All right, haven’t had to break out the motto much this year. What motto is that? We try to stay grounded. Don’t get too high and don’t get too low. I think we’ve done pretty okay at that this year. There weren’t exactly lofty expectations. When the really optimistic projections about your season involve words like sneaking, squeaking of backing in, then even if you don’t get anywhere near those optimistic projections, no one gets too bent out of shape.
So why do I bring that out today? Hayden Wesneski. Even acknowledging that the middle of his three appearances was nothing spectacular, he’s had a terrific start to his career. I’m going to sound the alarm and ask that everyone put one foot on the brakes. I know that this season feels like a lot of wandering in the desert and that this kid looks like an oasis as we walk up on it. Let’s marvel at what he’s done across these three appearances and be excited about it. But let’s not get carried away. It’s three late season appearances. None of us have any idea how that will project across large sample sizes.
It’s certainly hard not to dream a little. I get that. And certainly, if Wesneski can make 30-plus starts next year with reasonable production, that’s a fantastic trade value for a reliever with barely a year of major league experience. One would like to hope that Kyle Hendricks can return and have some semblance of the pitcher he used to be. One would expect Marcus Stroman to continue to be good. One would hope that Justin Steele and Keegan Thompson have gained valuable experience and emerged as pitchers who can compete at this level. One can dream that Javier Assad can be the kind of pitcher he has flashed.
The list could go on, but the point is that’s already six guys who you can hope are major league quality pitchers who can produce positive value and could be a part of the rotation. That doesn’t even consider another year of Drew Smyly, who has a reasonable option year and has pitched well enough to bring back. Again, I urge caution as our perspective is that of the lost tribe wandering the desert, but when one squints, there do seem to be an awful lot of interesting internal options to fill the pitching staff with.
I think when reading and writing these names, it’s important to pause and hat tip. Wesneski, Steele, Thompson, Assad, Hendricks, and there are others. This organization, fairly, was lambasted for not producing major league pitching. My definition of producing pitching may vary from some others. I include Hendricks and Wesneski there and both of them were drafted, signed and initially developed elsewhere. Both have only pitched in the majors in a Cub uniform. They were obtained by trade, and trading for talent from other organizations is one of the productive uses of an organization. It took a long time, probably too long given that it almost all missed the last championship window. But this organization is now churning out some very intriguing arms.
I’ll finish my narrative by circling back on my main point. Dig in and enjoy what we’ve gotten from Hayden Wesneski. He certainly seems good enough that I’m going to have to get a lot better at typing that name. It’s okay to get excited about him. I certainly am. Let’s just wait a few beats before someone says something about him being the next anyone or slotting him in to start game two next season or whatever. There’s no hurry. The Cubs just started his clock a few weeks ago. He should be a Cub for at least a handful of seasons. That looks like a very good thing. Let’s enjoy that and not raise expectations so high that we can’t enjoy what comes next.
Hayden gets my top star of the game. Seven innings, three hits, no walks, one run , seven strikeouts. It’s impossible not to get excited about a first major league start that good. Even a third major league appearance. In modern times, seven inning starts alone are a rare breed. Seven innings, no walks? You are starting to look for unicorns. Quite simply, in the team photo for best Cub start of the year. There are a couple up there ahead of it, but not many. And I do not care to qualify it by saying the Rockies are a bad team, particularly on the road. I’m reiterating that this kind of stat line doesn’t occur even every week at the big league level.
It’s a little trickier after the top spot to identify standout performances. I’m going with Alfonso Rivas for my second. Alfonso was on three times in four plate appearances, with two singles and a walk.
For my third and final spot, I go with Ian Happ. Ian had a pair of singles in five plate appearances and he scored the lone run.
Let’s go now to the numbers and see how WPA scored this one.
Game 145, September 17: Rockies 3 at Cubs 1 (62-83)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Hayden Wesneski (.245). 7IP (25 batters), 3H, R, 7K
- Hero: Yan Gomes (.060). 1-1
- Sidekick: Alfonso Rivas (.047). 2-3, BB
- Billy Goat: Adbert Alzolay (-.306). 2IP (9 batters), 2H, BB, 2R, 5K (L 0-1)
- Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.104). 0-3, HBP, K
- Kid: Christopher Morel (-.095). 0-3, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: It was 1-1 in the ninth inning when Charlie Blackmon batted with a runner on first and one out. Blackmon tripled in what turned out to be the winning run. (.383)
*Cubs Play of the Game: It was scoreless in the fifth inning when P.J. Higgins came to the plate with runners on second and third and two outs. Higgins singled, scoring one, but the second runner was out trying to score. (.087)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Somebody 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 +17.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +13
- Justin Steele/Willson Contreras/Drew Smyly +10
- Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
- Rowan Wick -10.5
- Yan Gomes -11
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: The third and final game of the series between these two teams. It is also the final game of the season series. The teams have evenly split the first six games, so winner takes the season series. Javier Assad (1-1, 2.53) continues to make his case for a shot at next year’s rotation. Ryan Feltner (2-8, 6.12) has had a rough go of it this season.