The Rundown: Cubs Trash Pirates and PECOTA, Hoerner the Real Deal, Sunday Baseball Notes

Happy PECOTA Day everyone! As you may remember back in February, the proprietary Baseball Prospectus forecasting algorithm predicted that the 2019 Cubs would win 79 games. As you may also remember, Cubs fans across the globe lost their minds. And though that dubious benchmark is now safely in our rearview mirrors, there have been more than a few times this season when it looked like BP was going to be spot on.

With yesterday’s 14-1 thrashing of the Pirates at Wrigley Field, the Cubs laid waste to that projection with more than a few exclamation points. In fact, in the first two games of the series, the Cubs have scored 31 runs on 31 hits in 16 innings. How very Astros-like.

There was a lot to love about yesterday’s game and though I didn’t get to watch, picking apart the box score was just about the most fun I’ve had with baseball’s daily reporting schema since I was a kid.

  • The Cubs scored 12 of their 14 runs after two outs, including all of their runs in the 2nd, 5th, and 6th innings.
  • They put 20 men on base (14 hits, 2 walks, 4 HBP) and stranded only five of those baserunners.
  • The North Siders batted .667 with runners in scoring position.
  • Half of the team’s runs were scored without the benefit of a home run as the Cubs hit nine singles off of Pirates pitchers.
  • In a pressurized environment where the Cubs are playing for their playoff lives, rookie shortstop Nico Hoerner continues to rake. He had a career day yesterday and has proved he belongs in the major leagues.

Now, I don’t want to be accused of being overly optimistic, but with 14 games left the Cubs saw their probability of making the playoffs rise to 68.3%, gaining a game on the Cardinals for the division lead and the Nationals for the number one Wild Card seed. They’ll go for the sweep today, then prepare for a three-game set with the Reds starting tomorrow. Let’s hope that it’s never too late to develop good baseball habits, because these Cubs look absolutely dominant.

Cubs News & Notes

Updates on Nine

  1. Hoerner is playing September baseball like he is the reincarnation of Derek Jeter. Obviously it’s a small sample size, but in 24 at-bats the rookie has hit .417 with two homers and 11 RBI. Even better, he’s struck out just twice, which is amazing because he’s doing it during a hotly contested playoff race. Jeter batted .387 with 18 RBI in September of his rookie season, going yard twice. The Yankees won 92 games that season and beat the Braves in the World Series.
  2. The Mariners honored former outfielder Ichiro Suzuki with a Franchise Achievement Award yesterday. The retired star gave a heartfelt speech to Seattle fans without the aid of an interpreter, speaking for five minutes. The 45-year-old retired at the start of the season, making that announcement after the Mariners played two games in Tokyo to open their regular season in mid-March. He’s spent this season as a special assistant to the chairman while helping Mariners players with on-field instruction when needed.
  3. Yankees starter James Paxton has been nothing short of spectacular in the second half of this season. The lefty has won nine consecutive starts with a 2.50 ERA in those games and he’s yielded just one run in his last 18.2 frames. Overall, Paxton owns a 3.88 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP and 178 strikeouts in 143.2 innings this season. He will be on the mound again next Saturday at home against the Blue Jays looking for his 15th win of the season.
  4. Former Red Sox first baseman and DH David Ortiz has finally commented publicly on the June shooting incident in the D.R. that nearly took his life. “I want to find out who did this,” Big Papi stated. “I’m not going to sit around and chill if there’s somebody out there who wants to kill me.”
  5. Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has hit eight of his 31 home runs this season against the Brewers. In Friday’s 10-0 win over Milwaukee, he was 2-for-4 with two bombs and seven RBI. Goldschmidt has been on a torrid pace since mid-July.
  6. There are three major league teams on pace to win 104 or more games — a mark reached by only 10 teams in the past 40 years — and another two on pace with a real chance of breaking the century mark. Conversely, there are three teams on pace to lose 104 or more games and two more in near proximity. Would a playoff superteam made up of the best players on the Royals, Orioles, Tigers and Marlins be able to hang with the super playoff teams in Houston and Los Angeles? Would any of those teams really have a chance against Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, or Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler?
  7. On Friday night, Blue Jays rookie shortstop Bo Bichette told his teammates that if the Yankees left in lefty reliever Tyler Lyons and he threw him a slider, he was going to hit it out. He did, and Toronto walked it off against New York in 12 innings. Bichette has a 146 OPS+ since getting called up on July 29.
  8. A’s starter Mike Fiers has a new style of beard that simply defies description. I’m not sure what to think.
  9. It’s time for fans to start appreciating Kris Bryant. Talk of trading the star third baseman is beyond ridiculous and usually reserved for those who are against the prevailing use of analytics in the game. Bryant was 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI yesterday. His home run was the 136th of his career, tying a franchise record for most taters in his first five seasons. That record belonged to Ernie Banks. The three-time All-Star and former rookie of the year and NL MVP is slashing .285/.384/.586 this season with 29 homers, 73 RBI and 103 runs scored in 515 at-bats. Stop with the trade talk already.

Apropos of Nothing

Sunday’s Raiders-Chiefs game will mark the final time that either of the Oakland Coliseum’s primary tenants must play a game on a field that’s not meant for their respective sports. The Raiders don’t play at their Bay Area home again until November 3 and are moving their franchise to Las Vegas next season. The A’s, who are looking for a new stadium of their own, will no longer have to contend with a field that is converted to house an NFL team starting each August. As it is, the Oakland Coliseum is more suited for football than baseball, but it will no longer serve in a dual capacity.

On Deck

Some sad news, and it may affect my schedule here at Cubs Insider over the next week or so. My father-in-law, who just celebrated his 90th birthday on August 30, has taken ill and the prognosis isn’t very good. He’s dealing with a number of medical issues, including advanced sepsis and pneumonia, and a full recovery, though still possible, may be unlikely. So if I am not here, it is because I have to attend to his needs. Some things are more important than baseball.

G-Pop has been like a second father to me and I am not ready to lose him right now, though that is admittedly selfish on my part. My oldest is coming home from Portland to help out. Send warm thoughts and sunshine please.

Extra Innings

Though it’s not likely, a chance remains that the season could end with as many as six teams tied for a postseason berth in the National League with 85 wins. It would require the Nationals and Cubs to stumble badly while the Mets and Diamondbacks surge. A six-way tie would require four extra games to determine the two NL Wild Card teams.

They Said It

  • “Our goal is to win the division. So you want any kind of help you can possibly get to win the division. So that would be that the Brewers would beat the Cardinals. But again, it doesn’t matter. It’s just that, ‘Cubs win, Cubs win.’ We’ve just got to take care of our own house.” – Joe Maddon
  • “It was amazing. It felt like I had always hoped it would. That’s something you think of for a long time. It definitely lived up to the hype. I had hyped it up to my family a lot, just from seeing one game here last year. I said it was unlike anything I had seen before. They agreed.” – Nico Hoerner
  • “This is a happy occasion. When I retired that night in Tokyo, I had an incomplete feeling because the great fans of Seattle could not be there. Tonight I want to express my appreciation to you for your touching support over the years. When I came to Seattle in 2001, no position player had ever come from Japan before. The one you got was 27 years old, small and skinny. And I know, you had every reason not to accept me. However, you welcomed me with open arms and you have never stopped, even when I left and came back. I was so grateful for the chance to return in 2018, and the reason is you fans.” – Ichiro

Sunday Walk Up Song

Beautiful Day by U2. Hoping for a sweep by the Cubs and big Brewers win for my father-in-law. How about wins for the Bears and Packers while we’re at it?

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