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Late Inning Collapses

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Today, the Cubs offense finally scored some runs, breaking a streak of 29 innings in which they scored 2 runs.

Today's game was very similar to the game the Cubs played last Sunday (May 30th) it was a pitcher's duel until late in the game, and then the Cubs really poured it on. The Cubs ended up winning 6-1, but the game was knotted 0-0 going into the top of the seventh when Zambrano allowed a solo home run to Jason Bay. However, the Cubs scored 3 in the seventh, and another 3 in the eighth to give Zambrano and Carlos Francis Beltran some breathing room to finish the game.

Zambrano finished the day having pitched 8 innings of 4 hit, one (earned) run ball, and striking out seven. His ERA now stands at 2.27 with a 6-2 record. If the "Baby Bull" keeps it up, we may be crowning Carlos Zambrano as a Cy Young award winner in November. Who'da thunk it? Cubs #4 pitcher, a possibly Cy Young winner!

Derek Lee reminded Cubs fans why they were excited about him coming into the season by bashing a pitch onto Waveland Avenue today. Although the score was already 4-1, all Cubdom felt some relief to watch Lee connect... maybe, just maybe he's coming around.

Friday's game was a different story. In Prior's return, he pitched 6 innings of shutout baseball allowing 2 hits, 0 runs, and striking out 8. Not bad for a guy coming off the 60 day DL. On the other hand, the Cubs offense, despite many opportunities couldn't push a run across until the 8th inning, leaving Prior with a no-decision and giving the win to LaTroy Hawkins... except there's that Joe Borowski thing. JoBlow-ed another save, and raised his ERA to 8.02 en route to losing his 4th game. To steal a line from Steve Rosenbloom (one of my favorite Chicago Tribune columnists): Danny Graves, Closer- 26 saves, 3.27 ERA, 1st place vs. Joe Borowski, Closer- 9 saves, 8.02 ERA, 4th place - Discuss.

A comment on another Cubs fan site (CubsReporter, I believe) went something like this: So how many games have the Cubs blown when leading in the ninth inning This got me thinking, so how many games have they blown? Well lets see...

Cubs losses when leading before opponent bats in the 9th

  • April 17, 2-3 vs. Reds - Kerry Wood
  • May 28, 5-9 @ Pitt - JoBlow
  • May 28, 4-5 @ Pitt - Beltran
  • June 4, 1-2 vs. Pitt - JoBlow

Cubs losses when leading before opponent bats in the 8th

  • April 10, 2-5 @Braves - Andy Pratt

Cubs losses w hen leading before opponent bats in the 7th

  • None

But what about the flip side, how many games have the Cubs won after trailing in the late innings?

Cubs wins when trailing before batting in the 9th

April 9, 2-1 @Braves - John Smoltz

April 16, 11-10 vs. Reds - Danny Graves

Cubs wins when trailing before batting in the 8th

  • None

Cubs wins when trailing before batting in the 7th

  • May 19, 4-3 vs. Giants - Scott Eyre
  • June 5th , 6-1 vs. Reds - Kris Benson

As you can see, we are only down one game when it comes to late inning heroics when there are leads to be protected, but the Cubs records in games when the deciding run is scored after the sixth inning is a bit more telling. (editors note: after starting to look at these games I realized I needed to do a seperate page just on the Cubs late inning triumphs and failures, so check out thecubdom's newest feature: The Chronicles of Glory and Suffering.)

Deciding Runs scored by Inning
% of wins
% of losses

What the table tells us is that the Cubs have scored the deciding run by the sixth inning in 71.4% of the games they win (or they score the run after the sixth inning 28.6% of the time). On the other hand, the Cubs opponents score the deciding run after the sixth inning in 38.5% of the games. This shows us that either

  • 1. the Cubs bullpen is weaker than the opposing bullpens we have faced thus far
  • 2. Cubs starting pitchers are surrendering leads late, perhaps from being left in the game too long
  • 3. Cubs hitters like to get their work done early and then mail it in, or
  • 4. opponents hitters don't like day games and decide to wait until the fifth inning to start hitting.

I personally think factors 1 and 2 are slightly more important than factors 3 and 4, but you can be the judge of that.

Finally, I will leave you all with a little trick I learned in a statistics class I took. The following graph is an ogive (pronounced o-jive) and is a graph of the cumulative percentage of deciding runs scored by inning. The graph has three lines, two of them are meaningful and one is for reference. The first line (blue) is the cumulative percentage of decisive runs scored per inning in wins. The second line is black and illustrates a perfectly balanced team which wins or loses their games by random chance. The third line (red) illustrates what happens in games which are lost by the team.

Essentially, for both the Blue and Red lines, the innings where the line climbs the most are the innings where the Cubs are winning or losing games. In the graph, the Cubs winning line (blue) jumps up quickly showing that the Cubs offense is scoring runs that are not being answered by their opponents due to the pitching. In the losing line (red) the line escalates quickest in the later innings. The thing I find most interesting is the jump in the red line in the third and fourth innings, which reflect some Sergio Mitre starts and Greg Maddux' early season struggles.

Posted by Byron at June 5, 2004 12:00 AM | Bookmark and Share | BallHype: hype it up!
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