Two weeks ago, the Cubs put a beatdown on the Indians in Cleveland, winning 10-3. Since then, the Cubs have topped three runs just once – Saturday’s six-run embarrassment in St. Louis – and the overall offensive performance has been dreadful.
Not team in baseball has been worse than the Cubs’ .272 wOBA, and no team has been worse than the Cubs’ .263 OBP. Despite a strikeout rate that has been the 9th best during that stretch (just 20.5%), the Cubs have done nothing thanks to a league worst 5.0% walk rate, terrible soft and hard contact rates, and a mostly-earned second-to-worst .251 BABIP. If you ever wanted data to support a belief that an entire offense is tight and pressing, those are it.
If all of that wasn’t bad enough, when you just look at the Cubs’ list of performers over these two weeks – which, again, includes that 10-run outburst against the Indians – it’s the stuff of nightmares:
Just two Cubs have been above-average bats, and Ian Happ – with his 50 PERCENT STRIKEOUT RATE – has been the third best bat. You know things are going very, very poorly when those things are true.
I guess we have to try to find salvation in the fact that it’s just a two-week sample, which can look like this for even a good team if you pluck out the right two-week stretch. Well, that is to say, you could do it for even a good team *if* that team actually recovers offensively.
Increasingly, I’m suspecting the combination of terrible contact and the Cubs constantly being down 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 in the count to be related. It’s just anecdotal as of this typing, but doesn’t it seem like opposing pitchers have been pounding the zone early against the Cubs – especially with off-speed pitches – getting the Cubs down in the count, when we know that poor contact quality goes up for all hitters. And since the Cubs aren’t really striking out all that much, it means they’re doing a great job putting two-strike pitches into play … with weak contact.
Sure enough, over these past two weeks, no team has seen a first strike more often than the Cubs’ 66.5%.
You don’t want to see an overreaction or overcorrection here, but some increased aggressiveness early in the count – and guessing off-speed in the process – may be warranted. And ditto some guys taking some bigger cuts, even with two strikes.