended period of time with the team.
You wouldn’t want me to run your baseball team though. Despite all of the knowledge I’ve accumulated, like so many of you, and despite being a pretty good decision maker in general, you just wouldn’t want me in charge of personnel. That’s because I’m loyal, to the point of fault, and maybe sometimes even beyond that. A baseball team, like any other organization, has to make tough decisions. But, I’d be bending myself into a pretzel-like shape trying to find time for Jason too.
The Cubs outfield production has lagged pretty badly since Dexter Fowler left. Clearly, the outfield needed to be better. Objectively, moving on from Jason is the right thing. Subjectively, the guy was a big part of a championship, has worked his ass off, has always maintained a positive attitude, and is loved by his teammates and coaches. Leadership and work ethic are intangibles. They don’t drive in or score runs. But they do matter. Only it’s hard to quantify how much.
Objectively, Kyle Schwarber was a disappointment too. He never quite lived up to all that his considerable talent could be. But, he was younger, cheaper and his hot stretches absolutely carried a team for games at a time. He’s continued having those stretches and flashing unbelievable upside. By all accounts he had many of those same traits that Heyward has. It can be difficult to understand how Jason was the one that survived being the scape goat for what was wrong.
I would never have wanted to be the one to make the tough decisions with the Cubs roster. But it isn’t hard to see that the Cubs organization made a ton of mistakes in the afterglow of the 2016 championship. Too many players were kept too long. The trades that were made in an attempt to extend the championship window by and large were underwhelming. It’s enough to make me wonder if it would make sense to let this front office complete the teardown and laying a new foundation and then moving on to a different management group.
Food for thought on a Saturday morning. But for now, let’s move on to the bright spots from Friday’s loss. Here are the three positives I took from the game.
- Jason Heyward. As noted above, he had a homer, responsible for all of the scoring. He also had a double and was thrown out trying to score, making him pretty much the entirety of the Cubs offense.
- The Cubs bullpen. I’m not going to single out any one of them. With Wade Miley departing after only three innings, the bullpen ended up throwing 92⁄3 innings. The bullpen did issue an unsightly seven walks, but four of them were intentional. They only allowed three hits, two runs (one earned) against a very good team.
- Christopher Morel. It would be hard to be much more impressed with his debut. He had two hits and a walk in five plate appearances. A .303/.383/.528 (wRC+ 154) is undoubtedly unsustainable. But it sure has been fun to watch.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from the game. As always, extra inning games produce some very large WPA scores. This one produced two of the highest scores of the year (including the highest) and one of the lowest.
Game 57, June 10: Yankees 2, Cubs 1 (23-34)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Brandon Hughes (.609). 2IP (8 batters), 2BB, 2K
- Hero: Rowan Wick (.434). 2IP (7 batters), BB, K
- Sidekick: Wade Miley (.149). 3IP (14 batters), 3H, HBP, BB, 2K
- Billy Goat: Willson Contreras (-.471). 1-6, 2K
- Goat: Frank Schwindel (-.356). 0-5, K, DP
- Kid: Rafael Ortega (-.286). 1-5, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: Jose Trevino’s walk-off, pinch hit single in the 13th inning off of Alec Mills. (.369)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Jason Heyward’s homer leading off the fifth inning. (.148)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Jason Heyward (2-4, HR, RBI, R)
Someone else (leave suggestion in the comments)
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.
- Nico Hoerner +13
- David Robertson +9.5
- Christopher Morel +9
- Kyle Hendricks -9
- Patrick Wisdom -9.5
- Jason Heyward -13.5
Up Next: Game two of this weekend three game set. Matt Swarmer (1-0, 1.50) is scheduled to start for the Cubs. He’s had a nice start to his career in his own right. The Yankees in New York will be easily the biggest challenge to date. The Yankees are scheduled to start Jordan Montgomery (1-1, 3.02).