Game 87 Recap: Cubs 3 White Sox 1

Top Play (WPA): Kris Bryant is a National League All-Star in this, his rookie season. Part of the reason why is that he frequently—more frequently, indeed, than most—does things like the thing he did in the first inning of today’s game. What he did, to be specific, was hit a ball past the glove of a diving Tyler Saladino, the White Sox third baseman, and into the left-field corner. Left fielder Melky Cabrera had some trouble corralling the ball down the line, and that allowed Dexter Fowler (who’d reached on a clean liner to center field) to easily score the first run of the game. Bryant reached third base, content (one imagines) in the knowledge that he’d improved his team’s chances of winning the game by 15.1 percent. It’s a fun play. You can watch it here:

Bottom Play (WPA): The rhythm of this game was such that the White Sox never really got anything going against Jake Arrieta, who was absolutely dominant for yet another consecutive outing. That meant that the Sox’s highest-leverage moment—and, consequently, their bottom play by WPA—came in the ninth inning of the game, with the score 3-1 in favor of the Cubs. Emilio Bonifacio, a member of the distantly-remembered 2014 club, dug into the box to lead off the inning against Arrieta, who was working towards a two-hit complete game. On a full-count pitch, Bonifacio struck out swinging, reducing the South Siders’ chances by 3.3 percent. Adam Eaton, who followed Bonifacio, and J.B. Shuck, who followed Eaton, played to form by striking out as well, making Arrieta’s strikeout total for his nine-inning day a symmetrical nine.

Key Moment: Arrieta wasn’t just brilliant on the mound. He’d talked before the season began about working on his swing and hitting his first major-league bomb this year. In the fifth inning, he came through with a line drive home run that ended up landing just over his own face on the small video board in left field. It brought the crowd to its feet for a lenghty ovation and put the Cubs up 3-0 in a game in which it felt like they were always in control. Watch and enjoy:

Trends to Watch: The offense still, still, isn’t really clicking. It’s been nearly a month-long issue, and it’s shown no real signs of abating as the team heads into the break. That same break will provide an opportunity to partially test Joe Maddon’s long-standing hypothesis that the Cubs’ offensive struggles have been caused by a lack of rest. Setting aside All-Stars Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the team will no doubt enjoy the opportunity to go home to their families, go on a fishing trip, or generally lounge around on a couch. This will be particularly important for young stars Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, who have yet to get fully acclimated to the rigors of a big-league season.

On the positive side of things, this game was yet another example of the continued dominance of Cubs’ pitchers. For the last 30 days, their 2.93 FIP is lowest in the majors, and their 2.61 ERA is third. One shudders (with delight) to imagine what the Cubs’ record might have been at this point if the offense had been somewhat less anemic. Pitching coach Chris Bosio—a holdover from the Dale Sveum era in Chicago—has clearly found something that works for him, his pitchers, and the front office. Long may it continue.

Coming Next: Tomorrow night, Rizzo and Bryant will compete in the Home Run Derby (which my colleague Brett Taylor covered here a few days ago, and Scott Lindholm covered today), and on Tuesday, they’ll play in the 86th edition of MLB’s midsummer classic. Until then, Cubs fans can rest and relax knowing that the Cubs, for the first time since the magical 2008 season, are entering the break in position for a playoff berth. Their 47-40 record is above—well above—reasonable preseason expectations for this young team, and the smart money is on the front office adding a key piece before this month comes to a close. This has been a fun season, for the first time in a long while. Onwards, to bigger and better things.

Lead photo courtesy of Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

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2 comments on “Game 87 Recap: Cubs 3 White Sox 1”

Joe Young

Pitching has carried the day the past month but you could make a case that the Cubs have been lucky this year (as 1 run games are basically random per Fangraphs) and their entire margin over .500 comes courtesy of the Mets.

Fan got excited over the doubleheader win over the Cards but let’s face it, they beat 2 AAA pitchers. They lost to the 3rd and 4th best starters. This team has a long ways to go before they can overtake the Cards and Pirates.

As for the rigors of a big league season, with chartered flights and first class accommodations, major leaguers have it easy compared to the minors. AAA cuts the country in half (PCL and IL) so less distance covered but they play in smaller cities so with no charters, they probably have to make a lot of connecting flights. And the infamy of the Southern League bus rides are legendary. I remember when Michael Jordan rented, on his own dime, a luxury coach for the Birmingham Barons. That’s how much he loved baseball.

I think that Bryant is at least going to get a chance to play CF next year. Signing Fowler to a 3-4 deal would be a mistake (see EJax). He is as tall and fast. And he is butchering 3B (.945 FP). He has trouble with soft rollers, going to his right and throwing. The comp is made with Troy Glaus but he had a career .952 FP. Not encouraging. If he can play an average CF, his value would rise (see Trout and Pederson). Let’s see if Baez or Olt have made adjustments to stick at 3B.

As for Russell, next year he will be better at SS. Castro is gone, he is the anti-Derek Jeter. I think he knows he’s gone too which may explain his struggles this year. He is just not mentally tough. Every time he has a brain cramp, he promises that IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN and then of course, it happens again.

The lineup in 2016:
SS Russell
1B Rizzo
CF Bryant
LF Schwarber (part-time catcher)
RF Soler
3B Baez
C Montero (has more patience to hit in front of pitcher)
P Arrieta, Hammel, Lester, Hendricks + TOR FA
2B OBP guy, La Stella, Alcantara, Howie Kendrick

Now that’s a team that can score 700-800 runs and be in the top 3 in ERA.


Fielding percentage is a bad metric to use to determine defensive aptitude.

UZR has Bryant at 4.2 which makes him a solidly above average 3B.

DRS has Bryant at -1 runs which makes him a roughly league average 3B defensively.

Overall Bryant is probably a league average to maybe a slightly above average defensive 3B which with his offensive skillset makes him a top 3 third baseman in baseball. I see no reason to shift him to CF where he would almost undoubtedly be a below average defender.

I agree that Dexter Fowler has struggled this year offensively and I dont think we should sign him to a long deal after this season taking Bryant from where he has been fine is not the answer.

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