Watching baseball you see more regression (or progression) to the mean than almost anywhere in life. We’ve all seen plenty of guys (whether they are Cubs or not) start out their season with a stretch where they hit close to .500 and then at some point they regress back to more or less the player you expect them to be. Vice versa, there are those guys who leave April hitting under .100. Then you look up in mid-September and darned if that guy isn’t hitting .270, just a shade under his career average.
Usually, the “flip” is subtle, the rise meteoric and the fall slow. Or vice versa. The Cubs lost 32 of their first 49 home games this season. That’s a .347 winning percentage. At home. Even bad teams usually finish at least vaguely in the vicinity of .500 at home. That winning percentage is the equivalent of a 56-win season. The “flip” for this team hasn’t been subtle. Dating back to the final game before the All-Star break, the Cubs have now won five straight home games. At 22-32 at home, that percentage has climbed to .407. That’s a 62-win pace. Quite a bit different.
Overall, despite a horrid road trip, the Cubs are 8-6 since the break and 9-6 counting that last game before the break. In those nine wins, the common factor has been solid pitching. That’s largely been the thread for this team all year. When the pitching goes, the team fairs pretty well. But this team doesn’t score enough runs to cover for bad pitching.
If we’re going to talk specifics on the pitching, let’s go ahead and get into our three positives from Saturday’s game. Not to credit one over the other, but we’ll handle them in chronological order.
- That means we start with Drew Smyly. Drew recorded a season-high 20 outs and he only took 25 batters to do it. The only other time Smyly was this effective was a May 30 start against the Brewers wen he had to leave after only three innings (10 batters), with an injury that derailed a large chunk of his season.
- Smyly started it, but Mark Leiter Jr. finished it. He recorded the last seven outs. And it took him seven batters to do it. In the closest thing I have for a compliment of Leiter, he hasn’t been that bad for the Cubs this year.
- The pitching was great, but you have to have some offense and the Cubs haven’t had a whole lot of it lately. In their three previous games, they managed a total of two runs. But on Saturday, they doubled that. Nico Hoerner was a big part of that. He had a three-hit game. He drove in a run, stole a base and was generally a thorn in the side of the Marlins in this one.
This was one of those games where Heroes and Goats and I were in complete agreement on who the top players were. Let’s take a look.
Game 106, August 6: Cubs 4, Marlins 0 (43-63)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Drew Smyly (.347). 6⅔ IP (25 batters), 5H, BB, 4K (W 4-6)
- Hero: Nico Hoerner (.166). 3-4, RBI, SB
- Sidekick: Mark Leiter Jr. (.054). 2⅓ IP (7 batters), K
- Billy Goat: Zach McKinstry (-.090). 0-3, 2K
- Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.063). 0-4, K, DP
- Kid: Frank Schwindel (-.036). 0-3, BB, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: With one out and a runner on second, Nico Hoerner broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning with a single off of Pablo Lopez. (.122)
*Marlins Play of the Game: With runners on first and second with two outs in the second, Lopez got Zach McKinstry to pop out to end the inning and preserve the scoreless game. (.045)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Mark Leiter Jr.
P.J. Higgins (2-3, HR, BB, RBI, R)
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 +21.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +14
- Willson Contreras +11
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Yan Gomes -14
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: The third and final game of the series between those two clubs. The Cubs will start Adrian Sampson (0-2, 3.74) who is somehow still looking for his first win of the year. He’ll face Jesus Luzardo (2-4, 3.97).