Well how about that?
After coming back against the Braves last weekend, putting up 8 runs against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field on Thursday, and exploding for 18 hits, 5 walks, and 16 runs in Colorado last night, the Cubs are not only above .500 … they’re a whole lot of fun to watch right now. And it’s all about the offense.
The @Cubs have now scored more runs per game (5.82) than any team in the National League.
The guys helping the most …
Javy Baez (188 wRC+, 8th in MLB)
Kris Bryant (182 wRC+, 10th in MLB)
Kyle Schwarber (165 wRC+, 19th in MLB)
Willson Contreras (110 wRC+, 80th in MLB)
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) April 21, 2018
The Chicago Cubs’ 5.82 runs per game right now ranks third best in baseball, behind only the Red Sox (6.47), who are off to an astonishing 17-2 start, and the Blue Jays, who aren’t too far behind them (13-6).
The Cubs might only be 9-8 so far this season, but their offense is hitting like one of the best in baseball (obviously, yes, that means the pitching staff – particularly the rotation – hasn’t quite been holding its own, but it’ll get there). And even with the pitching issues, the Cubs overall run differential is actually sixth best in MLB and third best in the National League.
- Red Sox: +70
- Astros: +43
- Blue Jays: +40
- Braves: +33
- Phillies: +28
- Cubs: +25
- Diamondbacks: +25
- Cardinals: +19
- Angels: +17
- Mets: +17
So who’s helping out the most? Well, the four Cubs in my tweet are the clear top-tier contributors at the moment, so let’s start there.
What’s there to say about him right now that’s not being said everywhere else? He’s currently the TOP performing offensive contributor on *this* Cubs team, and it’s not because everyone else is doing poorly. That, alone, is mind-boggling. Aside from the stellar results (.290/.371/.742), Baez is walking more than he ever has (8.6%), striking out less than he ever has (20.0%), hitting the ball on a line (28.3%) and in the air (43.5%) FAR more than he ever has, and is making elite level hard contact (43.8%). Oh, he’s also swinging at FAR fewer pitches out of the zone, FAR more pitches in the zone, and is making more contact than usual. THINGS ARE GOOD.
Baez might be stealing all the headlines right now, but Bryant is right there with him. Through 17 games, Bryant is slashing .333/.471/.561 (182 wRC+) while walking (14.1%) more than he’s striking out (12.9%). He’s hitting line drives at a 32.1% clip (career 21.9%) and has a perfectly Bryant-esq smattering of hard-contact. We don’t have the space to get into it right now, but make no mistake: here in the early going, this is the best version of Kris Bryant we have ever seen.
Speaking of best versions, Kyle Schwarber is on another level right now. Through 64 plate appearances, Schwarber has shown that he can not only remain the slugger he’s always been, but he can also add contact skills to the performance: .283/.406/.566. Interestingly, Schwarber is actually hitting a lot more balls on the ground than usual, but he’s also going the other way a lot more, which, I believe, are related and purposeful changes. Schwarber will always have the power to hit the ball out of the park (as his .283 ISO and .566 SLG demonstrate), so sacrificing some pull-power to beef up the overall production is a wonderful strategy and it’s clearly working. Oh, he’s also walking at a monstrous 17.2% clip, and striking out at the lowest rate of his career (26.6%).
It’s hard to leave some guys out, but we can’t go on forever. Suffice it to say, among the qualified hitters, Willson Contreras (110 wRC+) and Jason Heyward (105 wRC+) have both been above average this season, and the latter has actually been getting better and better.
He's not "fixed." This is a small sample. And I haven't loved every plate appearance, but …
Since April 8 (38 plate appearances), Heyward's slash line is .273/.368/.424 w/ a BB-rate (10.5%) double his K-rate (5.3%).
His overall production (105 wRC+) is also above average.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) April 21, 2018
Even the part-time contributors have been killing it. Albert Almora is slashing .325/.372/.525 (147 wRC+ over 43 plate appearances) and has certainly earned some extra playing time with his performance against right-handers (.333/.360/.417, 116 wRC+). Sure, the righties he’s facing have been reverse-split types, but that’s still success against a righty and a sign of growth. And as we all know, Ben Zobrist was killing it before he went on the DL (145 wRC+).
Really, with the exception of Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo, the entire Cubs offense has been firing on all cylinders this season. And guess what? I think Happ and Rizzo are going to be just fine, too.
And to close, here’s a couple other fun facts/brain-candy from the recent barrage of hits and runs:
The Cubs have 14 opposite field base hits in their last two games, 7 in each. Seven oppo hits marks the second most in a nine inning game this season and the Cubs have now done it on consecutive days.The Cubs have made a concerted effort to use the… https://t.co/3ZexgYbwt4
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) April 21, 2018
This is amazing (Javy’s homer last night, versus his first career homer):
Time is a flat circle. pic.twitter.com/9pe3POrI6l
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 21, 2018