How could anyone be concerned after last night’s win, right?
I exaggerate in a couple ways there, but it remains the case that Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was not concerned with the Cubs’ recent rough patch even before last night’s game. That’s especially true on the offensive side, where – particularly before last night – things just aren’t clicking yet.
“The offensive part I have zero concerns about,” Hoyer told the Tribune before the game. “That will be a matter of time. We have such a talented lineup with guys that even have upside beyond what they did last year. The offensive part will come around. We haven’t hit yet at all.”
Even after last night’s offensive outburst, Hoyer’s not wrong about where things stand. Right now, the Cubs’ top three hitters by wRC+ have all had only role-player-level plate appearance totals: Tommy La Stella (179 wRC+, 6 PAs), Albert Almora (178, 22), and Jon Jay (172, 22). Among Cubs regulars, only the Schwarbryzzo trio are above 100 in wRC+, and none is above 135. Javy Baez is sub-50, and the rest of the regulars are in the 80 to 95 range.
But, as Hoyer said, I doubt that’s where everything winds up when all is said and done.
For Hoyer, then, the only real concern he expressed about the Cubs’ performance so far was with respect to the polish of their play.
“I don’t think we’ve played the kind of baseball we played last year,” Hoyer told Cubs.com. “We’ve been sloppier at times than last year. That’s the only part that, when I watch the games, we didn’t do that last year. We were very clean, we took care of the ball, we didn’t give the other team outs.”
Hoyer’s right on that front, too, as you’ve probably noticed, anecdotally, more mistakes (physical and mental) than you’re used to seeing from an elite defensive and baserunning crew.
The numbers back it up, too, as the team’s baserunning value is only slightly above average at this point (after being fifth in baseball last year, with quite a bit of distance from sixth place, too). Defensively, the Cubs are still providing solid value, but their fielding percentage is third worst in baseball. (Note, in general, fielding percentage, alone, is a terrible way to evaluate a team’s defensive ability – I offer it here only because it does jibe with the sloppiness you may have seen with your eyes (it does not, however, indicate this is necessarily a bad defense overall)).
Like the offense, those are not things I’d be concerned about in the long run. But, as Hoyer said, they’ve been noticeable here in the early going, and they are the kinds of things that can be tightened up as the season goes along.