There are many groupings of people around baseball who don’t get enough credit. I’m sure there are many who I would never think of who make my baseball experience better. But one I can think of that some of you may not be able to is baseball photographers. To be sure, some days I go looking for photos and find something fairly mundane that looks like any of thousands of other photos of thousands of other games each year.
But some days I come across the type of photo that leads for me today. I realize that depending on what format you are reading this in, you might only see a portion of the photo. Without sending any of you looking for other ways to access the picture, let me just bring out some elements of this photo. First, the subject of the photo is the literal high-5 between Cubs third base coach Willie Harris and Patrick Wisdom.
Why do I say literal? Because the two jumped well into the air. I’ve picked quite a few of these Harris photos during his time over there in the third base box. I would love to see Harris coaching third on a team like the Bronx Bomber Yankee teams of the 20’s and 30’s, the Big Red Machine teams of the 70’s, the Broad Street Bomber Rockies teams of the 90’s or even our very own Cubs of 2019 with their 256 homers. I love his energy over there and the fun he has with the players. It isn’t all leaping high-5’s either. He has something personal with many of the players. I think it’s neat.
Also in this photo is captured in the background: “Wisdom - .209.” I’m old enough to remember when a baseball player would be crucified for carrying an average that low. Unless he either a) played gold glove caliber defense at short, center or catcher or b) a prodigious home run hitter, he wasn’t going to get significant playing time. Here’s a guy with over 500 plate appearances this year and who will end this year with over 900 plate appearances in the last two years with a lifetime batting average under .220.
Oh, and he batted third for the Cubs Sunday, the spot generally reserved for your best hitter. Granting that this team is a long way from healthy right now and that it is on track to lose somewhere very close to 90 games this year, things have changed so much. The way we understand and evaluate performance has changed dramatically as has the statistics we use to do so. Patrick Wisdom was a 2.3 fWAR player in 2021 and over a 1.0 fWAR this season. Though his offensive fWAR has dropped by about two-thirds, his defensive value swung from a respectable positive number at a difficult defensive position to some significant negative value. If his defense had been comparable, he would have been in the vicinity of a 2 fWAR season balancing the lesser production with a higher volume (as WAR is positively impacted by increased playing time, all else equal).
So let me tip the cap to the men and women who capture these photos, in this instance Charles LeClaire from USA TODAY Sports. Our enjoyment of sports in enhanced by the work these people do and the many spectacular shots that are available each and every day. Thank you for all that you do to make this sport more attractive to those who consume it.
The Wisdom photo ties nicely into our three stars of this one. Patrick gets the top spot. After four scoreless innings, his three-run homer jump started the Cubs offense. Patrick was also hit by a pitch, stole a base and scored twice.
Adrian Sampson can either have the second spot or you can call them 1A and 1B. It almost always takes two halves to make a whole win. One half is offense and the other defense. Wisdom powered the offense and Adrian Sampson shut the Pirates down for six innings. It took him only 21 batters to record 18 outs. He allowed four hits and one run. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out three. That’s a strong outing.
There are several I could put in the third spot. In an 8-3 win, there were a number of strong performances. Alfonso Rivas had a pair of hits. Ian Happ also had two, one of his was a double, he stole a base, drove in a run and scored a run. Zach McKinstry reached base three times in the leadoff spot, stole a base and scored a run. Keegan Thompson faced only seven batters to record six outs.
All of those would be reasonable choices, but I’m loving the Esteban Quiroz story. Each day, I figure it has run its course. And then he contributes again the next day. All he did in this one was reach base four times, two hits and two walks. He scored two and drove in one. At the danger of repeating myself, this is the most outside the box thing I can remember seeing for a Cubs player. Last year when Patrick Wisdom, Frank Schwindel and Rafael Ortega broke out, all three of them were more accomplished than Quiroz, who last appeared even likely to ever see MLB time in the 2019 season for the Triple-A Padres affiliate in El Paso, Texas. What a story this has been.
Now let’s turn our attention to Heroes and Goats and see what WPA had to say about Sunday’s win.
Game 153, September 25: Cubs 8 at Pirates 3 (67-86)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Patrick Wisdom (.306). 1-4, HR, 3RBI, 2R, HBP, SB, K
- Hero: Adrian Sampson (.242). 6IP (21 batters), 4H, R, 3K (W 8-3)
- Sidekick: Esteban Quiroz (.037). 2-3, RBI, 2R, 2BB, SB, K
- Billy Goat: Nico Hoerner (-.080). 1-5, 2K
- Goat: Alfonso Rivas (-.036). 2-5, R, K
- Kid: P.J. Higgins (-.031). 1-5, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: Patrick Wisdom’s two-out, three-run homer in the fifth inning busted the game wide open. (.330)
*Pirates Play of the Game: Bryan Reynolds’ homer also came with two outs. It cut the Cubs lead in the sixth to 3-1. (.082)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (please specify who below)
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
- Scott Effross +17
- Nico Hoerner +14.5
- Patrick Wisdom +12.5
- Frank Schwindel/Daniel Norris -9.5
- Nelson Velazquez -11
- Rafael Ortega -11.5
- Yan Gomes -15
- Jason Heyward -15.5
Up Next: An off day Monday, followed by three games against the Phillies at Wrigley Field. The Phillies are 83-69 and have the inside track on the sixth and final NL playoff spot. Marcus Stroman (4-7, 3.80) gets the start for the Cubs. The Phillies will go with Zack Wheeler (11-7, 2.98). The Cubs will have their work cut out in this game and likely all series long.