We have to take care of some business off of the top. If you were someone giving up and deciding for at least the 20th time that this team was trash by the top of the third inning, show yourself out. I don’t know how to help you. Look, I had this team at 75 wins. We’re all wrong sometimes. (And let me tell, you, there are 23 games left, I better be WAY wrong.) I don’t know how to say it differently. This team. It’s good. It’s very good.
There’s a thing that happens in sports, but particularly baseball, where you provide too much weight to what happens at the start of the season. Lost five straight in August, it’s frustrating. Lost five straight the first week in April? You’re left for dead and half your fanbase may not realize until July that the team is good.
May was a dumpster fire. It’s true. You can’t get that back. April was even a bit disappointing. Tacking on the one game from March, they were 14-13 despite a 146-103 run differential. Expected win loss record is based upon runs scored and runs allowed. Unsurprisingly, teams that score a lot of runs and don’t allow very many runs are very good. I challenged the stat through the end of May. I wondered if perhaps the outsized run differential was the aberration.
Funny thing is, the team was outscored by 38 while they were winning 35.7 percent of their games in May. At the end of May, the team was seven under and had scored five more runs than they allowed. Their expected win loss was saying 28-27 while the actual record was 24-31. It wasn’t that far off. In June, the team won 56 percent of its games. In July it was 57.7 percent. August 1 through today, they’ve won exactly two thirds of their games. 22-11 since August 1. That is elite baseball.
As I mentioned yesterday, the thing about this team is that they can beat you in high-scoring and low-scoring games alike. They are now 38-0 when they score seven or more runs. The 2016 Cubs were 44-0 in such situations. Can they get six more over the final 23 games? The odds say that they should get just about exactly that number. That team scored 808 runs. This team reach 708 with 23 games to go. They are going to blow by that team in scoring. Amusingly, that team was known for a relentless offense and strong defense.
Of course, the hallmark along with the defense for that team was a dominant pitching staff led by four veteran starters and a young Kyle Hendricks. That team was better at pitching to be sure. But this one is better offensively. Interestingly, the 2016 team had better rate stats across the board, despite pitchers hitting.
What, then, is the big difference that is going to lead to this team scoring a good number more runs? Speed and the new rules. This team has almost twice as many steals as that one did. That team stole 66 total bases and the team leaders had 13, 12 and 11 steals. This team stole its 119th base on Tuesday night. Nico Hoerner has 36 of them by himself and will almost certainly go over 40 despite missing time with an injury. They also have players with 19 and 13. When Nick Madrigal steals his next base, they’ll have five at 10 or more.
The Cubs definitely caught them at a good time, but I also feel inclined to point out that this is a good Giants team the Cubs have outscored 16-8 over the first two games of the series. The reality is that this is an even better Cubs team that will have gone more than a month without losing a series whenever they next lose one.
With the win, the Cubs are now 11 games over .500. That matches the high point of the 2021 Cubs. That team ultimately finished 23 under, for a full swing of 34 games in the standings. That’s some whiplash. The abbreviated 2020 season also saw a peak of 11 over, reached on September 18. In a full season, the highest this late in the year was 14 over on September 16, 2019. So that’s the next plateau for this team to reach.
We’re running out of runway, so it’s hard to assume that there will be production from still injured Cubs. But it boggles my mind that Marcus Stroman, Brad Boxberger, Michael Fulmer and Brandon Hughes are all rehabbing injuries. If you’d have told me they’d all be on the injured list on September 5 (along with Nick Burdi, who threw just enough to be intriguing in his stint) I’d have assumed this team was on its way to 90 losses. As we read reports of each of these men trying to work their way back to make some kind of contribution, it is a reminder that there is at least a chance that there are still reinforcements on the way.
Let’s find three stars of another Cubs win.
- Seiya Suzuki had the third four-hit game of his career. This is the first one to include another extra-base hit, a double in this instance. As such, he was one total base short of a career high that came in a game were he had two homers among three hits. He drove in three and scores two. The season line is up to .273/.344/.463 (wRC+ 118). He will set career highs in every major offensive statistic except for stolen bases.
- Yan Gomes had three hits. One of those was a double, he drove in two and scored one. The recently turned 36-year-old catcher is having a renaissance season. With a line of .275/.316/.425 (wRC+ 99), he’s got the best numbers he’s had since the abbreviated 2020 season. In a year with over 300 plate appearances, it’s his best production since he was with the then Indians back in 2018. Even then, it was largely power based (.266/.313/.449, wRC+ 102).
- Dansby Swanson nudges out a small handful of other people for the final spot. He had two singles and a walk. He scored three times and drove in a run.
Game 139, September 5: Cubs 11, Giants 8 (75-64)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Superhero: Seiya Suzuki (.431). 4-5, HR, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R
*This is the ninth highest WPA score of the year by a Cub in 2023.
- Hero: Yan Gomes (.254). 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI, R
- Sidekick: Jeimer Candelario (.137). 1-4, 2B, BB, RBI, R, DP
- Billy Goat: Kyle Hendricks (-.231). 5⅓ IP, 23 batters, 7 H, 5 R (4 R), 5 K
- Goat: Hayden Wesneski (-.218). ⅔ IP, 4 batters, H, BB, R
- Kid: Ian Happ (-.074). 0-4, BB, 3 K
WPA Play of the Game: Seiya Suzuki batted with a runner on first and one out in the seventh inning with the Cubs down two. He homered, tying the game. (.329)
*Giants Play of the Game: J.D. Davis batted with a runner on second and one out in a tie game in the sixth inning. He homered and gave the Giants a two-run lead. (.238)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Someone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
Yesterday’s Winner: Justin Steele (Superhero is 93-45)
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.
- Cody Bellinger +45
- Ian Happ +20.5
- Justin Steele +19
- Adbert Alzolay +16
- Javier Assad +13
- Dansby Swanson -12.5
- Patrick Wisdom -13
- Drew Smyly -17
- Trey Mancini -20.5
- Jameson Taillon -26
- Brewers win
- Phillies lose
- Reds win second straight
- Marlins win fifth straight
- Diamondbacks lose
- Giants lose fifth straight
The Brewers lead the Cubs by 2½ in the N.L. Central. The Phillies lead the Cubs by 1½ games and hold the first Wild Card. The Reds are three games behind the Cubs, holding the third Wild Card. The Marlins ride their winning streak to just half a game out of the last playoff spot. The Diamondbacks are a game behind the Reds. The Giants are two behind the Reds. All teams are in action again Wednesday.
Up Next: Jordan Wicks (2-0, 1.80, 10 IP), starts for the Cubs Wednesday afternoon, looking to complete the sweep. The 24-year-old righty will be making his first-ever appearance at Wrigley Field. He’s won each of his first two starts and will look to keep that rolling.
Alex Wood (5-4, 4.35, 80⅔ IP) gets the start for the Giants. After some rough starts early in the year, Wood has been used both as an opener and the pitcher following an opener. Today, he opens.