I don’t quite know what we are witnessing. I can confirm I’m spelling the name right since photos of Esteban Quiroz populated the search menu when I typed it in. I want to think he’s the most random Cub in my lifetime. But that’s going to be wrong. It works for the back story. Nothing about Quiroz’ journey suggested any meaningful time in the majors. But, as for the actual performance? At least one or two Cubs come through every year who have less memorable stints as a Cub.
For instance, I open up Baseball Reference and look at these guys: Locke St. John, Conner Menez, Nicholas Padilla, Eric Stout. Who among these Cubs who have appeared in games but didn’t etch their name into Heroes and Goats are you going to remember a year from now? Two? Five? Ten?
I’ll admit to not following the fine work of Josh Timmers the way I did several years ago. I go into it every time he posts before I do, which is more often than not. But, I’m guilty of skimming for the names I recognize. So I won’t pretend to tell you how many of the names in the previous paragraph are guys who could maybe still see more time on this team in the future. And certainly Quiroz would ordinarily be one of those guys.
That’s not the story unfolding, though. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that no player’s first four appearances in H&G were exactly: Kid, Sidekick, Hero, Superhero, in that order. But that’s exactly what Quiroz has now done. He has climbed Mount H&G. I’m not sure I even ever thought if it like that before. Oh, I’ve recognized a guy who makes contributions but never seems to win the Superhero. But this is different.
It’s the most different because in each instance, I thought, “This is it. This is the pinnacle for him.” First, it was he got into a game and got enough of a leverage opportunity to appear in this space. Then it was a small contribution, then a bigger contribution and now WPA says he’s the player of the game. You’ll all get a chance to weigh in on that opinion a bit later, but me first.
I go to the box score and who is my first star of the game? I see one pitcher I’m going to recognize. And I see three options among the hitters. P.J. Higgins, I see you. Four times on base and a run scored, I’m not passing completely over that. But, I’m going to do it. I’m giving into Esteban-mania. Two hits, a walk, two runs driven in, one of those was ultimately the game winner, a run scored. Table setters are great, but Quiroz drove in two in key situations. I think he’s the legit top star of this one.
I can’t pass on P.J. entirely. A pair of singles, a pair of walks and a run scored. I hope Higgins has carved out a bit of a career for himself this year. He has not at any point embarrassed himself. Not by any standards of mine.
Patrick Wisdom had a nice line too and for all of you who’d have him in your three, I get it. But for my third star, I’m going to recognize the most impressive of the pitching performances. When Michael Rucker took over in the fifth, the Cubs were down two. The wins and losses don’t matter that much at this point, but if he doesn’t hold the line, this one is going to the birds. He threw a perfect fifth and then worked around a leadoff walk to throw another scoreless inning in the sixth after Quiroz had given them the lead the first time.
Now let’s go to WPA and see how it saw this one.
Game 151, September 23: Cubs 6 at Pirates 5 (66-85)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Esteban Quiroz (.286). 2-4, 2RBI, BB, CS
- Hero: Erich Uelmen (.198) IP (6 batters), H, 2BB, K (Sv 1)
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.184). 1-3, HR, 2RBI, 2R, BB, 2K
- Billy Goat: Javier Assad (-.266). 4IP (20 batters), 4H, 3BB, 4R (3ER), 2K
- Goat: David Bote (-.158). 0-4, BB, 2K
- Kid: Alfonso Rivas (-.085). 1-5, K
WPA Play of the Game: Erich Uelmen’s strikeout of Calvin Mitchell with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. Now that’s quite a first MLB save. (.271)
*Pirates Play of the Game: With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Bryan Reynolds homered off of Manuel Rodriguez to tie the game 5-5. (.240)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
P.J. Higgins (2-3, 2BB, 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
- Christopher Morel +18
- Nico Hoerner +17.5
- Scott Effross +17
- Justin Steele/Willson Contreras/Drew Smyly +10
- Rowan Wick -10.5
- Nelson Velazquez -11
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Yan Gomes -14
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: Game three of the four-game set. The Cubs will look for a fifth consecutive win. They’ll have Wade Miley (1-1, 3.48) on the mound. Wade is trying to show teams that he can be both healthy and effective as he heads back into free agency. He’ll be opposed by Johan Oviedo (3-2, 3.69). Oviedo’s been effective for the most part when the Pirates have called on him. This will not be a pushover.