The first month of baseball is in the books, and the Chicago Cubs, at 12-8, are nicely in the thick of things. Maybe that doesn’t sound like much after just 20 games, but, hey, it’s been a while since we could say the Cubs were very much still in the race by the time May rolls around.
Given the record, you’d expect the Cubs to be up there in various measurements of ability and performance, and they are. But there are plenty of other articles out there about that, and I’d instead like to take a look at something at which the Cubs have been the worst in baseball so far: turning double plays.
If it felt to you like the Cubs weren’t turning very many so far this year, that’s not just your gut lying to you. Through those 20 games, the Cubs have turned just eight double plays, by far the lowest total in baseball. As of Thursday, the Rockies had turned 29 double plays, leading the league. Just ahead of the Cubs are the Cardinals and Angels with 12 apiece. Even on a per-game basis, the Cubs are way behind: their 0.40 double plays per game is behind the 29th-ranked Angels at 0.57. The Rockies are on top at 1.38 double plays per game. I’d also add that, for the Cubs, two of those eight double plays weren’t even traditional double plays—they involved a caught line drive and a runner going with the pitch.
I probably don’t have to sell you on the idea that double plays are a pretty fantastic thing for the defense. Not only do they record two outs in one play, but they also erase at least one runner from the basepaths with fewer than two outs, when we know the likelihood of scoring is significant.
So, then, it stands to reason that the Cubs’ stark lack of double plays thus far has harmed them, relative to other teams in baseball. The questions I have: is it the Cubs’ fault? And is it going to get better?