As this season has worn on, there have been days where I just did not want to head to the keyboard to write. I imagine just the same, even the dedicated among you didn’t particularly want to read. Many of you have sat through many countless hours of bad baseball this year, squinting and rationalizing and enjoying moral victories in order to survive a season like this.
I don’t think I can ever say it often enough, I know there are more than a small handful of you who then come in here every day to see if I had anything interesting to say about it. Thank you for that and keep the faith. No, I’m not sure I’ll have more interesting things to say next year, but I’m relatively certain that the quality of baseball played by the Cubs will improve next year.
Anyway, back to the thought that I started this with: Some nights I dread the walk to the keyboard. So tonight, with an eighth inning come from behind victory, this one would be an interesting one to write up, right? A one-sided blowout is the worst from many standpoints, but particularly from the WPA point of view. A close game all the way is generally the most interesting and a good one for WPA. But the best? That is usually when the lead swings back and forth by more than one run, the later the better.
So this one should be good, right? Scoreless for four, three runs one way in the fifth. A run the other way in the seventh and then three more in the eighth, this one is going to be super interesting, right? Not overly so, as it turns out. The three-run lead happened fairly fast, happening in the span of four hitters, but it was also only in the fifth inning, so not particularly decisive. And then the comeback was like a slow-moving train derailment, so not a wide swing either.
Back to the drawing board, then, and a win will always be better than a loss in my book, though admittedly not necessarily more interesting to write about.
My first star of this one is, I think, an obvious choice for on and off the field reasons, it was great to see Keegan Thompson back on the field. Certainly for a stretch, he was the Cubs’ best pitcher this year and really has to be in that conversation with Justin Steele. So it’s great to see him back. And at least for now, he’s bookending the season as a multi-inning reliever. He threw three innings and faced only 11 batters to do it. He issued a walk and allowed a hit but he also struck out six. He notched the win for his efforts, putting him into double digits on the year, for whatever that’s worth. But more than anything, he flashed dominant stuff again.
I could go in many different directions with my other two choices, but I think I’ve got it right. I’m giving Patrick Wisdom the first spot. It seems like a very long time since he hit a home run. I had to go look it up and it was August 19, a little over a month ago. Injuries and slumps have held him in check. The Cubs came off of the mat and it started with Wisdom’s blast.
I’ve played a bit of poker through the years and there is something of an adage about letting a bad poker player make bad plays. We can make excuses or pretty it up, but at the end of the day these are two bad baseball teams. But the baseball equivalent of that adage would be putting the ball into play. Steven Okert came into the game to start the eighth inning and immediately walked the first two hitters he faced. The third was 30-year-old rookie Esteban Quiroz.
Quiroz is in a tough spot there. He got what I think is a fairly straightforward sign to put down a bunt. The last thing you want to do is to chase on the bunt attempt and either strike out trying to bunt or pop one up. You just want anything other than letting him have a chance to settle down. And, of course, this is a lefty-lefty situation and then the count worked to 3-2. This could have been one of those nightmarish situations where a real chance got away.
Quiroz got the bunt down. And poor Okert just had a terrible night. He fielded the bunt and proceeded to throw the ball away down the first base line. The ball was bunted reasonably well, with a lefthanded pitcher, towards third base. The third baseman stayed home to cover any potential force out, so that left Okert to field it. He didn’t get it completely clean, probably should have put it in his pocket and instead threw it away.
For getting the bunt down in that spot, I go with Quiroz. Even if Okert executes on the throw to first and gets Quiroz, who hauled right away out of the box from the left side, there are still two runners in scoring position down two in the eighth. In the end, the play resulted in a run and putting the tying run at third and the go ahead at second. The Cubs cashed them both in and the rest is history.
This is probably the most analysis I’ve done of a single play in this space in my six years writing Heroes and Goats. I’m always going to defer to Al on this, but I just thought it was interesting and rest assured, this is not the last mention of this play.
Let’s go to the numbers and see what WPA looked like for this come from behind win.
Game 149, September 21: Cubs 4 at Marlins 3 (64-85)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Keegan Thompson (.345). 3IP (11 batters), H, BB, 6K (W 10-6)
- Hero: Esteban Quiroz (.235). 0-3, R, Sac, K
- Sidekick: David Bote (.111). 0-4, RBI, 2K
- Billy Goat: Yan Gomes (-.099). 0-4, K
- Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.088). 6IP (24 batters), 5H, BB, 3R, 7K
- Kid: Franmil Reyes (-.043). 0-3, BB, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: The Quiroz bunt flipped the game on its axis. In the eyes of WPA, this sacrifice attempt ends up looking like a ringing RBI double. (.290)
*Marlins Play of the Game: Nick Fortes’ two-run homer with no outs in the fifth produced the game’s first two runs. (.174)
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 +17.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Christopher Morel +16
- Justin Steele/Willson Contreras/Drew Smyly +10
- Nelson Velazquez -10
- Rowan Wick -10.5
- Yan Gomes -11
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: No rest, the Cubs head on to face the Pirates who enter with a record of 55-94 and seem a near lock for a 100-plus loss season. Rookie sensation Hayden Wesneski (1-1, 2.30) makes his second major league start and fourth appearance. He’ll face Mitch Keller (5-11, 4.03).
This will be the first of four games between these two teams, the final four games between the Cubs and Bucs this season. The Cubs have won seven of 15 so far, so they’d need to win three games to take the season series. The Cubs have so far won the season series against the Brewers, Marlins, Red Sox, Mets and Nationals. They can still add Pirates, Phillies and Reds to that list. Oddly enough, they have the highest probability of adding the Phillies, since they swept them in Philadelphia in July and need only one more win to take that season series.