The Cubs have been playing meaningful baseball games for about a month now. Has it been exactly a month? No, actually, it’s been 33 days. Has it been exactly 30 games? No, actually, it’s been 26. However, Twitter was full of First Month recaps this morning, so here we are recapping 26 games in 33 days.
And what a first 26 games in 33 days it’s been. The Cubs pitching was bad, and then it was good. Jason Heyward was good, and is still good. Green ivy is starting to show up in spots along Wrigley’s outfield wall and yet it snowed 6 inches last weekend. Just like Chicago doesn’t know what to make of their spring yet, it’s hard to tell what to make of the Cubs too. Let’s see if some arbitrary numbers can help!
That’s Javy Baez’s wOBA (weighted on-base average), and it falls just outside the top-20 wOBA’s in baseball (21st). Per FanGraphs, any wOBA above .400 is considered “Excellent”, which is the highest grade on their scale. Excellent!
Baez’s star turn is real. He’s the only player on the Cubs to already be worth more than one win, and after setting offensive career-bests across the board last season, he’s followed that up by blowing those same numbers out of the water this year. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from a month of Cubs baseball so far, it’s that this is very much Baez’s team now.
That’s the rate at which Jason Heyward is currently drawing walks - and one that puts him in the 98th percentile of major league hitters in that category. Heyward hasn’t had a double-digit BB% since he was still with the Braves in 2014. It was, of course, around this time last year when Heyward nose-dived into another subpar season, but all signs currently point towards a better 2019. He’s hitting the ball much harder with a significantly larger amount of lift, which helps explain why he’s already over halfway towards matching his home run total in 2018. The Cubs don’t necessarily need Heyward to be a power threat, but hey, it doesn’t hurt.
That’s the amount of outs above average that Albert Almora Jr has been worth in the field so far. I wrote a few weeks back about the grim reality that is Almora at the plate, but he is unquestionably one of the best center fielders in the game. Only three players -- Kevin Kiermaier, Avisail Garcia, and Lorenzo Cain have been better in that regard. As a whole, the Cubs have a top-5 outfield defense when it comes to outs above average, though with Almora and Heyward manning 60% of it, that’s not entirely surprising.
That’s the Framing Runs -- one of Baseball Prospectus’ pitch-framing metrics -- that Willson Contreras is currently sporting. It is … not good. (If you think I'm cherry-picking, feel free to go look at his other framing stats.) Of 73 MLB catchers that BP is currently tracking, Contreras ranks 72nd. Pitch framing has never been a particularly strong part of Contreras’ game, though his desire to improve has been a well-trodden storyline of the last few offseasons. It’s not entirely his fault, either -- when you have a bullpen that ranks 2nd in BB%, you’re going to have a lot of framing chances - 1,233 to be exact. Between his lack of framing prowess and the fact that he’s having to put up with a lot of balls out of the zone, a bad score isn’t shocking. Having the *worst* score, though, is a bit more alarming.
The good news? Contreras rates better when it comes to controlling the run game, ranking 10th on Statcast’s “Pop Time” charts and 5th in arm rating. He may not get that 3rd-strike call but throwing someone out looks cooler anyway.
That’s the rate at which the Cubs’ bullpen is issuing walks. Time is a flat circle. What’s worse is that they’ve had a relatively light workload thus far, logging 92.1 innings pitched (24th-highest). The main culprit? Right now it’s Brad Brach, who leads all MLB relievers in walks (13). Tune in next month to see who’s next!
That’s the wRC+ the Cubs have out of the leadoff spot this year. The Cubs have run out Ben Zobrist (79 wRC+), Albert Almora (73) and Daniel Descalso (60) without yet finding something that works. The teams with worse production? Miami, Baltimore, Detroit, and San Francisco. Imagine what the Cubs -- who still found a way to have a top-10 offense this month -- would look like if they got even league-average production out of that spot. Step up on, Anthony Rizzo!Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Cubs easily on your device.