I’ve been wanting to talk about the Chicago Cubs’ offense for some time now, but life-things kept creeping up on me every time I tried to get started. Whether it was my new job, moving into a new apartment or an array of other things, I just kept getting sidetracked. And even when I did find some time, it seemed like every time I would sit down to write there would be some new trend(s) encompassing the club. Be it a white-hot Javier Báez, a slumping Anthony Rizzo, a red-hot Jason Heyward (more on that here) or a sizzling Albert Almora leading off and vacuuming up every ball in centerfield.
Okay, so here we go.
Following the Cubs’ sweep of their four-game series against the Mets, Jason Heyward is now hitting .264 — a three-hit game or an 0-fer is a still a major swing to the bottom line — and he had three-consecutive multi-hit games this past week against the Pirates and Mets. And I’d be remise not to mention his first career four-hit performance Saturday night, a game in which the Cubs stuck out 24 times — earning a victory no-less — and the second-highest strikeout total in a win all-time. It was a game in which Heyward was the only Cubs starter not to strike out.
Of course, he was double-switched out of the ballgame by the 9th inning, and before the conclusion of the 7-1, 14-inning winning affair. But, I could certainly get used to Heyward being the offensive force that many pegged him as upon his arrival preluding the 2016 season.
Hayward put together a .239/.344/.390 April slash line, .283/.328/.377 May, and is currently 4-for-14 in three June games. Following his concussion in the middle of May that kept him out of the lineup for nine-consecutive games, Heyward is hitting .368/.415/.474 with a .146 wRC+ since May 23. A small sample, sure, but his wRC+ in 43 games so far this season is 96.
While Heyward has been a Cub, that figure has increased each of the last two seasons but hasn’t been above 100 since his 121 wRC+ in 2015. For context, a 100 wRC+ is considered league average and anything above or below 100 represents the percentage a player is better or worse than that average. It also considers league and park effects.
So we’ll obviously continue to monitor this new-found Heyward offensive rebirth.
Anthony Rizzo was off to a slow start in April but has also gotten into a groove, and just wait for the warmer summer months that lay ahead for him, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, and others.
Back in April, the Cubs’ offense was merely impotent. Aside from a few offensive explosions — a 13-5 win versus the Pirates on April 11, and a 16-5 win at Coors Field — the Cubs’ juggernaut of a lineup more often than not struggled to maintain any offensive rhythm and consistency. Going back to last season, it was clockwork when the Cubs scored a lot of runs in a particular game, but they always seemed to follow the next day’s game with little to no run scoring.
And this offense has been feast-or-famine, or at least it feels like that sometimes. But the overall picture is much better than most likely would have guessed.
As of today, June 5:
The Cubs also have the NL’s best run differential at +93.
I wrote a piece about Ben Zobrist earlier in the season as he looked to rebound towards his career norms following a tough 2017 season that saw injuries and struggles at the plate hold him back. So far, it’s been vintage Zobrist of old rather than an older-looking 37-year-old Zobrist.
The 13-year veteran is looking refreshed as ever, slashing .306/.395/.465 in 43 games this season. A nice surprise for Joe Maddon has been Zobrist as a lock at the leadoff spot, where he is an .300 hitter, but his propensity for taking walks (22 BBs against 19 Ks) and overall patience solidifies what a professional at-bat he delivers.
I know the doldrums of social media on a day-to-day basis can get you down, so next time just show feel free to show off these numbers. Even when things feel bad one week, the proof is actually in the pudding how much better the Cubs’ offense really has been. And I can’t talk about the offense and not mention new hitting coach Chili Davis.
I have to think there is a natural progression taking place, while also keeping in mind it takes time for Davis, players, and fellow coaches/manager to all jell with one another early on in a season. And sometimes there is plain old bad luck, whether cold/bad weather, postponements, or getting BABIP’d to death.
Although, this club has been fairly consistent in the BABIP realm in this not-so-young season.
Second in MLB: 318
Moving forward, as the Cubs go for their eighth win in nine tries, they’ll do battle with an up-and-coming, young Phillies team, among the early-season surprises across the Major League Baseball landscape. And no, you won’t see Jake Arrieta pitch, but that may not be a bad thing for this Cubs’ offensive attack right now.