Thanks to everyone who read, voted and particularly those that contributed to the discussion on glass half empty/glass half full. I’ll steal some time from time to time and ask you? Did we cure anything that ails the Cubs in the discussion? Of course not. But there was good, respectful dialog. I think it’s fair that the general perception of this team is good.
They’ve gone through a rough stretch, unfortunately against some of the teams we would have maybe thought they could stack some wins against. You don’t get to time your slumps. Fortunately, the flip side of that coin is that the Cubs have held up pretty well against some good teams. It’s fair to think that they maybe haven’t seen the best of the best yet, but the Dodgers are always a handful and the Padres sure have World Series dreams. They are without a doubt all in.
I’ll keep saying it, if you aren’t following Josh’s writing, you are missing some good stuff. The Cubs are playing good baseball at every level of the system and every one of the teams features players that may one day be significant contributors to the big league team. The Iowa team seems to get more loaded all of the time. Christopher Morel and Matt Mervis have already forced the issue, but their cupboard isn’t bare. They of course still have the requisite former major leaguers hanging around hoping for another shot that you always see in Triple-A, but there are also some blue chip prospects.
The last going on 10 years have been the best time to be a Cubs fan in over 100 years. So I think some guarded enthusiasm is great. Are they on their way to their next championship? I don’t think anyone can truly say their organization is destined to win a championship. It’s really, really hard to win it all. You need a blend of luck and talent. But they are opening a contention window. They are going to be able to make some runs and they’ll have a chance. How good will the chance be? I’m excited to find out.
On to Friday night in Minnesota. The Cubs continued to be strong against American League teams, moving their record to 8-2 on the season. That is absolutely propping the team record up in the early going. It seems like the A.L. has been the better league forever, so it is a little funny even in a small sample to be so much better against the A.L. But hey, we’re not going to throw it back.
Today features a day game following a night game, so we’re going to jump right into key performances. I might value the normal value of the contributions versus the WPA which will look at them particularly in sequence. So we won’t always be the same or even necessarily similar.
I have to go with Drew Smyly in the top spot. There has been so much talk about Yan Gomes and rightfully so for his renaissance, but Smyly has been a revelation. He’s made eight starts now, six of them good, one rough and one bad. Those are strong numbers. Six innings, four hits, a walk and two runs allowed. Two runs on five baserunners is actually pretty tough sequencing. But regardless, that’s a good game. We can roll our eyes about three runs over six being quality and debate if that bar is too low. I don’t think there is any question that two over six gives your team a chance to win every time.
Christopher Morel gets my second spot. Two hits, one of them left the yard. He has a hit, a run scored and an RBI in each of his first three games with the club and he’s already gone deep twice. He was blisteringly hot for Iowa and it just hasn’t stopped yet. The majors are unbelievably tough. Struggles will come and then we’ll see what’s what. But that bat has to play.
Ian Happ gets my third spot. Again, relative value is what I’m looking at. Other people may have made more significant specific contributions. Ian didn’t score or drive in a run. But three hits is always going to play. One of those was a double. Ian Happ has had one of the weirdest quarter seasons that I’ve covered. He’s been an All-Star level performer. His OPS is over .900 and his wRC+ is over 150. But his counting stats are really light, even in a strong offense. Four homers, 16 runs and 18 RBI. That’s looking a little like a 16 homer, 65 runs, 75 RBI season. Pretty pedestrian. People that OPS over .900 have some pretty significant seasons. Somehow sequencing has kept him out of the middle of rallies. I assure you, if he continues this kind of production, the counting stats have to follow.
Outside of my top three performances, Patrick Wisdom had two hits and a walk. He scored once. Dansby Swanson walked twice and scored twice. Yan Gomes had a single, a walk, a run scored and an RBI. On the other side, Adbert Alzolay only had to face six batters to get six outs. And the game was very much on the line when he came in. That photo at the top is priceless. Everyone comes up wanting to start, but I think Adbert is starting to love seeing a little leverage. Mark Leiter Jr. got the ninth inning, but late offense was good for #screwthecloser. Still, he faced only three batters. You’re going to win some games when your bullpen needs nine batters to record nine outs.
Game 38, May 12: Cubs 6, at Twins 2 (19-19)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Adbert Alzolay (.241). 2IP, 6 batters, BB, K
- Hero: Matt Mervis (.120). 1-4, 2B, RBI, R, 2K
- Sidekick: Ian Happ (.106). 3-5, 2B
- Billy Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.117). 0-4, SF, RBI, K
- Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.059). 1-4, 2B, SF, RBI, 2K
- Kid: Dansby Swanson (-.049). 0-3, 2BB, 2R, 2K
WPA Play of the Game: The Cubs were trailing 2-1 when Matt Mervis stepped in with a runner on first and one out in the seventh inning. His double tied the game and then he’d go on to score the go ahead run. From a WPA perspective, both contribute. He put the second run on the board and made the third more likely. The net result made Drew Smyly a winner. (.235)
*Twins Play of the Game: The Cubs were the ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the inning when Byron Buxton drew a leadoff walk from Adbert Alzolay. (.098)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Drew Smyly (6IP, 24 batters, 4H, BB, 2R, 4K, BK, W)
Christopher Morel (2-5, HR, 2RBI, R, K, CS)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Wednesday’s Winner: Yan Gomes (27-10)
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.
- Justin Steele +13
- Marcus Stroman/Ian Happ +11
- Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
- Drew Smyly/Keegan Thompson +4
- Michael Fulmer/Jameson Taillon -5
- Seiya Suzuki -5.5
- Nico Hoerner -6.5
- Trey Mancini -8
Up Next: The Cubs will look to make it three straight wins on Saturday afternoon. Hayden Wesneski (2-1, 3.93, 34⅓ IP) will start for the Cubs. Hayden has been a bit of an enigma. It really hasn’t clicked for him the way it did down the stretch last year. And yet, he’s allowed just one run in each of his last three starts (and four out of five). He’s only got one win over those three starts, but he’s certainly giving the team a very good chance to a win. For the guy who was the fifth starter out of spring training, that is fantastic.
The Twins will have right-hander Joe Ryan (5-1, 2.45, 44 IP) on the mound. Ryan was a seventh round pick by the Rays. It’s an unusual sight to see a talented young (26) player chosen by that team in someone else’s uniform. He’s actually coming off of his first loss of the season, but even in that one, he allowed two runs over six innings in a start in Cleveland, good enough results to win more often than not. Things won’t be any easier for the Cubs on Saturday.