In a lot of ways, the Cubs’ overall offensive performance this year is unremarkable. They’re slightly better than average in runs per game. They’re solidly above average in OPS. They’re slightly above average in wRC+. Their strikeout rate is slightly higher than average. Their walk rate is solidly above average. Decent ISO. Decent BABIP.
At a very surface level, you’d be forgiven for thinking this offense was, at worst, mediocre. And maybe they are, which, for a playoff contender with big names in the lineup, is actually its own problem.
But while perusing the team stats to identify some of the “things” that stand out when we talk about the offense as being “broken,” there are several that jump out:
- The Cubs are slightly below average in swinging at pitches in the strike zone (i.e., they take slightly more strikes than the average team). Yet the Cubs are slightly above average in swinging at pitches outside the strike zone.
- The Cubs make the third least contact on pitches they swing at outside the zone. On the one hand, that problem is mitigated by the fact that hitting those pitches usually turns into outs. On the other hand, if you’re swinging at more pitches than the average team outside the zone AND you’re whiffing at them much more than average, you’re accumulating a lot of extra strikes.
- Worse, on pitches in the strike zone? The Cubs make the second least contact in all of baseball. More strikes for the opposition.
- Taken together, the Cubs’ contact rate – 73.3% – is the worst in baseball. No surprise, then, that the Cubs’ 12.4% swinging strike rate is the worst in the NL, and third worst in baseball. Here’s a strike! Here’s a strike! The Cubs whiff too much!
- Probably not entirely unrelatedly, the Cubs also are near the top of the league in soft contact rate, and near the bottom of the league in hard contact rate. So the Cubs are not only whiffing far too often, they are also failing to barrel the ball up enough – especially for a team that whiffs so much! That’s supposed to be the trade off!
- Related to that, once again no surprise, the Cubs are four in the league in groundball rate. Line drive rate? Second worst in baseball. Among the top 100 batters in barrel rate, the Cubs have just three: Javy Baez (20th), Kyle Schwarber (39), and Victor Caratini (75).