Ben Zobrist, Who Blew Up Last Night, Is Having His Best Offensive Season Since 2012

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Ben Zobrist, Who Blew Up Last Night, Is Having His Best Offensive Season Since 2012

Chicago Cubs

Back in 2012, a child-like 31-year-old Ben Zobrist slashed .270/.377/.471 with 20 homers, 74 RBI, and 14 stolen bases, en route to a monster 5.7 WAR season. And while his defense was certainly well-received by the advanced metrics that season, the 137 wRC+ is what propelled Zobrist and his WAR total up to MVP-type levels (he finished 18th in the voting that year – it was a different era, after all).

Since then, Zobrist has produced at an above average clip in each and every season besides last year, when he dealt with a nagging wrist injury throughout the season, but he has not been able to topple that 130 wRC+ mark threshold. This season, he may have a chance:

Ben Zobrist wRC+ by Year:

2008: 123 wRC+
2009: 152 wRC+
2010: 100 wRC+
2011: 130 wRC+
2012: 137 wRC+
2013: 114 wRC+
2014: 117 wRC+
2015: 122 wRC+
2016: 123 wRC+
2017: 82 wRC+
2018: 126 wRC+

Indeed, after going 4-5 with a double, a homer, two runs scored, and an RBI last night, this 37-year-old version of Ben Zobrist, who’s clearly sold his sold his soul to the devil for ever-lasting youth, is having his best offensive season in six years.

Take a look back at his big night:

Zobrist is technically three plate appearances shy of “qualifying” right now (which is annoying for writing purposes, but also, perhaps, part of the reason for his strong production), but his .304/.391/.438 (126 wRC+) slash line is 26% better than the league average hitter. It would rank 42nd overall in Major League Baseball, and the 21st best mark in the National League.

And for a little added fun, if Zobrist can keep it up, this would be the first time he finished a season batting over .300 in his career – which, I have to say is a little surprising given his lifetime 14.7% strikeout rate.

Speaking of which, Zobrist doesn’t just have the results this season, he’s got some really solid peripherals, too. For example, he’s walking at an extremely impressive 12.4% rate, which is a top-25 mark in MLB. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate sits barely above that (12.7%, top 17 in MLB). His BABIP is higher than normal, which is undoubtedly propping up that elevated batting average, but he’s actually got the single highest hard-hit rate* in his entire career, and the lowest soft-hit rate since 2009 (when he launched 27 homers and was worth 8.6 WAR). Yeah, pretty cool right?

*There’s a lot here to like, but this is particularly notable, given how much his 2017 wrist injury seemed to sap him of his ability to drive the ball. Indeed, it seems fair to say now, that the lack of production last year was entirely related to that injury.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, Zobrist is currently working on the best line drive rate of his career, the lowest ground ball rate since 2013, and the lowest infield fly ball rate he’s ever posted. And since he’s also posting the highest swing rate on pitches in the zone since 2013, he must be feeling pretty good, too – otherwise, you might not expect him to be attacking as much did when he was much younger.

I know I’m throwing a lot of random statistics and numbers at you and it’s starting to turn into white noise, but hopefully you recognize just how crazy that is. In just about every single way imaginable, Ben Zobrist – 37 years old(!) – is having one of the best offensive seasons of his very impressive career.

It’s awesome, and last night was just the latest display of the benefits of taking care of yourself, I guess. Keep it up, Zobrist. I have a feeling the Cubs are going to need you come October.

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami