Series Review: Cubs Thundering Offense, Dominant Pitching Take 3 of 4 From Reds
The Cincinnati Reds have to be awfully glad that they won’t see the Cubs again until the end of June. Of course, by then the Cubs may be playing better, and that thought would scare anyone. The Cubs are 6-1 so far this year against the Reds and they’ve outscored them 60-20, that’s an average of 10 runs per game by the Cubs. Impressive.
Jake Arrieta throws a no-hitter. What else could we ask for, right? Except he didn’t pitch every game, so there are some stats to talk about. Generally, the Cubs pitchers played very well in this series except for the John Lackey start. That game was a major outlier and, consequently, the only game of the series the Cubs lost.
The Cubs finished with a series ERA of 3.34. Normally, I’d say that was good, but if it wasn’t for the Lackey game, it would’ve been amazing. With the exception of that game, the Cubs pitching allowed only one earned run in the other three games, combined. Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Jason Hammel completely shut down the Reds batters, and the bullpen did the rest.
Here’s a look at team pitching numbers for this series:
So, really, this series was very good for Cubs’ pitching. You have to wonder why things went so right most of the series and then so wrong in one game. John Lackey didn’t have his best stuff, not even close. For comparison purposes, in the Cardinals game on April 18th, John threw 68 of 91 pitches (75%) for strikes. He commanded the zone. In the Reds game, he threw 58 of 95 pitches (61%) for strikes. He got behind in the count more against the Reds and he used his fastball in a lot of those situations. Against the Cardinals, John was ahead in the count more often and was able to use his sinker/change/slider/curve more in those situations, which is typically more effective than being down in the count and having a batter sitting on your fastball.
The bullpen ensemble of Cahill, Ramirez and Richard got bombed in this game too. It seems that it was just ‘one of those days’ for the Cubs. My only concern out of all the aforementioned pitchers is for Lackey. If you exclude the Cardinals game, which he was admittedly brilliant in — but also very motivated — John has been getting hit hard a lot so far this year. We know he has good stuff but I really would like to see him settle down in his next couple outings.
There’s not enough that can be said for Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Jason Hammel’s completely shut-down performances. A no-hitter, five hits and three hits, respectively. Oh, and one measly run over three games. That’s just silly.
We great things from Jake and Jon, but Jason has been extraordinarily good this year too. He’s 3-0 with a .75 ERA over four games. And yes, that’s better than Jake (.87 ERA) and it’s better than Jon (1.98 ERA). When the number four pitcher on the team with the second best record in baseball has a better ERA than the top three pitchers, that just spells dirty, nasty trouble for the rest of the teams in the league. And good luck to them if Hammels continues to pitch this way, they’ll need it.
As good as the Cubs’ pitching was in this series, their bats may have been better. Well, maybe close to better when you consider there was a no-hitter!
Here are the offense team totals for the series:
|Tommy La Stella||6||4||4||1||0||0||.667||.667|
Dexter Fowler, what can you possibly say about him. He’s having a hot start and that’s turned into a hot month of April. We spoke about it here, Dex is clearly motivated and he’s prepared maybe as well as he has his entire career for this season. The teams that passed up on him are wishing they hadn’t.
Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist all had great numbers in this series. We spotlighted Kris and Jason in our Series Preview as guys to watch in this series. They’d both started out slowly and we felt it was only a matter of time until they started hitting better.
Jason Heyward turned in a .619 OBP along with three stolen bases. Over nine hits and four walks he scored five runs and batted in five runs. This offensive production from Jason is overdue and something we expected to see from him. We’re glad to see him getting on track with the bat in this series.
Kris Bryant turned in some gaudy numbers too. He batted .421 with a .476 OBP. He also had five runs and eight RBIs, including one grand slam. We all know how good Kris is and so this, again, is somewhat expected and it’s great to see Kris starting to click. Once the weather heats up we should see more series like this from Kris.
Ben Zobrist is doing what he does so well, get on base. He is second on the team with a .385 OBP, behind only Dexter Fowler. In this series he had a .600 OBP. Add to that he hit his first home run as a Cub and you can quickly see what Joe likes so much about Ben. He’s a scrappy player that gets involved in every game and never takes an at-bat off.
The Cubs played great in this series, with the exception of one hard to explain game where everything fell off the pitching wagon. In the end, they throttled the Reds for 60 runs in this four-game series. As of now, they lead the league in runs scored at 119, per FanGraphs.
Their pitching is pretty good too. The Cubs are third in the Majors with a 2.56 team ERA, second with a 3.8 fWAR and third with a 3.01 FIP, per FanGraphs. The Cubs have had a couple rough outings, without which they would be far and away the number one pitching staff in the Majors. Pretty impressive stuff so far this season from the boys in blue.