Another night and another loss for the Cubs. That marks 12 in their last 14 games with just two lonely, unexpected wins against the Braves over the weekend. I do believe the Cubs will bounce back in this series and win a game or two against a Pirates team that also came in having lost 11 of 13. Obviously, one of the two teams had to improve over their recent struggles. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if it was 2-1 or 12-1.
Caleb Kilian has had a horrific start to his major league career. What a mixed bag of emotions that has to be. You finally reach your lifelong dream of making it to the major leagues and a cold bucket of water is thrown into your face repeatedly. I know Tommy Hottovy has said that he wants Kilian up to be able to work with him not just in game but between starts.
We can never know how well minor-league success will translate to the major leagues. We can certainly infer and project a lot of things, but at the end of the day, baseball is more than a series of projections. That said, the success that Caleb has had, particularly over the time he’s been in the Cubs system suggests that he will find his footing and the results will come together.
Again, we can’t know the psychological make up of the young man, but absent this really growing and festering in his head, at the end of the day these are numbers on the back of a baseball card. This team isn’t going to the postseason. So then the regular season becomes sort of a major league extended spring training. You are getting to use live game situations to try to grow and develop players. It does not matter where Caleb is today. But, if you can work with him to hone his craft and he can hold down a roster and a rotation spot next year, then that is huge.
It may well be that Caleb still spends more time back in Iowa. He didn’t exactly spend an eternity there. So assuming the Cubs start bringing back arms from the injured list in a few weeks, it probably makes sense for Caleb to take what he’s learned and go back where the spotlights are a little less bright to continue working on the things that Hottovy and David Ross see and suggest for him.
This was another tough game, it got lopsided in a hurry and the Cubs didn’t mount much of a resistance at all. But, we’ll look for three positives from this one.
- Ian Happ was on three times in yet another blow out. He had two hits, including the team’s only extra base hit, and a walk and drove in the lone run. Ian is sporting a .284/.384/.459 line (wRC+ 134) and has been worth 2.0 fWAR to date. Not saying that they would trade him, but you can guarantee teams will at least ask about Ian in trades next month.
- Nico Hoerner also had two hits and a walk in this one. The team actually had 10 hits, four walks and a hit by pitch in this one. That’s ordinarily good for more than one run.
- Rafael Ortega rounds out the trio of two hit/one walk players. Two of them have a good chance of contributing on the next good Cubs team. Maybe the third has some value as a bench bat on such a team.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from the game. For as long as I continue to write this feature, there will always be three Heroes and always be three Goats, regardless of what the final score is. There is definitely a symmetry and a balance to the concept. Some days it is certainly ugly, but we don’t change the statistic, however irreverent, to fit the narrative of the day.
Game 67, June 20: Pirates 12, Cubs 1 (25-42)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Nico Hoerner (.038). 2-3, BB
- Hero: Rafael Ortega (.021). 2-4, BB
- Sidekick: Alec Mills (.003). 4⅓ IP (22batters) 8H, 5R, 2K, HBP
- Billy Goat: Caleb Kilian (-.333). 2⅓ IP (15 batters), 3H, 5BB, 7R (5ER), 3K, WP (L 0-2)
- Goat: Jason Heyward (-.054). 0-4
- Kid: Alfonso Rivas (-.044). 1-4, R, K
WPA Play of the Game: Bligh Madris faced Caleb Kilian with the bases loaded and no outs in the second inning, the game was still scoreless. Bligh singled, plating two runs and that turned out to be all the Pirates would need. (.119)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Even in loss, there are individual moments. Caleb Kilian struck out the very next batter he faced, Tyler Heineman. Those are moments a good starter needs. When a big inning is developing, you need to be able to find a strikeout, a pop out, a double play ball. Something to limit that damage. On this one, he did that. (.039)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Ian Happ (2-3, 2B, RBI, BB)
Someone else (leave your 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 +14
- Willson Contreras +13.5
- Christopher Morel +12
- Patrick Wisdom -9.5
- Kyle Hendricks -10
- Jason Heyward -12.5
Up Next: Game two of the four-game set between these two teams. Matt Swarmer (1-2, 5.23) is another young pitcher learning his craft at the big league level while the Cubs try to cover for having Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley and Drew Smyly all on the injured list along with Kyle Hendricks struggling. Roansy Contreras (1-1, 3.06) will start for the Pirates.