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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 161

The one that ultimately didn’t matter.

Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

You’ll forgive me if I give you an abbreviated post today. Ultimately, the Cubs won but were eliminated from contention before the game even ended. That was to no one’s surprise. The frustrating Sunday possibility would be the scenario where the Cubs win and both the Diamondbacks and Marlins lose on Sunday. That would mean that the Cubs won as many games as each of those teams and those two moved on to the playoffs while the team heads home. That creates that scenario where literally any one of the losses that stuck in your craw over the course of the season would have swung the pendulum for this team into the playoffs.

Oddly, this is one of the softer landings for this team that I can ever remember. This team did not suck. This team certainly missed out on a real opportunity to make the postseason. Also, there wasn’t a realistic shot that this team in its present condition to do any damage in the postseason. Could they have made somebody sweat? Sure. Could they maybe have won a game and pushed the opponent to the brink? Absolutely. Is there always a chance that the other team plays so badly that you do win a series where you were heavy underdogs? Of course.

But this team would have been a heavy favorite for an early elimination. Justin Steele looks to have slowed down a step late in the year. Marcus Stroman was a shadow of himself after London. Jameson Taillon looked better as the year wore on but was never dominant. Kyle Hendricks looks more like quality innings eater than a pitcher that is likely to dominate anyone. Jordan Wicks is a work in progress. Adbert Alzolay just returned and it isn’t clear how much you could lean on him. Mark Leiter Jr. lost his best pitch. Michael Fulmer joins a wave of injured Cubs reliever options. The lineup looked tired and uneven down the stretch.

Still, even if the Brewers didn’t put their best foot forward, the Cubs scored 10+ runs one more time. This ends up being one of the higher scoring teams in Cubs history. There’s no meaningful sample, but Alexander Canario joins Pete Crow-Armstrong in the hearts of Cubs fans. Canario for the tiny sample at the major leagues and PCA for the numbers he put up at every level of the minors, along with the raves from scouts, internal and external.

And so the Cubs are in limbo. It’s still a few beats too soon for post mortem work. The baseball offseason is just too long to start in on that before the ink is even dry on the season. But there isn’t a lot of big-picture analysis to bring to you in this position.

I am going to pull one thing forward from yesterday’s comments section to comment on in wider form here. I will always welcome all of the comments, those that support my opinions and viewpoints and those that don’t. There is no benefit to all of you just taking everything I say as the prevailing and/or correct opinion. I only ever ask that you too also respect my opinion. I played the game (not well, and this qualification should not matter), I’ve coached (at a youth level, also largely not relevant), I’ve umpired (see previous), I’ve been a fan for 30 seasons now, and I’ve written about the game for seven seasons now.

Again, not necessarily word of the land, but I certainly should carry at least some level of respect even if you believe there is some gateway before an opinion is one that should be heard. I will never employ any of those standards for any of you and I don’t care. You are a fan and you come here. You’ve more than met my table stakes.

Yesterday, I wrote that the Cubs were a good team that played bad down the stretch and missed the playoffs. There was a commenters who flat disagreed with my opinion and impression. Again, I don’t reject your opinion. If your standard needs a certain number of wins or making the playoffs or advancing a certain number of rounds, that’s your prerogative.

Let me defend my opinion this way. We no longer just hand over the Cy Young to the pitcher with the most wins or the hitter with the most homers. Both of those concepts are oversimplification, but we certainly recognize that an excellent pitcher might be saddled with a terrible team and finish with a losing record. Jacob deGrom in 2018 comes rather quickly to mind.

We’ve evolved our thinking and recognize that many metrics simply aren’t effective in all situations. Of course wins and losses are a really great measure of a team. But I reject that the concept of good team solely correlates to wins and losses.

Let’s look at this:

  • Tier 1 teams (Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, Rays). The Cubs won a series from all four of those teams.
  • Tier 2 teams (Rangers, Astros, Blue Jays, Twins, Mariners, Brewers, Phillies). The Cubs won series from the Rangers, Blue Jays, Mariners and Brewers
  • Tier 3 teams (Marlins, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Reds, Padres). The Cubs won a series from the Yankees, Reds and Padres.

The Cubs truly hung in there against the best. Did they have a winning record against all of them? No, and I’m fairly certain no one else did either, without spending a lot of time looking. Were some of those wins flukes? Do the wins of the Diamondbacks or Marlins, Twins or Astros not count against the Cubs just because some of them were a little bit of a fluke?

On the whole, the Cubs weren’t overmatched by anyone. Did they get blown away in some games? Absolutely. The Braves were arguably the best team in baseball. The Cubs won the series at Wrigley. They led in every game in the series in Atlanta. If the bullpen had been healthy, there is a reasonable chance the Cubs win two out of three both times.

Yes, I stand by this having been a good Cubs team. I do not suggest the results themselves were, on the whole, good

Let’s find three stars of a Saturday night win.

  1. Alexander Canario. Three hits, one a triple, and an RBI.
  2. Yan Gomes. Just one hit, but it was a grand slam. Five driven in.
  3. Ian Happ. Single, double, walk, run scored, run driven in. Some of you still don’t believe he’s even a good player. You don’t deserve him. Ian is a star. Some teams surely have three outfielders better than him. It’s hard to imagine any team wouldn’t be better with him than without him.

Game 161, September 30: Cubs 10, at Brewers 6 (83-78)


Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.


  • Superhero: Yan Gomes (.173). 1-3, HR, BB, 5 RBI, R
  • Hero: Javier Assad (.167). 1⅔ IP, 7 batters, 2 H, 4 K
  • Sidekick: Ian Happ (.147). 2-4, 2B, BB, RBI, R


  • Billy Goat: Jordan Wicks (-.385). 1⅔ IP, 12 batters, 6 H, BB, 6 R, K
  • Goat: Patrick Wisdom (-.058). 1-5, HR, RBI, R, 2 K
  • Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.031). 0-3, 2 BB, R

WPA Play of the Game: Yan Gomes hit a grand slam in the first inning, giving the Cubs an early 5-0 lead. (.189)

*Brewers Play of the Game: Blake Perkins hit a home run with a runner on first and no outs in the second inning. It cut the Cubs lead to one. (.154)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Yan Gomes
    (44 votes)
  • 4%
    Javier Assad
    (4 votes)
  • 7%
    Ian Happ
    (7 votes)
  • 31%
    Alexander Canario (3-5, 3B, RBI)
    (29 votes)
  • 7%
    Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (7 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Ian Happ 38-31 over Christopher Morel (Superhero is 109-51)

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 6/Bottom 6)

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.

  • Cody Bellinger +35
  • Ian Happ +21.5
  • Adbert Alzolay +18
  • Justin Steele/Javier Assad +16
  • Seiya Suzuki +11
  • Michael Fulmer -9
  • Drew Smyly -15
  • Patrick Wisdom -16
  • Dansby Swanson -17
  • Trey Mancini -20.5
  • Jameson Taillon -23

Up Next: The final game of the season. I don’t know if they can or would, but I’d love for the Cubs to put a few of the guys who haven’t had time off in weeks on the injured list and call up players to finish out the season with. I would not start the game with Justin Steele and if I did, I’d have him throw in inning or two. The Cubs’ middle infield and outfield haven’t had a day off in over a month. I’d love to see them sit and others get a chance to play this one game.

Either way, it’s game 162. I’ll have a bit more of a post mortem after that one.