The Cubs offense is terrible. I’m fairly sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.
Yet, if you look at runs scored, they appear bad, but not terrible. Their 194 runs scored ranks them well ahead of the Padres (175), Reds (177), and Braves (178). Moreover, all of those teams have played more games than the Cubs.
Unfotunately, those numbers appear to be indicative of good luck. When you go a bit deeper, the picture starts to come apart. The biggest part of the problem is their on base percentage. Their .298 OBP is ahead of only the Mariners (.296) and the Padres (.280). That’s being caused, in part, by the league’s second highest strikeout rate, 23.2%. And despite the performance of Mike Olt, that isn’t being compensated for with power as the Cubs are a bottom third team in ISO (21st with a .130 ISO). All of that adds up to a Team OPS of just .659.
So what’s the problem? All these numbers suggest something your eyes can tell you: Ricky Renteria is forced to play people who have no business in a major league starting lineup. Take the lineup that was almost no-hit against the Giants. The four guys at the bottom of the lineup (Olt, Coughlan, Baker, and Jackson) have OBPs under .250. Schierholtz, in the 5 slot, was just slighly better at .268. A simple way of thinking about this: 3 guys with an OBP of .250 have a 42% chance of having a 1-2-3 inning. There’s another 42% chance that one — and only one of them — gets on base. So, over 80% of the time, those 3 guys will need a home run to score. Figure in a pitcher, with similar numbers, after them, and the situation gets worse. Numbers that bad mean the team is extremely unlikely to string together rallies and is not going to score.
If you really want to dig for a positive, though, you can find it. The new front office’s desire to get more patient hitters in the lineup is starting to bear fruit. The team is currently 14th in the league — right in the middle — with an 8% walk rate and actually 6th in the NL — which has lower walk rates without the DH.
The other positives are currently working their way through the minors. Javy Baez remains a bit of an enigma but Kris Bryant looks more and more like the impact player the Cubs were hoping for at #2 last year. Slot him into the lineup and the numbers above start to turn around. With him, the solid walk rates the team is putting up becomes even more important because it will lead to more guys on base when he crushes his home runs. Alcantara is another guy who looks on the cusp of the majors. He’s not a one man wrecking crew like Bryant, but he is certainly better than the players currently in the offense.
Looking beyond the big names, the upper minors also has Steven Bruno (2B) who has hit everywhere he’s been. Lefty Catcher Rafael Lopez could even turn into a reasonable backup — something the Cubs have struggled to find this year.
So, as bad as this year has been, the Cubs have exactly what they need to turn this thing around on the horizon.
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