If you are one of the people who has been steadfast in saying that the 2022 Cubs won’t lose 100+ games (and in some spots even 95+), then this weekend is probably what you had in mind. No, I’m not suggesting that you sat down with the schedule and said that the Cubs were going to go on the road to a team that has playoff aspirations and sweep them. I’m suggesting that part of what makes baseball special is how (relatively) frequent an occurrence like this weekend is. A bad team, going in and just outplaying a decent team and winning at least a couple of games.
In football and basketball, we expect virtually every year to have at least one team that wins more than 75 percent of its games. If I run and find an early edition for the 2022 football season, I I might find that some team is projected to win 14 of its 17 games. That is roughly 80% of its games. In the 2021 NFL season, two teams won 13 games (better than 75 percent) and four more won 12 (right at 70 percent). In the NBA, there was a bit less of that in the most recent season. And yet, the Phoenix Suns was 64 games, a cool .780 winning percentage. I could flip those numbers and note the football teams that lost 12 plus games or the basketball teams that lost more than 60 games, but you get the point.
In baseball, the 1906 Cubs set a still-existing record with a .763 winning percentage. Since that season just nine teams have topped 70 percent with one of those being the 2020 Dodgers in a COVID shortened season. The point is, in baseball and football, we expect to have “outlier” seasons every season. In those sports, we don’t have a real outlier until a football team is winning 15 plus games. In basketball, there is no buzz until you start getting near 70. The Yankees have flat dominated this season. They have won exactly 68 percent of their games to date. The Dodgers have won nine of 10 to pass them by half a game. The trade deadline tends to make the extremes more extreme, that team could approach 70 percent. Of course, they could also take their foot off the accelerator at some point. Maybe reduce the workload on some of the players.
This is all a long way of saying that these things happen. I’m certain that is no consolation for Phillies fans. I have a friend who is a Philly fan and I’ll be talking with him later today, so I’ll hear about it first hand. Surely, coming into the series at six games over .500 and in the thick of the wildcard race (and far from eliminated in their division), they surely had hopes for a sweep in the other direction. Certainly at least a couple of wins. The kind of thing that hopefully gets you off to a good start on your way to making a second half challenge.
So let’s look at some key contributors to Sunday’s win, one of whom had himself a terrific weekend.
- Yan Gomes. I’ve focused in this spot on guys who I think will be here in 2023 and beyond. I just don’t know about Yan. If the Cubs were to trade Willson Contreras, he could be the starter for the near term future. Or they could hold on to Willson and deal Yan. They wouldn’t get anywhere near the return, but Yan is a guy who has been around. He can hit a little and he’s sound defensively. No one is Willson Contreras, but you could do worse than Gomes. Gomes hit two homers on Sunday. On a day when they only mustered seven hits, the long ball propelled them to victory.
- Nelson Velázquez. Nelson added a homer of his own, his third of the weekend series. He has to be unhappy to be leaving town because whatever the Phillies were trying to do with him wasn’t working. Besides the homer, he added a single and a walk. He scored the two runs that Gomes didn’t. For the three-game set, he had four hits in six at bats, drew two walks, slugged three homers and drove in seven runs.
- Drew Smyly. I know the quality start statistic is a little cringe-worthy. Even in modern baseball, most of us aren’t terribly thrilled that a starter allowed three runs over six innings (other than maybe just that a starter finished six). But this start for Drew really was a quality start. He threw six innings and allowed only four hits. He allowed two runs, but one was of the unearned variety. He didn’t walk anybody and struck out four. That’s the pitcher equivalent of knocking it out of the park.
Let’s turn our attention now to the Heroes and Goats from Sunday’s sweep finishing victory.
Game 95, July 24: Cubs 4 at Phillies 3 (38-57)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: David Robertson (.204). IP (5 batters), H, BB, K (Sv 14)
- Hero: Yan Gomes (.176). 2-4, 2HR, 2RBI, 2R
- Sidekick: Drew Smyly (.160). 6IP (22 batters), 4H, 2R (1ER), 4K (W 3-5)
- Billy Goat: Seiya Suzuki (.098). 0-4, K
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.066). 1-4
- Kid: David Bote (-.050). 0-3
WPA Play of the Game: David Robertson has picked up a number of Superhero awards on his way to near the top of the Rizzo Award standings. But, he hasn’t had a ton of tension in doing it, so he hasn’t been up here much. On Sunday, a hit and a walk had runners on first and second with two outs in a one run game. That’s when David struck out Garrett Stubbs swinging for the final out of the game. (.173)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Stubbs appears in both ends, in the eighth inning he led off with a solo homer against Chris Martin to cut the Cubs lead to one. (.142)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Nelson Velázquez (2-3, BB, HR, RBI, 2R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the 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 +23
- David Robertson +22.5
- Nico Hoerner +18
- Scott Effross +15
- Keegan Thompson +7
- Rafael Ortega -7.5
- Andrelton Simmons -8
- Daniel Norris -9.5
- Yan Gomes -14
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: The Cubs return home on a four game winning streak, their third of the season. The two previous times they failed in their bid to reach five. They’ll get another chance against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates are ahead of the Cubs in the NL Central standings by 1½ games. The Pirates are a bad road team and a below average team at home. The Cubs are a bad home team and a below average one on the road. So neither team should be a significant favorite at any time in this series.
Adrian Sampson (0-1, 3.34) has pitched well for the Cubs, though he continues to seek his first win. He’ll face J.T. Brubaker (2-8, 4.02). In modern baseball, a 4.02 ERA doesn’t usually get a record so lopsided. Without doing any digging at all, I’m going to guess that Brubaker has at times been victimized by bad defense leading to unearned runs and at times poor run support. If either or both of those afflictions wants to surface on Monday night at Wrigley Field, I won’t complain. There just isn’t outsized value to finishing with the worst record, so I’m going to enjoy every win when it comes and not fret if it moves the Cubs behind someone else in next year’s draft.