The photo reel for this feature is starting to look like a Willson Contreras slideshow. The Cubs receiver is hot right now. He’s now picked up three superhero awards in the last five games and “settled” for the hero the other two games. What does that look like in familiar numbers? He has an absurd .550/.654/.950 (wRC+ 333) line on this stretch. I said it yesterday and I’ll double down and say it again: Willson was the best catcher in baseball for the first 20 percent or so of the season.
It was the first series since opening that looks like a puzzle piece doesn’t “fit” the equation. The Cubs were vastly outscored against a variety of the league’s top teams. They hung on against the Rockies who don’t seem like one of those better teams. But there are now two series wins, one over the Brewers in the opening series and now this one in San Diego. The question becomes, is there a little shift going on right now? Or is it just a baseball fluke?
I get a team at the wrong time for them or just the right time for you. It certainly doesn’t look like the latter. The Cubs were coming off being completely outclassed at home by the Dodgers and have had a string of recent injuries and covid-related issues. By any measure, they should be in shock. Instead, they won two out of three games against a team expected to compete in the NL. Just weird.
Let’s look at three positives of a wild game.
- Rafael Ortega had two hits to cap a great streak in San Diego. With Michael Hermosillo not producing and then getting injured, Ortega has gotten more stable playing time and is showing signs of coming out of his early season slump.
- Patrick Wisdom also had two other hits. He drove one and scored one. With a strong third base defense, Wisdom produces positive value.
- Rowan Wick. I will usually favor clean innings or something a starter has done in that space. But Rowan closed this one, recording the last six batters and making a save. I can forgive him for taking eight batters to do it. In 11 games now, Wick has pitched 11⅔ innings with a 0.77 ERA (2.01 FIP). It has a K rate of 28% and a GB rate of 41.9%. When it was at its best in 2019, that GB rate was actually quite a bit higher. So this is, so far at least, a slightly different version of Wick. Hope it remains effective.
With that, we turn our attention to the Heroes and Goats of Wednesday’s game.
Game 30, May 11: Cubs 7 to Padres 5 (11-19)
Reminder: Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA scores and are in no way subjective.
- Super hero : Willson Contreras (.226). 2-3, HR, BB, 3R, RBI
- Hero: Patrick Wisdom (.212). 2-4, RBI, R, K
- Boyfriend : Frank Schwindel (.209). 2-4, 2B, 2RBI, R, K
- Goat: Mychal Givens (-.305). IP (6 pastes), 2H, 2R, 2K, HBP
- Goat: Ildemaro Vargas (-.103). 0-3, K, DP
- Child: Kegan Thompson (-.051). 4IP (18 batters), 5H, 2BB, 2R, K, HBP
Game WPA clearance: With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Luke Voit took on Mychal Givens, with the Cubs holding a one-point lead. Voit took Givens deep and tied the game. (.260)
*Cubs Play of the Game: With runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth inning, Frank Schwindel faced Padres starter Nick Martinez. The game was tied at two. Schwindel doubled and scored two runs to give the Cubs a lead. (.244)
Who was the Cubs player of the game?
Rowan Wick (2IP, 8 hitters, 2H, 2K, SV)
Anyone else (leave your suggestion in the comments)
72 voices in total
Cumulative Rizzo Prize Ranking: (top 3/bottom 3)
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.
- Ian Happ +12
- Alphonse Rivas +11
- Willson Contreras +9.5
- Frank Schwindel -7
- Jason Heyward/Yan Gomes -9
Following: The Cubs get the day off Thursday, then start a three-game series at Arizona on Friday. Drew Smyly (1-3, 3.04) should be on track to start Friday’s game. Drew threw better than a 1-3 record would suggest. He should face our old pal Zach Davies (1-1, 3.34). Zach seems to be doing a little better with the change of scenery.