There’s no real harmonizing principle to this post, other than I poked around the Cubs’ team stats at FanGraphs for a bit this afternoon and noticed a bunch of interesting, random, statistical potpourri.
Among them …
- Ian Happ’s .261 ISO was the highest mark on the Cubs, just ahead of Kyle Schwarber’s .256. What’s crazy about that is, before 2017, Happ never posted an ISO higher than the .208 he put up in 2015 at short-season Low-A. Then his improved swing took over, and he put up a silly .317 ISO at AAA to start the year before getting the call to MLB.
- It may surprise you to learn, though, that Happ’s 25.3% HR/FB ratio (holy crap) was not the highest on the Cubs. And it wasn’t Schwarber, either (24.0%). It was actually Willson Contreras, at a whopping 25.9%. In the Juiced Ball Era, the league average HR/FB ratio has spiked from around 10% all the way up to 13.7% last year, but still, Contreras is an outlier – his 25.9% was 12th highest in baseball in 2017. For Contreras, the added power on fly balls showed up in 2016 at AAA (he was not hitting homers at a prodigious rate in his breakout 2015 season at AA) and has stuck around for two years. That’ll happen when you hit the snot out of the ball – although Contreras still has a lofty groundball rate (53.3% this year), his 35.5% hard contact rate is well above the 31.8% league average.
- Ah, but Contreras’s 35.5% hard contact rate was not tops on the Cubs. If the sample were limited to their brief time with the Cubs, it was actually the two guys playing *behind* Contreras who led the team in hard contact; Alex Avila posted a 43.4% hard contact rate, and Rene Rivera was at 44.8%. Among the more regular crew, though, the honor goes to Kyle Schwarber, at 36.4%.
- The Cubs’ BABIP leader was Jon Jay at .368. Dude has always had a super high BABIP for his career, and the fact that he sprays liners consistently probably has a lot to do with it. His 29.0% line drive rate was tops on the full-season Cubs by a country mile – Addison Russell was second at 23.0%! In fact, Jay’s 29.0% line drive rate led ALL of baseball by more than a full percentage point over Daniel Murphy.
- Bonus but-haha-get-this fun fact: Jay’s 2.9% HR/FB ratio (yes, that’s a real number) was second lowest in all of baseball, behind only Dee Gordon at 1.9%. Moreover, Jay’s 23.9% fly ball rate was 7th lowest in baseball. I would call that a case of “know thyself” in action.
- (The opposite of that? Free agent Eric Hosmer, who, despite having a HR/FB ratio well over 20% each of the past two seasons has a fly ball rate in the bottom 13 in the league both years. Hit more fly balls, dude.)
- Switching gears from hard-hit balls in the air to soft-hit balls on the ground, I bet you could guess who led the Cubs in infield hits – it was Kris Bryant, who 19 were tied with Hosmer for the 24th most in baseball. Notably, though, not a single batter ahead of Bryant had a lower groundball rate than his 37.7%. So it’s not like he was racking up infield hits because he was pounding it into the ground – he simply has a great combination of power and speed, yielding deep defensive infields, who can’t throw him out when he hits a dribbler.
- The Cubs’ soft contact leader? Arg, you guessed it: Jason Heyward, at 25.8%, the fifth highest mark in baseball.
- Heyward was not the Cubs’ most pull-oriented hitter, though (he was second); that title belonged to Ben Zobrist, who pulled the ball 49.9% of the time, and it obviously didn’t much help him this year. That pull rate was 11th in baseball, and in isolation is not necessarily a bad thing, since several of the guys ahead of him had fine offensive years.
- Your stolen base leader on the Cubs? Well, it was a tie at 10 between a guy you might expect (Javy Baez) and a guy you might not (Anthony Rizzo). Rizzo stole just 3 bases last year because teams stopped sleeping on him after he swiped 17 in 2015, but they must have started sleeping on him a bit again this year.
- The best BB/K ratio? You probably think it’s Anthony Rizzo, and you’re kinda right, at 1.01. But if you count bench guys, it’s actually Tommy La Stella, at 1.11. Worst among the regulars was Javy Baez, at just 0.21 walks per strikeout.
- Relatedly, Javy Baez lead the Cubs in swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone (45.1%) and overall swing rate 56.2%. And frighteningly, no one on the full-season Cubs had a worst contact rate than Baez’s 65.8%. Taken together, it led to a team-worst 19.2% swinging strike rate, which avoided being worst in baseball only thanks to Joey Gallo and his 19.3% mark. There were only five players in baseball at 17% or higher.