Writer’s note #1: Al has declined the opportunity to “Pipp” me, so I’ve returned from vacation, on a Saturday night/Sunday morning no less!
Writer’s note #2: There is no chance I wouldn’t have pointed out the incredibly unlikely event of a starting pitcher winning Billy Goats in consecutive games. You have to get pretty convoluted to find any situation other than starting the game before and the game after a break for that to happen. Accordingly, there’s a pretty fair chance this was a first.
On to Saturday’s game. Regular readers know that I’ve largely refrained from wading into much discussion of the looming trade deadline. I hesitate to do so on the back of an 10-4 win and on the weekend. but I’ve no doubt I’ll be adding my thoughts and opinions as the deadline draws closer.
That said, it was pretty hard to not note it on Saturday. Marcus Stroman threw six strong innings and Cody Bellinger hit a grand slam. I don’t think I’m getting too far into speculation by suggesting those two are undoubtedly the two Cubs who will be most discussed heading up to the deadline. One of the better starting pitchers in baseball this year and a power-hitting centerfielder with a good glove, they figure to be the subject of thousands of trade rumors over the next few weeks, ranging from some very intriguing discussion down to crazy internet rumors that usually involve a deal that is incredibly one sided for one team or the other.
As I stick a toe into those waters, I’ll make two observations that might or might not be particularly earth shattering. First, we learned last year that no matter how much speculation there is around a given player being traded, there are simply no guarantees. Certainly, the Cubs showed last year that they wouldn’t just give away a player if there isn’t a deal that they like available. My second thought is that Cody Bellinger would be the more intriguing of the two, to me.
First, starting pitchers often require a king’s ransom in a trade and second there is at least some chance that Marcus has excelled at least in part due to the Cubs infield defense. Very much like the 2016 Cubs, the starting pitchers, and specifically those that can keep the ball on the ground get a decent bump from the talented middle infield defense. Third, defense rarely slumps. At minimum, Bellinger improves your outfield defense significantly (though in fairness, Stroman at minimum makes your pitching staff better down the stretch by logging a ton of innings). I just spent a week with a couple of Dodgers fans on my vacation. They were certainly sorry to see Cody go. He’s a good guy (as is Stroman) and he’s at least flashing some of the form that made him an MVP in 2019. Defensively he definitely improves your team and there is certainly a non-zero chance that his bat could get hot and win a series in a way that pitchers rarely get enough opportunity to do in the post season.
There are no shortage of good performances in a lopsided win, but let’s highlight three.
- Stroman. He had already thrown three scoreless innings before the offense exploded for six in the third inning. He allowed a leadoff double in the fourth, but got a couple of ground balls and didn’t let the Red Sox find any life.
- Two hits, one a grand slam, a walk, two runs scored. Bellinger’s third inning slam was his third home run in two days and put the game largely out of reach.
- Miguel Amaya got the start at DH. He had two hits, one a double, drove in a run, scored two and was hit by a pitch. The kid just keeps hitting and in the process exceeding expectations. The two situations aren’t identical, but I note that the championship Cubs turned to a rookie catcher even with two long time veterans on the roster along the way. Certainly that bat needs a lot of opportunity to be in the lineup. It’s not like he’s embarrassed himself defensively or handling the staff either.
Game 91, July 15: Cubs 10, Red Sox 4 (43-48)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Marcus Stroman (.164). 6 IP, 21 batters, 3H, BB, R, 3K
- Hero: Cody Bellinger (.105). 2-4, HR, BB, 4RBI, 2R, K
- Sidekick: Patrick Wisdom (.099). 1-3, HR, BB, 2RBI, R
- Billy Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.032). 1-5, R, SB, 3K
- Goat: Yan Gomes (-.022). 1-4, K
- Kid: Trey Mancini (-.015). 1-4, R, K
WPA Play of the Game: Cody Bellinger batted with the Cubs already up two, the bases loaded and only one out. In that situation, the team has a run expectancy of 1.57 runs. This one exceeded that by more than two when Bellinger connected for a grand slam. (.125)
*Red Sox Play of the Game: Connor Wong singled leading off the third inning while the game was still scoreless. (.040) This was actually matched one out later when Jarren Duran walked to put two on with only one out.
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Miguel Amaya (2-3, 2B, RBI, 2R, HBP)
Ian Happ (2-4, BB, R)
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Cody Bellinger, 54 of 56 votes (Superhero is 62-28)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Marcus Stroman +21
- Ian Happ +18.5
- Justin Steele +14
- Mike Tauchman +9
- Matt Mervis +8
- Michael Fulmer/Seiya Suzuki -7
- Patrick Wisdom -12
- Jameson Taillon -14
- Trey Mancini -18
Up Next: A quick turn around for two teams both hoping to finish up two wins in the opening series of the post All-Star break schedule and stay alive on the fringes of the playoff picture. Justin Steele (9-2, 2.56, 91⅓ IP). He’ll be trying for the second time to pick up his 10th win of the season. Overall, he’s won his last three decisions all after he missed time with a forearm strain. Justin has been very consistent. Over his last seen starts he is 3-1 with a 2.75 and over his last 15, it’s 9-2 with a 2.74. Impressive all around.
The Red Sox start 27-year-old righty Kutter Crawford. Kutter is 3-4 with a 4.11 ERA over 17 appearances, nine of them starts. He’s made seven starts since being put back in the rotation. Over that time he is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA. This looks like a very winnable game.