The obvious headline here is lost weekend in Los Angeles. The Cubs had been playing better, They had won eight of 12 coming in, largely playing against good teams with legit playoff chances. They also played well in stretches of all four games this weekend against the Dodgers. They were also overmatched for stretches in all four games this weekend. Put a bit differently, the Cubs did just enough to lose four straight games.
I’ve done a number of glass half full, glass half empty takes on the Cubs over the years. I think that’s about where I am on this one too, and the whole weekend in general. Good things happened at times. But obviously the bad outweighed the good. But let’s look at this differently. Let’s look at who the guys were across the four games on the Hero side.
- Game 1: Morel, Effross, Hughes
- Game 2: Thompson, Givens, Hoerner
- Game 3: Wisdom, Stroman, Hoerner
- Game 4: Bote, Higgins, Hoerner
First, sorry for the spoilers if you wanted a normal reveal on today’s game. But what do we have? Christoper Morel, expected to be part of the future, Scott Effross, expected to be part of the future, Brandon Hughes, hoped to be part of the future, Keegan Thompson, expected to be part of the future, Marcus Stroman, signed to be part of the future. Nico Hoerner, three times, part of the present and the future. P.J. Higgins? Maybe playing his way into being the backup catcher and a utility player with a little versatility.
On the down side, Rowan Wick a couple of times, David Robertson, Mark Leiter Jr. a couple of times. Yan Gomes. Rafael Ortega. These aren’t the guys that are likely to be here much beyond this season and one or two might leave via trade this month.
So this is what I give you. If you are a total baseball purist, your team either wins or loses. There are no moral victories just your win/loss record at the end of the day. Then this was another frustrating weekend in a very frustrating season. But, if you’ve turned your attention to player development, then there are some things happening.
The future is never guaranteed. There are some younger guys and guys like Stroman who right now it appears will be here for at least a small handful of years. We can’t ever know for sure. But certainly a group of guys who look like they might be useful pieces with an expiration (trade by) date a few years into the future. So maybe, we are seeing the first shoots coming up of a new crop, the crop that can lead the way to future success.
I’m choosing to be optimistic and enjoying that it isn’t really aging veterans driving this team when it does well, but largely younger developing players. That’s the best possible sign we could be given during what will undoubtedly be a colossally lost season. I’m going to enjoy that part of things.
As always, we find three positives among the negatives in this defeat.
- I have to start with Nico Hoerner. He had three hits, one of them a double. He scored twice and drove in a run. I’m torn between Nico and Keegan Thompson for best Cub not named to the All-Star game in the first half.
- David Bote. Yeah, I’m not sure he’s even still around as a sub when this team gets better. Though I do think the wasteland that was last year was brought down a great deal by playing way too long last season when he was hurt. One game like today can have a stupid effect on your numbers when you’ve only played a couple of handfuls of games. But, he’s now sporting a line of .280/.400/.480 (wRC+ 150). It’s not meaningful. I won’t insult anybody’s intelligence by saying it is. His numbers were garish leading into this game. I’ll say this. We can’t assume the garish is for real any more than we can look at the numbers after this game and get overexcited. We don’t know for certain where his numbers will land though.
- P.J. Higgins had a grand slam and a walk. I don’t think he’s going to be a three true outcome guy, but he got the good two out of three today. His line sits at .276/.353/.513 after today. He’s up to 86 plate appearances. Still a small sample, but not tiny. The bat appears to play.
And now that we’ve found the good, we’ve gotta take in the bad. Let’s look at the Heroes and Goats from Sunday’s loss.
Game 86, July 10: Dodgers 11, Cubs 9 (34-52)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: David Bote (.345). 2-2, HR, 2B, BB, HBP, 3RBI, R, SB
- Hero: P.J. Higgins (.156). 1-3, HR, BB, 4RBI, 2R
- Sidekick: Nico Hoerner (.094). 3-5, 2B, RBI, 2R
- Billy Goat: Mark Leiter Jr. (-.379). ⅓ IP (4 batters), 2H, R (0ER), K (L 2-4)
- Goat: Willson Contreras (-.249). 0-4, HBP, R, DP
- Kid: Drew Smyly (-.151). 2IP (12 batters), 5H, BB, 4R, K
WPA Play of the Game: With the Cubs clinging to an 8-7 lead, Trea Turner batted with runners on second and third and two outs, Mark Leiter Jr. on the mound. Turner singled and two runs scored. (.210)
*Cubs Play of the Game: P.J. Higgins batted with the bases loaded and one out in the first inning, the Cubs already leading 1-0. Higgins homered and six batters into the game, the Cubs were leading 5-0. (.193)
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 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 +16
- Christopher Morel +15
- David Robertson +14.5
- Daniel Norris/Rowan Wick -7.5
- Jason Heyward -16.5
- Yan Gomes -17
Up Next: The Cubs and I will enjoy Monday off. Tuesday, the Cubs start a two game set with the surging Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have won eight in a row and are only one game under .500 at 43-44. They won the only game of the season between the two teams so far.
The Cubs will start Adrian Sampson (0-0, 2.94), who has been very good in a limited amount of action to date. The Orioles will start Jordan Lyles (5-7, 4.50). More than a couple of Cubs are familiar with Lyles, who threw in the NL from 2011-12 and 2014-19 before a couple of years with the Rangers and now this year in Baltimore.