Cubs

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Cubs

The Cubs started 2019 2-7 with a league-worst 7.51 ERA through April 7. 

Then they went 23-7 with a 2.29 ERA (both tops in the Majors) from April 8 through May 14.

Since then, they have been 22-29 with a 4.66 ERA (16th in MLB – right in the middle of the pack).

This is the kind of season it has been. And yet they maintain first place in the NL Central by a slim half-game margin.

One of the biggest criticisms of the team to this point has been the hitting with runners in scoring position. Their .249 batting average with runners in scoring position is 24th in MLB. But that’s not the real problem. The biggest concern is the lack of opportunities with RISP.

Cubs with RISP – last five seasons

  AVG with RISP MLB rank Plate appearances with RISP MLB rank
2015 .236 28 1,627     4
2016 .252 21 1,788     2
2017 .253 19 1,671     4
2018 .247 20 1,686     3
2019 .249 24 839         18

A team with an abundance of chances with runners in scoring position will eventually get their runs, even if their batting average in those situations may not be the best.

The home runs, though…

The Cubs hit a franchise record 140 home runs before the All-Star Break. “Before the All-Star Break” records aren’t the best, though, since the number of games teams have played before the break has fluctuated historically. However, if you were to put it all on a level playing field by finding home runs through the first 90 games of the season (as the Cubs have played 90 games thus far), Joe Maddon’s 2019 North Siders have hit 15 more through 90 games than any other team in franchise history.

Furthermore, FIVE Cubs have at least 15 home runs through 90 games (and Jason Heyward has 14).

 

Most Cubs with 15+ home runs through the team’s first 90 games of a season

5 2019 Báez, Rizzo, Contreras, Schwarber, Bryant
4 2008 Soto, Soriano, Ramírez, Lee
3 2004 Alou, Sosa, Ramírez
3 1999 Sosa, Rodríguez, Hill
3 1987 Dawson, Durham, Moreland
3 1967 Santo, Banks, Williams
3 1958 Banks, Walls, Moryn
3 1950 Pafko, Sauer, Smalley

Too many home runs?

Speaking of home runs, another criticism of the Cubs this season is that they score too many runs via the home run. Do they? Well, the MLB average of percentage of runs scored via home run is 44.7 percent.  The Cubs are above that, at 48.4 percent. What’s good? Where do you want to be on such a list?

Where every team falls on the percentage of runs via the home run:

MLB teams ranked by percentage of runs scored via home run

1. Brewers 55.6 percent
2. Blue Jays 52.9 percent
3. Padres 52.5 percent
4. Mariners 51.1 percent
5. Astros 50.4 percent
6. Twins 49.9 percent
7. A's 48.8 percent
8. Cubs 48.4 percent
9. Dodgers 48.1 percent
10. Yankees 48.1 percent
11. Reds 47.8 percent
12. Orioles 46.1 percent
13. Braves 46 percent
14. Mets 46 percent
15. Nationals 45.5 percent
16. Angels 45.3 percent
17. White Sox 44.2 percent
18. Rangers 42.9 percent
19. Cardinals 42.5 percent
20. Diamondbacks 42.2 percent
21. Rays 41.4 percent
22. Phillies 40 percent
23. Pirates 39.6 percent
24. Red Sox 38.9 percent
25. Rockies 38.6 percent
26. Indians 38.1 percent
27. Giants 37.9 percent
28. Tigers 36 percent
29. Royals 35.9 percent
30. Marlins 33.7 percent

Of course there are a few outliers, but it’s fairly clear that better teams are towards the top of this list and lesser teams are at the bottom. The Cubs are in a cluster of teams that include the Astros, Twins, A’s, Dodgers, and Yankees. You’d much rather be there than among teams like the Giants, Tigers, Royals and Marlins. The teams on the bottom of the list are there because they don’t hit enough home runs. Home runs are the most efficient way to score runs. The Cubs score too many runs via the home run? Nonsense.

Cubs pitching so far this season in eight bulletpoints

  • There have been 210 starts made this season in MLB (including one by “opener” Joakim Soria) by pitchers 35 or older. 34 of them (16.2 percent) have been by Cubs – 17 apiece by Cole Hamels and Jon Lester. Those two veteran lefties have combined for a solid 3.34 ERA, though Hamels is likely to miss at least a few more weeks with an oblique injury.
  • On consecutive days, the Cubs had starters make 81 pitches. On May 3, Kyle Hendricks did so in tossing a nine-inning complete game shutout. The next day, Yu Darvish completed four innings and pitched into the fifth inning, also throwing 81 pitches.
  • Kyle Hendricks has a 3.49 ERA and a 127 ERA+ (27 percent better than league average). He has made over 1,400 pitches this season. Four of them were 90 mph or more. Enjoy him, they don’t make them like that anymore.
  • José Quintana has been good, he has been bad. Overall, he has been in-between (actually, a 4.19 ERA and 106 ERA+ which means he has been slightly above average). He has four starts of six+ scoreless innings. The only other lefty with that many is Hyun-Jin Ryu (six such starts).
  • While Quintana has had four scoreless starts of 6+ innings, Yu Darvish has had four quality starts. He has made 18 starts, so that’s four of 18 (22.2 percent quality starts), which isn’t ideal. He has had a start with no walks and 11 strikeouts. He has had a start with seven walks and four strikeouts. He has had one decision (a loss) out of his last dozen starts. You see flashes of greatness, but they don’t last.
  • It’s the All-Star break and Brandon Kintzler still hasn’t allowed a run at Wrigley Field: 19 games, 19 2/3 innings, seven hits, no runs at home thus far.
  • Cubs have the second best home ERA in MLB (3.26)… and the 22nd best road ERA (4.97) which mirrors their performance as a team. 29-16 at home (fifth best record in MLB), 18-27 on the road (25th best record in MLB)

Those comments are a mixed bag of randomness, which is an accurate depiction of how the Cubs have performed so far.

In case you’re interested in simply looking at the numbers, here they are below:

Cubs this season

    MLB rank
Record 47-43 t-12
Run Differential +55 9
Runs/game 5.06 12
BA .254 15
HR 140 9
OBP .336 7
SLG .452 8
ERA 4.09 8
Starter ERA 4.02 8
Reliever ERA 4.20 11
Starter WHIP 1.287 13
Reliever WHIP 1.385 18
Strikeout percentage 22.6 percent 16
Inherited runner scoring percentage 31.1 percent 13

Cubs Through 90 games

  W-L R HR BB SO BA OBP SLG SP ERA RP ERA SP WHIP RP WHIP K% Inh Runner %
2018 52-38 453 97 354 768 .264 .344 .425 3.86 3.04 1.345 1.275 21.5 percent 27.7 percent
2019 47-43 455 140 345 812 .254 .336 .452 4.02 4.20 1.287 1.385 22.6 percent 31.1 percent
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