Game 134 Recap: Cubs 2 Diamondbacks 0

Top Play (WPA): Dexter Fowler hit a home run off a hanging Robbie Ray breaking ball to lead off the bottom of the fifth (+.109). The dinger padded the Cubs lead and Jake Arrieta would make sure it held up. The homer was Fowler’s 16th of the year—a career high—and undoubtedly contributed even more value to his 3.5 WARP season. The decision about re-signing Fowler will be an interesting and controversial one this offseason, but the center fielder has made himself a compelling case with his play.

Bottom Play (WPA): The bottom play of the day was a top play for the Cubs. After eight dominant shutout innings from Arrieta (more on this below), Hector Rondon came on to pitch the ninth against the top of the Arizona lineup. Ender Inciarte led off with a grounder that squirted under Rondon’s mitt on the mound, and left the dangerous Paul Goldschmidt looming as the tying or go-ahead run in the on deck circle. But Rondon was able to induce an A.J. Pollock grounder to third, which Kris Bryant smoothly picked to start an enormously important 5-4-3 double play (-.125).

Goldschmidt was forced to bat with the bases empty, and even though he singled, the Cubs were able to come away with a win.

Key Moment: Sometimes, when someone like Jake Arrieta is pitching, one run really is enough. That’s why the key moment for me came in the fourth inning, when David Ross came to the plate with no one out and the bases loaded. An offensive powerhouse Ross is not, but with Arrieta on deck, it was vital that Ross get a run home. Ross did his job, hitting a mundane grounder past the mound, which was enough to score Anthony Rizzo from third. The Cubs would end up getting only one run in the inning, but for Arrieta on Saturday, one was enough.

There’s not really much more one can say about Arrieta, who was dominant again. He went eight strong innings of four-hit ball, striking out seven and allowing no walks. I did notice a few remarkable things, though. Here is Saturday’s pitch log via

Pitch Type Velo (Max) H-Break V-Break Count Strikes / % Swings / % Whiffs / % BIP (No Out) SNIPs / % LWTS
FF (Four-seam Fastball) 96.9 (97.9) -4.41 8.73 8 5 / 62.5% 4 / 50.0% 3 / 37.5% 0 (0) 5 / 62.5% -0.14
SI (Sinker) 96.5 (98.3) -7.95 6.82 55 40 / 72.7% 24 / 43.6% 4 / 7.3% 9 (2) 31 / 67.4% -2.85
CH (Changeup) 90.2 (92.0) -8.50 2.00 11 4 / 36.4% 4 / 36.4% 3 / 27.3% 1 (0) 3 / 30.0% -0.69
SL (Slider) 93.0 (94.7) 2.88 3.78 24 18 / 75.0% 17 / 70.8% 3 / 12.5% 7 (2) 11 / 64.7% -0.33
CU (Curveball) 83.0 (84.4) 6.50 -8.22 18 9 / 50.0% 8 / 44.4% 2 / 11.1% 3 (0) 6 / 40.0% -0.66

First of all, look at how consistently Arrieta get whiffs (15 of them today!) with all of his pitches. That is a mark of a pitcher who knows his stuff and has everything going. Also, his career-high mark of 191.0 innings does not seem to be sapping any velocity: his sinker/cut fastball was 1.22 mph faster today than his season average of 95.28 mph. And he was throwing his slider at an average of 93 mph, which is two mph higher than his season average and just absolutely nasty. Finally, Arrieta threw 11 changeups today (9.5 percent), which is much higher than his season average of 3.9 percent changeup usage. To me, this is a mark of a pitcher who is continuing to try and get better and more diverse with his pitch usage, even despite a historic run of dominance. That Arrieta could be working on pitches while performing like a top Cy Young candidate is scary. A particularly notable changeup was the one that struck out Goldschmidt in the fourth.

Arrieta has now allowed zero earned runs in six of his last seven starts and none in his last 29 innings pitched.

Trend To Watch: Back in the spring, some were worried about the Cubs perceived logjam at shortstop. Today’s lineup should hopefully allay some concerns about this, as the Cubs fielded a viable infield full of young shortstops in a meaningful September game. Javier Baez got the start at third (0-for-3 with a walk), Addison Russell played short, and Starlin Castro manned second. Kris Bryant shifted to left, so that the Cubs could field what was an incredibly good defensive infield and stack righties against the Diamondbacks’ left-handed starter. Castro, by the way, had another nice offensive day, going 2-for-3 with two solid singles. He has now batted .333 (18-54) in limited playing time since being benched last month. More importantly, the Cubs do seem to have found a way for all their young shortstops to play in meaningful games. The next question, I guess, is how well Gleyber Torres can play centerfield. (Just kidding. Kinda.)

Coming Next: The top of the rotation did its job for the Cubs over the past two days, and now it’s time for another roulette-wheel spin through the bottom of the rotation. First up: Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks is coming off another so-so start on Monday, when he allowed three runs in only five innings of work against the Reds. What’s more worrisome for Hendricks: he walked three batters in those five innings, which is the third time he’s done that in his last four starts. Hendricks’ walk rate was 3.98 per 9 innings in August—way too high for someone with his borderline stuff. If he can get the walks under control, though, I can still see him being effective down the stretch: his 3.96 DRA and 96 cFIP are still pretty good for a mid-rotation starter.

Taking on Hendricks will be Rubby De La Rosa, whose 12-6 W-L record is another monument to futility of that stat. His 4.71 DRA and 111 cFIP are much more accurate measures of De La Rosa’s true value, and his relatively low strikeout numbers (7.10 K/9) combined with a relatively high walk rate (2.69 BB/9) make him a pitcher the Cubs should hit with little problem. Let’s hope so, as this will be the last game the Cubs play at Wrigley over the next 11 days. The upcoming road trip is bookended by trips to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, so it would be great to head out from the North Side on a high note with a sweep of the Diamondbacks. It’ll be another sunny and steamy day at Wrigley tomorrow, so soak up some sun while you still can. Start time is 1:20 central.

Lead photo courtesy of Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Related Articles

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username