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Monday, September 21, 2020

The Cubs finished their worst offensive season ever at Wrigley Field. Can they just blame it on 2020?

But one glaring deficiency they’ve battled from the outset is a consistent inability to hit — particularly at Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ overall .226 batting average heading into Sunday night’s home finale against the Minnesota Twins was fourth-worst in the majors, and their .218 home average was better only than the Seattle Mariners’ .212 average at Safeco Field.

It’s an ongoing mystery that no one, including manager David Ross and President Theo Epstein, can explain.

This year’s group will finish with by far the lowest average in the ballpark’s 106-year history, a head-scratching problem that could doom the Cubs if it carries into the wild-card round.

For fans watching on TV, it’s almost incomprehensible. Even some of the worst teams in Cubs history have put up decent offensive seasons at Wrigley, making them tolerable in lean years. What makes it even more puzzling: Some of the worst offenders are Kris Bryant (.197, one home run, two RBIs), Anthony Rizzo (.189, four homers, 11 RBIs), Javier Baez (.172, two homers, seven RBIs) and Kyle Schwarber (.176, five homers, 11 RBIs).

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 21, 2020 at 09:09 AM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Itchy Row Posted: September 21, 2020 at 02:46 PM (#5977937)
Stathead says the Cubs finished at .210 at home. Their next-worst Wrlgley average was .237 in 2015, when they went to the NLCS and one year before they won the Series. The third-worst was .238 in 2002, a year before they almost went to the Series. This means the 2021 Cubs will go undefeated.
   2. A triple short of the cycle Posted: September 21, 2020 at 04:16 PM (#5977947)
Guessing the players who rely heavily on video are largely doing worse for not having access to it. Several have said as much.

EDIT: Not Cubs specifically that I am aware of.
   3. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: September 21, 2020 at 04:50 PM (#5977952)
Javy has been very vocal about the lack of video and how much it's bothering him. It sort of becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of course.

Bryant looks completely broken, physically and maybe mentally. Rizzo is in a prolonged slump; he usually has one or two each year, this year's has felt longer (but he is hitting the ball hard and walking). Schwarber looks worse than in 2017 when he was demoted to AAA - but he's hitting the ball even harder than Rizzo and walking even more. There's a ton of bad luck for those 2; Bryant looks hopeless right now (not that he is for sure, or is permanently broken). Javy always teeters on the edge, and when he's going bad it looks really bad; with his approach, there usually isn't much positive underlying signs of snapping out of it.

On my scale of worry, I'm most worried about Bryant, I'm somewhat worried about Rizzo (now that he's 30 and he has a history of back problems), and I'm not really worried about Javy (this is what he always is) or Schwarber (I've accepted also this is what he is; the good 2nd half of last year appears to be just a fluke).
   4. Walt Davis Posted: September 21, 2020 at 05:33 PM (#5977957)
League-wide BA is down 8 points from last year and 4 points from 2018 so some of it is that. And of course it's a small sample and given another 30 games, things would even out some. That's supported by their 243 league-average road BA. It's obviously extra bizarre given Wrigley is a hitter's park, but they are averaging nearly 6 runs a game on the road -- that's 118 runs in 20 road games vs 114 runs in 33 home games. (Nice to see b-r has already factored in the "road" games played in Wrigley.) They have more HR on the road too, an OPS about 100 points higher, a BABIP 23 points higher. Maybe the road bubble is more like a normal season while the home environment feels extra weird?

Cub pitchers meanwhile doing much better at Wrigley than on the road -- 3.63 ERA vs 4.47, 3.4 K/BB vs 2.35, 1.13 vs 1.36 WHIP. So that's 236 runs in 33 games at Wrigley, barely over 7; 207 in 20 road games so over 10. Just over 2 HR per game in Wrigley, about 2.8 on the road. It's very weird to see Wrigley playing as a huge pitchers park in July/Aug/early Sept but that's what's happened. Unless the wind's been blowing in every day ...

Anyway, the one-year PF at b-r is 88-89 ... Wrigley is the new Astrodome!!
   5. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 21, 2020 at 07:43 PM (#5977975)
I'm amazed they're in first place. It speaks to the lousiness of the division that their standing has never really felt that threatened in this shortened season.

