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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 86

The Cubs come up short in Milwaukee.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee Brewers Kayla Wolf-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes I give you a narrative after the game Sometimes, I’m more a series of thoughts. Today is one of those. As I did yesterday, I’m going to steer a little away from the bigger picture implications of this game and the season to date. None of that is shocking, new territory or any great insight I’m going to give you. There’s plenty to talk about in this one.

My first thought does reflect a little on the bigger picture in a back handed way. It’s a shame that this team performed so badly over their first 81 games. If the Cubs had a record of 43-38, this series would have a much different feeling. Today I don’t lament that because of the bigger picture implications, but because of the smaller picture things. The Cubs showed a ton of fight in this series.

The Cubs led at some point in every game and lost two of four. But also, in every one of these games, I thought the Cubs would have had one where they lose 6-1 or 5-2 or whatever. The Brewers outscored the Cubs in this series by a grand total of one run. Most of the games spent most of the time tied. It wasn’t all beautiful baseball, but I like to think that some of the missed plays between the two teams was more pressure based than ineptitude.

I want to be able to say that this was four entertaining days of baseball and that a split in the other team’s park is a fine result. But these games don’t happen in a vacuum. But again, your team is 38-43 at the turn and slowly fading into oblivion in the division. With two more close losses in this series and three in five days, again all that they led in (often late), these games all become painful missed opportunities. I saw it pointed out, this series shows that there isn’t a substantial talent differential between these two teams. One of them is six games ahead of the other in the standings.

A second thought I had about this one, was just a joy at seeing the Cubs play with a lot of fire and passion. I know it’s not the 1980s anymore. We know that fire and edginess and grittiness and all of that stuff doesn’t do anything in the win loss column. Still, these guys were jacked up. It was really fun to watch, but again circle back to point one.

Specific to today’s game, I hate that this game turned on a borderline strike zone call. Marcus Stroman got frustrated with a 3-2 pitch that was called a ball and had earlier been a strike in more or less the same spot. For years I felt like the game needed universal DH. It took a while for baseball to get there. For years I felt like the game needed a pitch clock. It took a while for baseball to get there. I think the last item in my mental parking lot of rule changes is an automated strike zone.

On the one hand, baseball is a game that is about tradition as much as anything. I understand where everyone is coming from that doesn’t like any or all of the rules changes. Heck, I still don’t like the ghost runner, am not sold on the shift restrictions and was against the limitation on throws to first until Boog Sciambi, of all people, made a point that I hadn’t thought of on the broadcast. Without the disengagement rule, a pitcher could game the pitch clock by stepping off over and over again. The batter can’t leave the box without using his timeout, the pitcher can’t disengage.

Certainly, in terms of the pitch clock, I’d have integrated it differently with a more gradual introduction. But I absolutely love the quicker pace. I’m much more engaged with this Cubs season than I have been in several years. I’d also prefer that baseball never started down the road of the designated hitter. But the evolution of the game made pitchers’ hitting go obsolete. It was an enormous edge that American League teams simply didn’t have to deal with pitcher’s hitting at any level of development, their pitchers were less exposed to the additional chance of error performing athletic activities that pitchers were frankly no longer trained to perform.

Getting back to tradition, the other hand is that the game sometimes over-romanticizes certain elements. We eventually went to instant replays and then expanded that process because we shouldn’t hold dear human error. Yes, human error was part of the game when we couldn’t do better. But we can do better. When catchers are evaluated by their pitch framing metrics and managers tell you that they had books on each home plate umpire, we are introducing a whole unintended set of skills and analytics into the game.

Does it have any effect on a catcher’s development if he doesn’t have to worry about framing anymore? More time to work on any of the myriad of skills a catcher needs to have for sure. Throws to the bases, blocking various kinds of difficult to handle pitches, the rapport with a pitching staff, pitch calling and strategy, oh and hitting. Maybe we can take one thing off of his plate (pun intentional).

I’m all for the automatic strike zone. A strike should be a strike. The game shouldn’t be impacted by how stingy or generous a particular umpire is with the zone and which pitcher(s) tend to use the fringes more often. Let these guys play guessing games with each other and not with the umpire. Can’t happen soon enough for me.

Last observation here, this one has to do with WPA. This game was more stratified that most in terms of the number of players at +/- .100 in this one. The Cubs had seven players with more than .100 negative WPA. They had three over positive .100. It was less extreme on the other side with four positive and two negative over those marks.

Let’s turn our attention to three positives from a terrific but disappointing game.

