Statistics say different things based on how you frame them. The Cubs have won two in a row. Yay! I think that’s called a winning streak. The Cubs have lost nine of 11. Also true. I don’t say that to be a jerk or to throw cold water on the two wins or anything. It’s just a reminder that context, end points and framing can mean a lot to the meaningfulness of a statistic.
I certainly say the above more to be flippant than a buzzkill. Certainly when the team is losing nine of 11, it can be a chore to write about them. But a laugher like last night’s game is so refreshing. It’s like a breath of fresh air. There are so many different directions I could go in talking about this one. I’m first going to tip my cap to the whole team. I appreciate you guys. This one should be fun.
Spoiler here, when we get down to the Heroes and Goats part of the program, we got not one but two players on Goat podiums with a .000 score. That’s right, only one Cub had a negative WPA in this game. That’s fun. We didn’t miss by much of the scenario where no one has negative score. Both of those two players with the .000 score probably thought that they’d spend their season in Iowa, though both contributed positively for that team and in doing so made their case to get the shot if and when there were some injuries.
One of those two players was making his major league debut. Welcome, Erich Uelmen. Erich is the 45th different Cub to appear in Heroes and Goats this year. And he gets a little bad luck in the first appearance. Erich is part of an interesting Cubs draft from the year 2017. While the Cubs were rebuilding, they were hitting on their first round pick to some degree every season. But in 2016, that flipped as the team began to have success and their picks moved way backwards in the draft the following year. The Cubs’ top pick in 2017 (in the third round), Thomas Hatch, has spent parts of three seasons with the Blue Jays major league squad. He’s produced nominal value, but he did at least make it.
So far, 2017 is the year that broke the streak. Their first pick, Brendon Little, is still at Iowa, having a bit of a rough year out of their bullpen. Their other first round pick that year, Alex Lange, is 4-1 with a 2.28 ERA out of the Tigers bullpen. Lange was one of five straight picks made that year that have now made it to the majors. The others are Cory Abbott, Keegan Thompson Uelmen and Nelson Velázquez. Many picks later that year, the Cubs nabbed Brandon Hughes (16th round).
While not a home run, that 2017 draft is providing some real value to this Cubs team this year. A special tip of the cap to the scouting department. The baseball draft top to bottom is about scouting. There are a lot of players to be tracked and I’ve no doubt it makes for an exhausting job. The deeper you go into the draft, the more it is about a scout who really was thorough following players and sometimes recognizing the teammate of the guy destined for stardom.
We’ll use those names and go right into three positives from Friday’s win.
- He didn’t get a Superhero award for his performance because the serious damage was done after the game was already lopsided. But I’m gonna keep the hat tips going with one for Nelson Velázquez. Nelson got into the game late, took two at bats and slugged two homers, accounting for five RBI. He now has four of them and his wRC+ (69 pa) has reached 109. Small sample size caution, but maybe he’s settling in. Al’s been banging the drum hard for more playing time for Nelson. The trade deadline is fast approaching, maybe that time is soon.
- Seiya Suzuki is one of the guys ahead of Nelson on the outfield depth chart. Seiya had his first MLB four-hit game. One of those hits was a home run. He’s got his wRC+ up to 134, though it’s fair to point out that he has a BABIP of .370 that almost certainly means his numbers are a bit inflated. He does run well and hit for power and that combo can make BABIP elevate over the average.
- Ian Happ also had a four-hit game. Outfield production has slowly drifted into oblivion for the Cubs since their championship in 2016. Maybe, the trend is reversing. But the big question is, will Ian Happ finish his All-Star season in a Cubs uniform?
This is a fun Heroes and Goats piece for so many reasons. One of them is that I picked what I thought were the three biggest performances of the day for my positives and yet completely missed the three Heroes. Let’s get to the numbers so you can see for yourself.
Game 93, July 22: Cubs 15 at Phillies 2 (36-57)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Christopher Morel (.185). 3-5, 2B, RBI, 3R, K
- Hero: Justin Steele (.114). 5IP (23 batters), 4H, 4BB, R, 2K, WP (W 4-6)
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.072). 2-3, HR, 2B, 2BB, RBI, 2R, DP
- Billy Goat: Frank Schwindel (-.081). 1-5, K
- Goat/Kid: Erich Uelmen/P.J. Higgins (.000). Uelmen: IP (5 batters), H, BB, R, K; Higgins: 1-1, 2B, 2R
WPA Play of the Game: This game was only 1-1 when Christopher Morel batted with a runner on first and one out in the fifth inning. Morel doubled, driving in the go ahead run but then when the ball was misplayed, Morel completed the little league home run. (.205)
*Phillies Play of the Game: Kyle Schwarber hit a solo homer in the first. (.098)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nelson Velázquez (2 HR, 5 RBI)
Seiya Suzuki (4 H, HR)
Ian Happ (4 H)
Someone else (leave in comments)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
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.
- Christopher Morel +20
- David Robertson +18.5
- Nico Hoerner +18
- Scott Effross +15
- Seiya Suzuki +11.5
- Kyle Hendricks/Matt Swarmer -7
- Andrelton Simmons -8
- Daniel Norris -9.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
- Yan Gomes -16
Up Next: Marcus Stroman returns to the hill for the Cubs in the second game of the series. Marcus is 2-5 with a 4.69 ERA on the season. He’ll be opposed by Zack Wheeler (8-5, 2.89). Hopefully, Marcus can lead the Cubs to a third straight victory.