Last season, the 103-win, World Series Champion Chicago Cubs scored the third most runs per game (4.93) of any team in baseball – the potent Boston Red Sox led the way (5.36), followed by the atmosphere-aided Colorado Rockies (5.22).
Needless to say, the Cubs were probably the best offense in the National League and damn-well close to the best one overall.
This year, however, they swapped out Dexter Fowler’s center field bat and professional approach at the plate for a platoon of the rookie (and potentially light-hitting (well, at least he’s supposed to be but maybe not!)) Albert Almora and Jon Jay.
To most, that’s a significant offensive downgrade, but there is at least some reason to believe those two can be dangerous together.
Regardless, a full year of Kyle Schwarber in left field and Willson Contreras behind the dish should provide some extra firepower, while Jason Heyward would have to really (x2) struggle to produce less than he did last season. All of which is to ask, could the Cubs’ 2017 offense actually be better than it was last season?
According to the team’s own internal metrics … yes.
Obviously, the prospect of improving the offensive capabilities of a team that was already among the top three in the league last season is downright scary. (And that’s without mentioning their league leading defense and strong pitching staff, but I digress.)
At a variety of sources (CSN Chicago, the Chicago Tribune, ESPN), you can watch/read Joe Maddon discuss his faith in the Cubs’ geeks who are projecting another run-filled season in 2017 that should exceed even last year’s efforts (starts about 30 seconds in):
The short version of those (and additional, later comments) is that with Kyle Schwarber leading off (something we just discussed again recently) and the pitcher batting eighth, the Cubs offense is expected to, well, make Joe Maddon smile. Whether that number is north of 5.00 runs per game and 800 runs for the season was left up in the air, but Maddon’s desire to “take it,” if it were true should be all of the confirmation you need.
Maddon has always been the type of manager to put his faith in the “geeks” when it’s needed while managing more traditionally when the time calls for that style too. And continuing with that methodology, Maddon mentioned that he wants the “guys upstairs” to be proactive in their analysis of his lineups. Why? You might ask.
Well apparently when Kyle Schwarber first came up in 2015, Maddon wanted to bat him first and Dexter Fowler second (I don’t know about the rest of you, but that’s the first I’m hearing of it). Apparently, the front office showed Maddon the math – proving that the opposite would be better – and the Cubs went onto win 97 games. “They were right.”
And for the more statistically driven fans among you, I have another quote that’s sure to warm your heart:
“You can have all the great feelings in the world. It still might not be the right thing. Like a guy comes up to me and says: ‘I have a good feeling about today.’ Oh my God, I want to run.
“How do you know? There are so many times I’ve come to the ballpark, felt like crap, and we’ll play the best game of the year. That has no correlation. You can feel all you want. (But) they gave me some solid information. I’m open for all that stuff.”
Understanding the difference between causation and correlation may seem like freshman 101 stuff, but there still SO MANY fans, players, and managers that fall victim to its appeal. So if that’s you, aim to be more like Joe Maddon.
Ignore it, score more runs than the third best run-scoring offense in 2016, and see if you can ride a hot-streak right back into November baseball.