  1. Cody Bellinger is the player of the game as far as I’m concerned. Four hits in four at bats. He didn’t quite rip into the last one in a way where he could try to leg out a triple, the only thing he was short of a cycle. Double, homer, three runs batted in and two scored. Vintage Bellinger. I know I said I’d stay away from it for a bit longer, but there are going to be calls.
  2. Yan Gomes had an enormous two-run homer (after making a totally inexplicably poor decision and throw to second). His eighth-inning homer brought the Cubs off the mat for the second time in the game.
  3. It’s a bit of a lean day for top performances, but I’ll nod to Daniel Palencia who was thrown right into the fire in this series and has now delivered three scoreless innings. His inning was a bit of an adventure with a hit and a walk. But he also struck out two and the talent is clearly there.

Game 86, July 6: Brewers 6, Cubs 5 (40-46)


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


  • Superhero: Yan Gomes (.345). 1-4, HR, 2RBI, R, K
  • Hero: Cody Bellinger (.319). 4-4, HR, 2B, 3RBI, 2R
  • Sidekick: Trey Mancini (.115). 1-1


  • Billy Goat: Michael Fulmer (-.230). IP, 4 batters, H, R, K (L 0-5)
  • Goat: Marcus Stroman (-.226). 5 IP, 22 batters, 4H, 4BB, 4R, 6K, WP
  • Kid: Mike Tauchman (-.218). 0-5, 2K

WPA Play of the Game: Yan Gomes batted with a runner on first and two outs in the eighth inning, the Cubs down two. The run expectancy was only .23. Yan tied it up with one swing of the bat. (.323)

*Brewers Play of the Game: Christian Yelich batted with runners on first and second with two outs, the game tied in the fifth. Another low expectancy situation, just .44. But Yelich went deep. (.314)


Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Yan Gomes
    (10 votes)
  • 92%
    Cody Bellinger
    (127 votes)
  • 0%
    Someone else (leave suggestion in the comments)
    (1 vote)
138 votes total Vote Now

Yesterday’s Winner: Mike Tauchman with 93% of the votes (Superhero 58-27)

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)

  • Marcus Stroman +18
  • Ian Happ +17.5
  • Justin Steele +14
  • Mike Tauchman/Matt Mervis +8
  • Michael Fulmer -7
  • Miles Mastrobuoni -8
  • Trey Mancini -12
  • Patrick Wisdom -13
  • Jameson Taillon -17

Up Next: The Cubs travel to the house that Jeter built or something like that. The Yankees are having what is a disappointing season to them. They are in third place, tied with the Blue Jays and eight games behind the Rays. Being behind the Rays isn’t totally inconceivable if you are a Yankees fan, but behind the Orioles? It’s been a while. The Yankees are 48-40 and stuck in neutral. They’ve split their last 10 games. They are 27-21 at home, though. This will be a tough series.

The opening matchup is a bit of an odd one. Jameson Taillon returns to the place where he pitched that last two years. He was 22-11 over two years there with a 4.08 ERA in 61 starts. That’s quite a difference to this year where he is 2-6 with a 6.93 ERA in 63⅔ innings over 14 starts. Those numbers are not substantially improving, either. He’s 2-3 with a 6.08 ERA in 37 innings over his last seven starts.

Not to reach for the easiest explanation, The Yankees provided him 5.36 runs per game of support in 2021, and 5.92 in 2022. He was 12-0 in 23 starts in 2022 where the Yankees scored him at least three runs. The Cubs have provided him 3.71 runs per game of support. One of his two wins was in a game the Cubs scored 11 and Jameson had a minimum standard quality start. In his last full season as a starter, the Pirates provided him 4.5 runs per game of support in 2018 and were 20-12 when Taillon started. He was 14-2 in 21 starts where the team provided him three or more runs of support. But this where this breaks down. Jameson is 1-3 in 9 starts where the Cubs scored him three or more runs.

30-year-old lefty Carlos Rodon is set to pitch for the Yankees for the first time. The former first round (third overall, just ahead of Kyle Schwarber) pick of the White Sox is 56-46 with a 3.60 ERA in 152 appearances, 147 starts in his career. He was 14-8 for the Giants last year with a 2.88 ERA in 31 starts, throwing 178 innings. He’s made three minor league rehab starts for two different affiliates and is 0-1 with a 0.84 in 10⅔ Innings of work this year. Intuitively, one wouldn’t expect to go very deep in this game. Rodon has been sidelined with a forearm strain and back stiffness. But Aaron Boone and the Yankees brass have declared him ready.