How Bad Has the Cubs' Offense Been in June? Really, Really Bad!

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How Bad Has the Cubs’ Offense Been in June? Really, Really Bad!

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs may be tied for first place at the moment – thanks, struggling NL Central! – but the offense has been spiraling for the entire month of June, and we’re closer to the end of the month than the start. So why don’t we take a look at just how bad it’s been — both as a group and then individually — because, well, that’s what we do here to torture ourselves.

The Team

For the season, the Chicago Cubs are slashing .225/.303/.399. That’s the third lowest batting average, 9th lowest OBP, and 12th highest SLG. In terms of overall production, that’s good for a 94 wRC+, 17th in MLB. I just wanted to set the stage for the month of June, which is where we’ll turn our attention now for each of the following three sections.

The Slash Line: 

In the month of June, the Cubs are slashing just .182/.246/.369 (69 wRC+). That’s the worst batting average, the worst OBP, the sixth worst SLG, and the lowest wRC+. The Cubs have been the single worst offense in MLB throughout the month of June. Period. The worst.

The Plate Discipline

Unsurprisingly, the Cubs 6.7% walk rate is bottom-3 in MLB and their 27.6% strikeout rate is the second highest. They’re just outside the bottom-10 in out-of-zone swing rate, and they are in the bottom ten in zone swing rate, zone contact rate, overall contact rate (4th worst), first-pitch strike rate, whiff rate (4th worst), and called strikes plus whiff rate (3rd worst).

The Contact:

In June, the Cubs also have the lowest line drive rate (by a WIDE margin) and the 7th highest ground ball rate. And unfortunately that (which can also be illustrated by a middle-of-the-pack launch angle) spoils what is otherwise the 8th best hard-hit rate. If you’re constantly hitting the ball hard on the ground, it ain’t gonna help you much.

Conclusion: 

It seems to me the Cubs offensive problems in June are the same problems they’ve long had. Sure, the contact they DO make is hard and sometimes good, but too much of it is on the ground, and there’s not enough contact overall. That’s just classic 2018-2021 Cubs offensive woes. Pre-this-month, it was hyper-specific, even, to the month of April, before Nico Hoerner and Matt Duffy helped stabilize things with the diversity of their approach. However, their absence isn’t the only reason the Cubs are struggling. Individually, some guys that had been great, have been really, really bad.

The Players

There are ten Cubs players in the month of June with 40 or more PAs, so we’ll just roll through each of them briefly to show how well (or not) they’ve performed. We’ll go from best to worst.

Patrick Wisdom (140 wRC+) is one of four Cubs with an above average overall slash line in the month of June, buuuuuut it comes with a .236 batting average, a .311 OBP, and a 41.0% strikeout rate. The slugging is huge – and it has helped the Cubs win games – but when a guy with a 41% strikeout rate is your team’s BEST offensive performer over any period of time … you’ve got problems, man. And not to pick on him, but his last 41 PAs have been pretty horrendous: .167/.268/.333 (70 wRC+), 39% strikeout rate. It was a front-loaded offensive explosion, no doubt.

Joc Pederson (123 wRC+) is also above average, but with a tiny walk rate (2.9%), an elevated strikeout rate (27.9%), very little average (.227) and basically no on-base (.250). Again, slugging is great, but not at this cost.

Anthony Rizzo (110 wRC+) has avoided the Ks this month (14.3%), but has an uncharacteristically low walk rate (3.9%) and just 17 hits in 77 PAs (.239 average). Doesn’t help when he gets picked off twice in a single game, either.

Sergio Alcantara (107 wRC+) is the last “above-average” offensive contributor in June and he’s hitting .196/.296/.478. Like Wisdom, most of his success came up front. Alcantara has just four hits since June 5th and while that includes a triple, two homers, and 6 walks, it also includes an extremely low 84.8 MPH average exit velocity (fueling his low BABIP) and a 31% strikeout rate. And this is the Cubs last GOOD offensive performance of the month, relatively speaking. Yikes.

Willson Contreras (91 wRC+) is not too far off from being an average overall offensive contributor this month, but in 2021, that means a .204/.271/.426 slash line. Unlike some of his teammates, Contreras is actually making really solid contact this month (93.0 MPH average exit velo, 55.3% hard hit rate) and his launch angle is strong (12.9 degrees). His walk rate is also fine (8.5%) and his strikeout rate, while elevated, isn’t terrible (27.1%). With a .229 BABIP … I’m actually thinking he might be just fine and is just getting unlucky at the moment.

But here’s where things get REALLY ugly.

Eric Sogard (54 wRC+) has taken 42 plate appearances this month and has a 54 wRC+ to show for it. That includes a team-worst 81.5 MPH average exit velocity (OOF), a 5.9% hard-hit rate (remember, Contreras’ was just 55.3%), and a 0% barrel rate. That’s just really, really bad. And there are still four players worse on the results side.

Jason Heyward (51 wRC+) has walked more than any of the others Cubs players in June … but that’s still just 6 walks and the end of the good news. His 64.3% ground ball rate is absurd and unacceptable, as is his -3.3 degree launch angle.

Ian Happ (27 wRC+) has an 8.8% walk rate, which is fine, and a 24.6% strikeout rate is definitely lower than I was expecting. But a .118/.196/.255 slash line is rough. Happ has a tiny BABIP in June, but his 34.2% hard hit rate is even lower than Heyward’s. So, if I had to guess, I’d say he actually needs to start swinging more often (his swing rate is well below the league average). And also making more contact. And also hitting the ball harder. But other than that it’s fine.

Kris Bryant (22 wRC+) is the presumed NL starter at 3B in the All-Star game, but he is having a TERRIBLE month: .123/.219/.193. He’s got 7 hits, 5 of which are singles, 6 walks, and a HBP. Other than that, he’s grounded into 3 doubles plays, has a 26.6% strikeout rate, a .070 ISO, an extremely low launch angle (3.9 degrees) and an average exit velocity of 86.6 MPH. This sort of power zap (built on weak contact on the ground) concerns me. I hope he’s 100% because this has been a DEEP slump with non-flukey statistical explanations. He’s just not hitting the ball very well right now.

Javy Báez (18 wRC+) What is there to say about a guy with a 3.5% walk rate and 43.9% strikeout rate? It’s only 57 PAs, but that is ugly. And guess what? It’s also not flukey. In June, Báez has swung at an astounding 51.1% of pitches thrown out of the zone, while the league average is 31.0%! And it’s not just pitch recognition, it’s also contact. While the league is making contact on 75.5% of pitches swung at, Báez is down at 57.9%, with a 25% whiff rate, more than twice the league average. I can keep going, but I’d rather not. It’s April all over again – remember when people were sounding the alarms?

So, no, you’re not crazy. The Cubs offense, both as a collective group and individually, has been truly horrendous this month and I’m not sure just Nico Hoerner or Matt Duffy can resurrect it. We’ll need to see serious bounce backs from the core players – especially Báez and Bryant – and continued improvement from Pederson, at least. The days of being carried by Wisdom and Alcantara are over, and even Hoerner and Duffy might not be back for a minute.


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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