The Cubs have now won six of seven since the break and seven of eight overall. Counting that game before the break, in six of the last eight games, the Cubs have allowed exactly two runs. Spoiler alert, allowing two runs or fewer leads to an enormous winning percentage. The Cubs are 10-2 when they allow two, 5-0 when they allow one and 8-0 when they allow zero. This isn’t a very difficult formula, just a difficult achievement. If you are curious how fast it tips, the Cubs are just 6-5 if they allow three. Still perfectly fine, but much more middle of the road. A juggernaut offensive team might still dominate up to three runs, but even an inept offensive team is going to win a lot of games when they allow two or fewer.
So, one clear observation is that the Cubs are a significantly better team with a healthy, effective Marcus Stroman. He’s had two very good starts coming out of the break. I won’t pretend to be able to pinpoint things that went wrong with Marcus, but it was readily apparent that he was very amped up to be a Cub. I think that backfired in his first couple of starts and then not too long afterwards, he dealt with some health issues. Aside from these two very good outings here, he’s only had a total of four or five.
Getting Marcus healthy and comfortable heading into 2023 is a very big deal. Hopefully, he can cornerstone the rotation going forward. I’m always leery of carrying a breakout year forward, but perhaps Keegan Thompson can be a No. 2 or a No. 3 going forward. One would hope that Kyle Hendricks is not washed up and maybe he can fit the spot that Keegan doesn’t. You’d certainly love to see the Cubs obtain another quality high-end arm. Then you’ve got Justin Steele, Adrian Sampson, and hopefully some returning arms like Adbert Alzolay as depth options.
For all of the thunder the 2016 Cubs featured, at the end of the day, the hallmark for me was pitching and defense. This stretch has been fantastic because there has been good pitching and sound defense. There has been just enough hitting to make those runs stand up. Ironically, the one loss featured defensive miscues that led to four unearned runs. That game could have been won. At least in theory. You have to be careful thinking you can just change sequencing. The game is in a different place, there are different strategy decisions that follow. But by the simplest math, we are sitting here right now talking about an eight-game winning streak if the defense had held the line Thursday.
Even the one loss is actually a welcome change as far as I’m concerned. One of the disappointing thing about the first half that goes way beyond the 56 losses they put up was the large number of games that they were just blown out in and were never competitive. Obviously, the highest bar we have as Cubs fans is to see another championship. You keep moving the bar down, to an NLCS appearance, to just making the playoffs, etc. At the other end of the spectrum, is playing fundamental baseball and having a chance to win. Because, of course, if you simplify that further, the highest priority is winning it all. The secondary priority is being an entertaining product to watch. You have to be awfully dedicated to want to watch when the Cubs are getting their brains beat in. Even Al who has lived and died with this team for so long drips frustration when they are getting blown out of the water.
The 2015 Cubs were remarkable particularly because they flipped a switch after the break. They went from a team that competed to a team that seemingly won every single game. Even if this team had that potential, it’s going to get traded away this weekend. But, it sure would be fantastic if they’ve turned a bit of a corner and they could be much more competitive while they are playing out the string.
Let’s get to our three positive performances from Friday night’s win. As always, I’m going to give a little more consideration to the guys I believe are going to be a part of the future for these Cubs.
- It starts with Marcus Stroman. We used to call this a scattered game. Marcus scattered eight hits over six innings. He largely stayed out of trouble by only walking one and keeping the ball in the park. This wasn’t a dominant outing per se, but it was definitely a strong one.
- If he’s not traded, I continue to think that Patrick Wisdom is here next year, perhaps in a lesser role. He had another homer last night and a double on top of that. He scored two and drove in the one run. For what Heroes and Goats are worth as analysis, Patrick hasn’t appeared on any Goat podium since June 28. In that time, he’s been +16, moving from near the bottom tier of the cumulative standings to a solid sixth overall.
- It’s hard to imagine that Frank Schwindel can be any significant part of the club if they are going to be competitive going forward. Josh talks about this with minor league first basemen when he’s evaluating players. If you don’t have a position or only play first, you have to pretty much be an out of this world hitter. That’s Frank’s problem. He’s at best average and probably below average at first and he’s not going to win any batting or home run titles. Still, last night he had a pair of hits and a walk and he drove in a run.
And now, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats from last night’s 4-2 win.
Game 99, July 29: Cubs 4 at Giants 2 (41-58)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Marcus Stroman (.286). 6IP (26 batters), 8H, BB, 3K (W 3-5)
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.249). 2-3, HR, 2B, BB, RBI, 2R, K
- Sidekick: Scott Effross (.185). IP (6 batters), H, 2BB
- Billy Goat: Christopher Morel (-.187). 0-4, 2K, DP
- Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.105). 0-4, K
- Kid: Seiya Suzuki (-.072). 0-4, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: With two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Scott Effross got Mike Yastrzemski to ground out to end the inning and preserve what was just a 1-0 lead at the time. (.155)
*Giants Play of the Game: I think this may be the first time that both plays of the game were recorded while on defense and in the same inning. In the top of that same inning, Christopher Morel batted with the bases loaded and one out. With the game only 1-0, the Cubs were looking to break it open and make sure Marcus Stroman notched a win for his strong performance. Instead he hit a grounder to short that resulted in a double play. (.149)
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 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.
- David Robertson +22.5
- Nico Hoerner +20
- Scott Effross/Christopher Morel +17
- Keegan Thompson +10
- Andrelton Simmons -8
- Daniel Norris -9.5
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
- Yan Gomes -16
Up Next: Game three of the four-game set. Drew Smyly (3-5, 3.93) is scheduled for the Cubs. I’d imagine there is a 10 percent chance that someone wants to take a flyer on Smyly as a swingman and he gets held out of this start. Jakob Junis (4-2, 2.98) is slated for the Giants. The Cubs will look to pull ahead in this series.