2024 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Game 50

This is the point in the season where I insert a Bobby Knight-like rant about coming here to write about blowouts on a Thursday morning in June. Give me a thousand of Tuesday night’s game and none of Wednesday night’s, thanks. Sincerely, god bless you one and all for being here to read anything I have to write about. These are the days where Josh’s jazz and old movies bit is far superior.

Here’s the thing. The Cubs got rolled over by a superior team on Wednesday night. Whereas on Tuesday night the Cubs stood toe to toe with one of the best teams in baseball and traded body shots like an old school heavyweight fight, on Wednesday night the Braves scored a decisive knockout in the rematch. For what it’s worth, the two teams traded shots for six innings before the knockout blow. This was a 2-1 game after six. That’s the quick and dirty on this game.

So where does that leave me? Nothing about a beatdown from the Braves is going to send me off on a rant. Especially because this wasn’t per se sloppy play that buried the Cubs. They just weren’t good enough on this night. So if I’m not going to spend this space either ranting about the loss or praising the Braves, that leaves me with some stray thoughts that I guess are looking for silver linings.

My first thought is that the Cubs have reached the 50 game mark four games over .500 despite a host of injuries. If you’d have told me in March that the Cubs would still be hanging out near the lead of the Central Division and Justin Steele would have no wins, I would have been asking who your supplier was. Then after thinking for a minute, I’d assume the Cubs were in contention because the whole division had losing records. But no, that isn’t it either. The Cubs are 27-23 and are 0-5 in games started by Justin Steele. For that matter, they are 2-5 when Kyle Hendricks starts. Put otherwise, the Cubs are 25-13 when anyone else starts.

I know I’ve been repeating myself with the hat tip to the Cubs organizational pitching depth so far this year. But to me, that is without a question the biggest positive occurrence this season. This organization, fairly, received a lot of negativity for its ability to produce pitching. One of the things that has helped them through the years is identifying pitcher’s developed by other organizations before they reach the major leagues. In addition to Hendricks, Ben Brown and Hayden Wesneski are guys that have contributed to this team who were drafted and initially pitched elsewhere. You can add to that Japanese league import Shōta Imanaga.

But, Jameson Taillon’s six starts so far this year are the only six made by a Cub who has started a major league game for any other MLB team. That 88 percent of the Cubs starts have been made by pitchers that have only ever appeared in an MLB game with the Cubs and simultaneously the Cubs have been competitive is a substantial turn around. If these first 50 games are any indication, not only are that group of pitchers keeping the Cubs competitive, that group is the strength of this team.

Three hits in a 9-2 loss, there is very little positive in this one. But I’ll note a couple that aren’t back handed compliments.

Porter Hodge is another Cubs-developed pitcher who has reached the major leagues. Obviously there have been a plethora of injuries that contributed to him making this appearance. But, the 2019 13th round pick has made a successful debut just the same. After 91 minor league appearances, 50 of them starts, Porter reached Wrigley Field and struck out the side in one inning of work. I’ll always leave the heavy lifting on prospects to Josh, but browsing the numbers, I see a guy who has always struck out a lot of hitters and then an uptick in 2024. That kind of swing and miss will play. But he’s going to have to harness it enough to be competitive more consistently.

Two of the three hits that the Cubs did have were from Ian Happ. Ian has needed this kind of game for seemingly a month now. Maybe this gets him going. Ian scored one of the two runs, following the team’s only extra base hit. He later singled to move the other run into scoring position.

Dansby Swanson has hit safely in both games since coming off of the injured list. The possibility of getting Ian and Dansby going starts to return the length that has been missing from the Cubs lineup. It can not be understated how much the Cubs would benefit right now from seeing a starting pitcher who wasn’t pretty locked in and pitching with a lot of confidence. It feels like forever now. To be fair, they aren’t doing much to make anyone feel uncomfortable out there. But they aren’t catching anyone at the right time either.

Game 50, May 22: Braves 9, Cubs 2 (27-23)


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


  • Superhero: Ian Happ (.099). 2-3, 2B, R
  • Hero: Porter Hodge (.000). IP, 3 batters, 3 K
  • Sidekick: Luis Vasquez (-.001). 0-1

*I’m fairly certain this is the first time two Cubs making their debuts have both appeared on any podium much less both Heroes, even if one is an anti-hero. This makes 38 different Cubs have appeared on a podium at some point this season. 2021 has a fairly unbeatable record at 65 different players.


  • Billy Goat: Jose Cuas (-.151). 1⅔ IP, 10 batters, 3 H, BB, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 K, WP
  • Goat: Justin Steele (-.104). 6⅓ IP, 27 batters, 6 H, BB, 5 R, 5 K, HBP
  • Kid: Nick Madrigal (-.086). 0-3

WPA Play of the Game: Adam Duvall homered with a man on and no outs in the third inning for the first two runs of the game. (.174)

*When Ian Happ hit a lead off double in the sixth inning, it was only a 2-0 game. (.090)

Yesterday’s Winner: Mark Leiter Jr. with a fairly decisive 60% of the vote on a day when a lot of guys played significant parts in a walk-off win. Mike Tauchman was second at 25%.

Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 4/Bottom 4)

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

  • Shōta Imanaga +15
  • Javier Assad +12.5
  • Mark Leiter Jr. +12
  • Jameson Taillon +9
  • Miguel Amaya/Ian Happ -8
  • Adbert Alzolay -10
  • Kyle Hendricks -17

*The only activity around the top and bottom was Ian Happ bouncing back up after falling to second to last. Six pitchers of these eight names. For better or for worse, the Cubs pitching staff is in the middle of everything.

Up Next: The third and final game of this series and the sixth and final game of the season series. With a win, the Cubs would win this series and split the season set. That feels like it would be quite an accomplishment. It’s baby face day at Wrigley Field. Ben Brown will make his fifth major league start for the Cubs. He’s 1-1 with a 3.57 ERA across 11 appearances. It has been well documented that after a shaky debut against the Rangers in the opening series, he’s been electric. He hasn’t started since May 2 and has only pitched three times in the interim. He threw 42 pitches the last time. I’d think they could push him to at least 60, then it’s going to probably depend just how hard the Braves made him work. This could be the second career relief appearance for Kyle Hendricks.

AJ Smith-Shawver (1-0, 4.26, 25⅓ IP) makes his sixth career start and seventh career appearance for the Braves. AJ was a seventh round pick by the Braves in 2021. Similar to the conversation on Porter Hodge, this is a player that moved through the Braves system quickly. The numbers generally aren’t eye popping. But this is a guy who can strike out a lot of hitters. That said, in a very short time in the majors, he’s been very difficult to hit, holding opponents to a .183 average. The things that can get to him? Walks, homers and stolen bases. He also has three wild pitches. So control can be a challenge. When it isn’t, he looks really tough.

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