There are a number of ways to determine which team boasts the best offense in any given season, and most of them have their merits. By average weighted runs created plus (wRC+), for example, we see that the Yankees and Red Sox lead the way, followed by the Astros, Cubs, Indians. Another way to do it is by measuring the average runs scored per game and ranking teams out from highest to lowest. After all, scoring runs is the name of the game and that just so happens to confirm the same exact top five (albeit in a different order) as the wRC+ leaderboard.
Of course, there are always going to be some unfair inconsistencies with these particulars strategies. In the briefest terms, let’s just say it’s not a coincidence that American League teams (with designated hitters) take 4 out of the top 5 and 8 of the top 10 spots overall. So in all likelihood, our best bet in determining which team truly boasts the top overall offense is by ranking them out a number of different ways to see if any one team eventually rises to the top.
So to that end, let me offer one more way to rank offenses: number of regular players hitting at an above-average clip.
To measure what’s “above average” or not, we’re going to use the tried and true wRC+ statistic you see above. That stat is perfect for this sort of project, because the purpose of the stat is to quantify a player’s total offensive value, setting it to a scale where 100 is exactly league average, and every point above or below 100 represents 1% better or worse than the league average. The fact that wRC+ also accounts for park effects is just gravy on top.
Here are how many *qualified* players each MLB team has hitting at a 100 wRC+ or better this season:
- Chicago Cubs: 9
- Houston Astros: 6
- New York Yankees: 6
- Oakland Athletics: 5
- Cleveland Indians: 5
- Philadelphia Phillies: 5
- Cincinnati Reds: 5
- Seven Teams: 4
- Nine Teams: 3
- Five Teams: 2
- Orioles: 1
- Padres: 0
The Chicago Cubs have NINE QUALIFYING offensive players contributing at an average or better clip this season, and that is absolutely NUTS.
Just consider that number in relation to the fact that only eight position players can play at any time in the NL, but the nine can in the American League … and the next closest team has THREE fewer players at or above average.
And the Cubs could have even more!
Although we have to remain statistically consistent, there exists another frustrating caveat already working against the Cubs (besides the fact that they don’t have the benefit of a DH): the number of plate appearances it takes to qualify.
According to Major League Baseball, a player must have 3.1 plate appearances per team game in order to “qualify” for things like the batting title, and for “qualified” lists like this. Right now, the Cubs stand at 55-38, which means it takes 288.3 plate appearances to qualify if you’re on the team.
Ian Happ has 280 plate appearances … and a 122 wRC+.
He’ll likely qualify before the season is over, but, for now, it’s not at all misleading to say that the Cubs have TEN regulars who are hitting at an average or better clip this season. The Astros have a similarly closer borderline player in Josh Reddick, but he’s 28 plate appearances short of qualifying and only has a 106 wRC+. The Yankees, meanwhile, have no such borderline player. So unlike our other two measures, this stat separates the Cubs big time from the rest of the pack.
And because I’m sure your curious, here’s how the Cubs shake loose here at the break:
- Kris Bryant: 133 wRC+
- Javy Baez: 132 wRC+
- Kyle Schwarber: 129 wRC+
- Willson Contreras: 122 wRC+
- Ian Happ: 122 wRC+
- Ben Zobrist: 118 wRC+
- Albert Almora Jr.: 114 wRC+
- Jason Heyward: 109 wRC+
- Anthony Rizzo: 100 wRC+
- Addison Russell: 100 wRC+
Ten. I just … that’s amazing.
Last year, when the Chicago Cubs offense was one of the best in baseball, the team had just two qualified players with above-average overall production and just four more if you extended the threshold down to 400 plate appearances. In the “magical” 2016 World Series season, the Cubs had just four qualified players reach the 100 wRC+ or better mark, and no more at a lower threshold. Even the historically good 2017 Houston Astros could only claim six players at or above 100 wRC+ last season, so the fact that the Cubs currently have 9 (and basically 10) is seriously no joke.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, so I’ll wind it up, but the short version is this: While the Cubs may not have the individual fire power of a few other teams, their overall offense is unparalleled in 2018. While the individual MVP-caliber performances of other squads may raise the overall team average, the Cubs offense is consistently good throughout. And that’s so awesome.