2022 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 110

The Cubs’ poor start to the season with a slew of injuries sabotaged any chance of a decent ranged season. A schedule that sees them face many of their weakest opponents over time hasn’t done them any favors either. The Cubs are finally piling up some wins, but it all came too late. With Wednesday afternoon’s win and two of the Nationals’ three, the Cubs are 10-8 since the All-Star break. They won the game before the break, so they’re 11-8 on that 19-game streak.

A few months ago, I suggested the Cubs would likely play a sustained streak at or near .500. This was the most likely reason for not losing 100 games. Well, after losing on June 16, the Cubs were 23-40 and had lost nine straight games. Since that day, the Cubs are 22-25 years old. Nobody is going to throw a parade on a streak of 47 games with only 22 wins. But that’s a .462 winning percentage and a 76-win team. Is this the true level of talent of this team? I do not know.

This team has been terribly inconsistent (and sometimes just terrible). But, clearly, when their tee shot is sound, they can compete. It’s a fool’s trap to play the game of X and Y who have missed most of the season. If they had been healthy… You can get lost in that rabbit hole. But indeed, Wade Miley made four starts spanning a total of 19 innings. Kyle Hendricks has made 16 starts spanning over 84 innings. But these are largely ineffective innings from the Opening Day starter.

On the other side of the ball, Seiya Suzuki got off to a good start and then got injured. The Cubs also had a Nick Madrigal injury. The Cubs clearly projected Nick to help balance the lineup with a contact-oriented batting and hopefully high batting average. But injuries and inefficiency limited his production.

The Cubs are now heading for a seven-game road trip, including three games against the Reds, three against those same Nationals and one against the Orioles. The Reds are behind the Cubs in the NL Central and have traded more than a dwindling base of major league talent. The Reds always seem to be playing tough against the Cubs, but it certainly looks like a trip where the Cubs could win four games, maybe five if they catch a few breaks. Winning makes it all better for you, the loyal fans, and for me as a writer covering this team.

If the Cubs could get 73 wins, that would be a fun line in the sand for me. That would mean they played the last 99 games of the season one game over .500. It will take a lot of hard work, some luck, some health, and more talent development. But that would make me a lot more optimistic about 2023. And, I know I’ve made this point before, but to me, the best part of it all is that the guys who produce are guys who can be here year round next.

There are maybe three players who are possibly exceeding expectations for the player they can be. They would be Christopher Morel, Keegan Thompson and Justin Steele. Of these three, I am the most skeptical of Morel. It was never particularly advertised. But he has athleticism and power that doesn’t seem to make it a totally unexpected breakout. As for Thompson and Steele, if they came from the Cardinals organization, I wonder if we would be less skeptical. I mean, it’s not totally unfair, the Cardinals have a long and consistent history of producing pitching prospects. But the Cubs’ system may seem to be taking a turn there. Is it crazy to think that Thompson and Steele could be the first full-time graduates of a revamped system? We will see.

Let’s turn our attention to three positives from Wednesday afternoon’s victory.

  1. I think I have to go with Nico Hoerner in first place. He’s been such a consistent performer this year that I didn’t mention him in that last paragraph. As a first-round pick who has always performed healthy, I don’t even consider it a big surprise. But we seem to be watching him rise to stardom. I wondered today about the recent national title that the Cubs were almost certain to sign a shortstop in the offseason. Hoerner can obviously play a solid second base, but is the Cubs’ money better spent in the short term? I understand there is generational talent out there and definitely you should grab those players when you can. I want Nico to play over 150 games for the Cubs next year. Period, end of history.
  2. I always said I was a sucker for a perfect inning from a reliever. Michael Rucker had one, striking out all three batters he faced. Rucker is one of the guys who has the opportunity to step up multiple trades out of the bullpen. It’s a small sample, but in four outings since the trade deadline, he’s faced 19 batters and allowed one hit and three walks. My only concern is that he only pulled out two and it’s hard to be consistently effective without a meaningful weapon. He does have 26K in 28⅔ innings on the year though, so definitely a small sample in play there.
  3. Justin Steele and Nick Madrigal, I definitely see you. The Cubs don’t win this game without meaningful contributions from both. But I’m going to tip new guy, Franmil Reyes for two more hits on Wednesday to go with an RBI single on Tuesday. Hopefully a change of scenery will do the trick for Franmil.

And now we turn our attention to the heroes and goats of Wednesday’s loss.

Thu 110, August 10: Cubs 4, Nationals 2 (45-65)

Fangraphs

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

THREE HEROES:

  • Super hero : Nick Madrigal (.304). 2-3, 2B, RBI, R
  • Hero: Nico Hoerner (.158). 2-4, HR, RBI, R
  • Buddy : Rowan Wick (.110). 1⅓ IP (5 pastes), H, 2K (Sv 6)

THREE GOATS:

  • Goat: Seiya Suzuki (-.070). 0-3, RAP
  • Goat: Yan Gomes (-050). 1-3, K, DP
  • Child: Raphael Ortega (-.045). 0-3, SF, RBI, K

Game WPA clearance: With the Cubs trailing 2-1 in the seventh, Nick Madrigal faced Steve Cishek with runners at first and second and one out. Madrigal singled, driving in the tying run. Victor Robles made an error on the play and the riders placed second and third. (.290)

* National Game of the Game: With two outs and a runner up front, Cesar Hernandez broke a scoreless tie with a double from Justin Steele. (.131)

Survey

Who was the Cubs player of the game?

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Cumulative Rizzo Prize Ranking: (top 5/bottom 5)

The award is named after Anthony Rizzo, who has finished first in this category three of the first four years of its existence and four times overall. He also recorded the highest total of the season at +65.5. The point scale is three points for a superhero down to minus three points for a Billy Goat.

  • Nico Hoerner +23.5
  • David Robertson +22.5
  • Scott Effros +17
  • Christopher Morel +16
  • Patrick Wisdom +10.5
  • Daniel Norris/Frank Schwindel -9.5
  • Yan Gomes-13
  • Rafael Ortega/Jason Heyward -15.5

Next: The Field of Dreams game features the Cubs and Reds on Thursday night. On Friday, I’ll tease a very small connection I have with someone who helped bring the Field of Dreams to life. Drew Smyly (4-6, 3.97) gets the call for the Cubs. He will face Nick Lodolo (3-3, 4.40). Let’s see if the Cubs can extend their wins as they head to Iowa.


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Raymond I. Langston