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|
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
|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|