Usually I wouldn’t complain about an offense that has scored the second most runs in the MLB this year. As of Thursday prior to their afternoon tilt, the Cubs are scoring over five runs per game. In a league where offense is at a premium and everyone throws 95 MPH, that ain’t too shabby. I love walks and probably value them more than most, but either way leading the Bigs in that category is something. The Cubs have 70, and better yet they only have 116 strikeouts, good for middle-of-the-pack range which would be a huge improvement over last season.
Yet, this offense can undoubtedly get better. Let’s get the obvious out of the way:
- Rizzo, Heyward, Soler, Bryant, Zobrist, and Russell are all batting .250 or below. That’s not going to continue. Heyward has been particularly bad…he’ll be fine.
- Rizzo and Bryant are still getting on base over 32% of the time. Just think what will happen when they start hitting.
- They only have 14 home runs as a team. Yeah that’ll change.
The above represents what we can reasonably expect out of one of the best lineups in baseball. Here are a few negatives:
- Strikeout rate will probably go up. Maybe not, but even if they do they’ll be fine as long as they’re still taking their walks.
- Montero and Fowler are regression candidates, especially Fowler. If it’s reasonable to think Dexter is eventually going to settle back to his normal numbers, Cubs fans should hope this happens sooner than later so he doesn’t suck hard when it matters.
- Schwarber. Duh, depressing.
Even if all of the above come to fruition, there’s too many possible improvements around the diamond to think this lineup won’t get better. They’re going to hit more home runs, it’s just a fact. Especially when summer rolls around and moderate pop flies make their way into the bleachers. There’s too much pure home run strength to be contained for long.
What about the new regulars? Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, both highly talented, both haven’t lived up to the hype offensively. If one of these guys break out and even scrape their potential, the National League is in big trouble. If we use the .100 gap rule for average compared to OBP, this is the best Soler has been in his career. He’s batting .200 and has an OBP of .306, a difference of over .100. Usually that difference is in the .40-.60 range, meaning he’s being much more patient. Baez has had limited action so we can’t determine a change in approach yet.
What about Addison Russell? The young shortstop is also exhibiting more patience at the plate with a .321 OBP. His strikeout rate is also down, coming in just under a strikeout per game whereas last year he had 149 in 142 games. His BABIP is also .265, much lower than last year’s .324 so perhaps some bad luck involved so far early in the season.
BABIP…oh BABIP, how I love thee. BABIP is Batting Average of Balls In Play. For example, a .400 BABIP is considered a little high. Meaning every time player X puts the ball in play, 40% of the time it falls for a hit. This means they might be due for a regression just based on the laws of baseball being baseball. The Cubs as a team have a .289 BABIP, down there with the likes of the Padres and Brewers. So yeah, I think there’s some room for improvement.