Sometimes you just recognize that you are grumpy. Tuesday was one of those days where I just felt like I was out of sequence with the world. We all have them, no big deal. I think the worst part of it is that I kept thinking that the next “thing” was going to go well and that would be my place for solace in the day. It’s probably not shocking that the Cubs game was the last of those things in the line and followed right along with every event of the day being vaguely disappointing.
That’s all a very long way of saying I’m in a bad mood. I know I’m placing outsized value on one game. Tuesday night’s loss has some of the feel of Opening Day, but that’s not really the apt comparison. After all, regardless of everything we think we know, every team starts with a completely clean slate on Opening Day. We might have great suspicions about how things are going to go for various teams and we could even be right about the majority of those things. But there are always a few teams that surprise to the upside and a few to the downside. So you can’t really know everything.
So instead, this matches the feeling of the All-Star break. For five days, the Cubs were out of their normal routine, the normal grind of things. There were two off days, followed by two games at disjointed times, then another off day. I didn’t really have the same eye on the weekend games because they didn’t fall in the normal rhythm. I wrote about them, but for whatever reason it still felt like a break.
Of course, the Cubs headed into that stretch with the best record they’d had in quite some time. In an inept decision, they had declared, at least for now, that they were back in contention for a division title. Oh, they were still sitting in third place, but they were certainly within reasonable striking range.
I’d taken the line of throwing the gauntlet and called for the Cubs to “Get Greedy.” And they did. I wanted to see the win four out of five games last week to stretch their success forward another week. And they did that. But it wasn’t just the four wins, but the fact that they managed aggressively. Marcus Stroman was absolutely not the next man up on Sunday, but the Cubs went with him anyway. It feels like the Cubs don’t make those kinds of decisions very often.
Alas, that move didn’t work. But the bloom is definitely right back off of the rose for me. Jameson Taillon wouldn’t have seen my field until Thursday at the earliest. I would have probably decided that the nominal value of having Justin Steele starting that Thursday game wasn’t worth making it clear that I don’t have faith in my key pitching acquisition in the offseason.
But let’s be clear, message or no message, I don’t have any faith in Taillon. With Tuesday’s loss, the Cubs are now 2-11 when he pitches. He has two starts where he has allowed fewer than three runs. He’s pitched six innings once. We’ve all been around the Cubs, and baseball in general, long enough to know there are always some guys that are snake bitten. Even when they pitch great, the team doesn’t win. Without even spending a lot of time looking over his career, Marcus Stroman has at times run into that.
Sometimes those snake bitten pitchers don’t get run support. Sometimes the bullpen lets them down. But it isn’t particularly bad pitching. Bad pitching would mean not snake bitten. Jameson has had one such start. Way back on April 15, he threw five scoreless against the Dodgers. The Cubs lost that game 2-1. That’s some pretty rotten timing. The other game he allowed less than two runs, the Cubs won, oddly, also 2-1. The game where Taillon completed six innings, they won. That night, the Cubs scored 11 runs.
That’s not bad luck. I can call all three of those starts good. The Cubs won two out of three. That’s not awful. The other eight times he started, he wasn’t good. The only slight nod that I can give is that he hasn’t had amazing run support. The Cubs have average about one run less per game in Taillon’s starts than they have across all games.
To be fair, the Cubs offense was also inept on Tuesday. If Taillon had thrown eight innings and allowed two runs, we can’t speak specifically to the effect sequencing, but this certainly had the feel of a game the Cubs would have lost anyway. So as the old story goes: They allowed too many runs, but made up for it by not scoring any.
It’s one game. Let’s roll through the three good things and the numbers and put this one in the rear view mirror, shall we?
- Cody Bellinger was the only Cub with an extra-base hit, a double. He was one of only two Cubs with multiple hits. He scored the only run and I snuck him into the cover photo despite not being the Superhero. For those keeping track, both hits were off of lefties. Small sample set weirdness or not, Bellinger has been significantly better against left-handed pitchers this year.
- Nick Madrigal is starting to look like a good story. I’m sure this season doesn’t feel that way for him. Surely, after a certain point, a guy doesn’t expect to go back to the minors. But he did. And he flat out crushed it there. He’s come back and he’s kept it rolling. Madrigal has a story that isn’t unusual on this team. He isn’t particularly valuable on defense and so he needs to produce good value offensively to justify being in the lineup. He had two hits in three tries on Tuesday and has settled nicely into the third base position while Patrick Wisdom is hurt.
- Javier Assad threw three scoreless innings. He did allow a couple of hits and walked a couple of hitters. But he kept the score at five and gave the offense every opportunity to try to come back.
Game 77, June 27: Phillies 5 at Cubs 1 (37-40)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Seiya Suzuki (.035). 0-3, K
- Hero: Nick Madrigal (.033). 2-3, SB, K
- Sidekick: Javier Assad (.013). 3 IP, 13 batters, 2H, 2BB, 2K
- Billy Goat: Jameson Taillon (-.211). 5 IP, 22 batters, 7H, BB, 5R, 8K (L 2-6)
- Goat: Ian Happ (-.154) 0-3, BB, K, 2DP
- Kid: Christopher Morel (-.066). 0-4, 3K
WPA Play of the Game: The game was only 2-0 when Brandon Marsh batted with a runner on first with no outs. The run expectancy with a runner on first and no outs is .88. A two-run homer well exceeds that expectation. The homer was Marsh’s second of the game and put this one well out of reach. (.118)
*Cubs Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki was hit by a pitch leading off the fourth inning. You know you got dominated when that is the top play of the game. (.048)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Cody Bellinger (2-4, 2B, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments below)
Sunday’s Winner: Mark Leiter Jr. in a 37/33/30 vote — Miguel Amaya and Ian Happ were two and three (Superhero is 52-24)
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.
- Marcus Stroman +20
- Ian Happ +18.5
- Adbert Alzolay/Justin Steele +12
- Matt Mervis +8
- Miles Mastrobuoni -8
- Patrick Wisdom/Nico Hoerner/Trey Mancini -12
- Jameson Taillon -15
Up Next: These two teams meet again Wednesday night. Drew Smyly (7-4, 3.38, 82⅔ IP) will start for the Cubs. Drew has tailed off a bit, posting a 3-3 record and a 4.23 ERA over his last seven starts. That said, he’s won his last two, including five scoreless innings on June 19 when he last started. He missed the Phillies in the earlier series.
The Phillies start Aaron Nola (6-5, 4.38, 100⅔ IP). Aaron has been a little improved over his last seven (3-2, 4.20, 45 IP). He threw six scoreless in a no-decision in his last start against a very good Braves team. He beat the Cubs on May 20, allowing two runs in seven innings.