Every now and then we’ll talk about how a player’s defensive ability doesn’t show up in WPA. If there was any objective way to do it, Dansby Swanson would have been off the charts Monday night. The Cubs lost 3-1, and it might have been quite a bit worse were Swanson not in this game. I lost count of how many plays he made at short. Many of them were not easy ones, though he made almost all of them look that way.
This is a hard one to write up. My brain keeps yelling that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I was unabashedly a Willson Contreras supporter. I’m far from alone around these parts and with so many rabid Contreras fans, I won’t even claim to be one of the biggest ones around here. I know it made me want to puke to see him in a Cardinals uniform.
We’ve talked a few times this year about baserunners and scoring. The Cubs had five hits and drew six walks. They managed a single run. Meanwhile, the Cardinals had six hits but only drew three walks. Yet they turned that into three runs. I suspect if Nico Hoerner hadn’t come up lame, the Cubs would have scored twice. The number of ways that fifth inning changed the game can’t be overstated. The Barnhart foul ball that was probably fair. A second replay. The injury, A pitching change. Nick Madrigal was out trying to score. Probably Hoerner would have been out on that throw too. But I still suspect he’d have scored on the double.
But of course, butterfly effects. Marcus Stroman was in the dugout forever. Then he goes out and walks the first batter in the sixth. Two outs later, that’s the decisive run. Stroman had retired 11 in a row. You certainly don’t want to have your offense come through, but on a cold, damp night, long break like that can be hard.
In my lifetime, the Cardinals have come off the mat more reliably than Jason Voorhees. I’ll believe they are dead and buried right after they are out of contention for the last playoff spot. They just always rise from the dead. I’m certainly not blaming any of you for getting ahead of yourselves, I saw what you saw. But this stretch of games, the one that looked easier, it has been nothing short of nightmarish. Six games with the Marlins, four with the Nationals and three with the Cardinals. The Cubs are 3-8 with two games to play.
Slumping during the games against lesser teams is so frustrating. The schedule will toughen up. There is no guarantee that the pendulum swings quickly. Replacements or not, the drop off after Nico Hoerner would be significant if he is out for any extended period of time.
Let’s find three positives even in defeat.
- I’m giving the top spot to Julian Merryweather. Three up and three down. The Cubs are going to have to give him some increased leverage. For now, he seems to sit squarely in Team Doghouse with Michael Fulmer and Brad Boxberger.
- No Cub had multiple hits. But Swanson had a double for the only extra-base hit. It came with runners on base and produced the only run. He also had a walk.
- Marcus Stroman was very good and deserved a better outcome. He threw six innings and allowed only four hits and a walk. But two of those runners scored. He struck out six.
Game 35, May 8: Cardinals 3, at Cubs 1 (17-18)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Dansby Swanson (.182). 1-3, 2B, BB, RBI, K
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.131). 1-1, 2BB, R
- Sidekick: Brad Boxberger (.054). IP, 4 batters, H, K
- Billy Goat: Cody Bellinger (-.228). 1-4, K
- Goat: Trey Mancini (-.133). 0-4, 2K
- Kid: Nico Hoerner/Miguel Amaya (-.105). Hoerner: 0-3, Amaya 0-2, K
WPA Play of the Game: With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, the game was tied at one when Cody Bellinger popped out to left. Nick Madrigal was out at home for the third out. (.190)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Dansby Swanson batted with runners at first and third, the Cubs down one with one out. He doubled, scoring the Cubs only run of the game. (.170)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Cody Bellinger (Superhero 24-10)
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
- Julian Merryweather -4.5
- Michael Fulmer -5
- Patrick Wisdom -5.5
- Nico Hoerner -6.5
- Trey Mancini -8
Up Next: The Cubs will try to even the series. They’ll look to Jameson Taillon (0-2, 5.29, 17 IP) to lead the way. The Cubs have yet to see Taillon really get settled in. No time like the present though. He threw three innings in his return last week. The good news was he didn’t walk anyone. The bad was a three-run homer. One would think the Cubs would aim for five out of him.
Speaking of getting settled in, Jack Flaherty has struggled mightily in 2023. The former first round pick (34th overall) is 2-4 with a 6.29 ERA across seven starts (34⅓ IP). Last time out, the Angels torched him for 10 earned runs. On the road trip before that, he made two starts and allowed seven runs over 10⅔ innings. And one of those was actually a win. Injuries limited him to just eight starts last year and he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2019, a stunning fall for someone who looked like he’d be one of the elite pitchers in the game.