Hasn't the popular opinion been that the Cubs can't/won't extend both Javy and Bryant, so they'll eventually need to choose one to let go? At this point, wouldn't most of you say Javy is the guy you keep? His offensive game is more prone to just have the bottom fall out without warning, but he still provides excellent defense and durability. Bryant just feels like a guy who has either been hurt or affected by nagging injuries a lot in the last handful of seasons.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: September 21, 2020 at 08:42 PM (#5977982)
Cubs have a ton of options on that front. First of course, they could stop being cheapskates. Beyond that though ... Lester, Quintana and Chatwood come off the books after this year; Kimbrel and Rizzo after next year. They have only 3 long-term contracts in Heyward (3/$65), Darvish (3/$59) and Hendricks (3/$42 plus option). Those may end up being bad value (esp Heyward) but they are not burdensome contracts.

They do have choices to make in that Bryant, Javy, Rizzo and Schwarber are all FA after next year and Contreras the year after that. Of course the way they're playing, none of those guys are going to be very expensive either. Happ is the only player of importance entering arb and he's not gonna be breaking any records.

The reality is that if he was an FA after this year, Bryant would probably have to do a 1-year "let me reprove myself" contract (possibly taking the QO) ... or maybe he's willing to settle for 3/$45 or something. Over his last 1200 PA, he's got 5.8 WAR so still a good player but not a guy looking at a 7-year contract. And the days when he might have been looking at $30+ AAV are gone without a big year. His positive this year is that the defense seems to have bounced back to average or a bit better ... otherwise he'd be looking a lot like a Schwarber-type after a move to LF/RF.

As you say, Javy does look like a guy worth signing for 5 years or so because of the durability and defense and, per WAR, he's still average this year which is about the worst the bat can get. But he's got to prove his bat all over again after this debacle too. Rizzo will be entering his age 32 season after next year, nobody's giving him more than 5 years (probably not that many as it stands) even if he does bounce back next year. Schwarber is basically Jay Bruce at this point. Contreras is the real wild card -- the framing issue, the solid but not always spectacular bat, still athletic for a C but 31 when his FA begins.

So plenty of money to spend and they can bring as many of those players as they want. But everything else is pretty disastrous. The Hendricks and Darvish contracts look awesome at the moment but those are the only pitchers they've got. Mills is looking more and more like a solid, cheap 4/5 starter and Wick is having another fine season as a cheap reliever and although his pumpkin will burst sometime soon, I've got no problem bringing Jeffress back next year. But the other 8 spots on the staff over the next three years are completely up in the air and there doesn't seem to be any substantial help in the minors. And even with some bounce-backs and good decision-making on the position player side, there will still be major holes to fill.

So the Cubs can (a) run a very high payroll and maybe win; (b) run a high payroll and be pretty blah; (c) suffer another 2012-14 with at least the advantage that we have some real assets to trade in Darvish and Hendricks and any number of smaller-scale deals we could make this offseason/next deadline for the pending FAs. Or (d) go with (b) and get immensely lucky with a bunch of not-great prospects paying off.

   7. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 21, 2020 at 10:16 PM (#5977992)
On cue, Bryant left tonight's game with an injury.

Frustrating as he is, I was quickly reminded not to read Twitter replies on, well, anyway. Lots of morons calling Bryant "soft." Like, he's injury-prone, yes, but this whole idea of him being soft is kind of outdated. I'd argue him trying to tough it out has actually hurt the team at different times over the years.
   8. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: September 22, 2020 at 05:40 AM (#5978009)
The entire division has been allergic to contact. The Cubs are hitting .224, and that's third among the Central teams, which range between .212 (Reds) and .235 (Cards) (all before yesterday). League average is .244.

It's not as bad if you look at wOBA, but every Central team is still well below the league average of .315.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: September 22, 2020 at 07:33 AM (#5978010)
#8: Interesting. The NLC is getting its butt kicked by the ALC so that might be part of it.

And again there's some weirdness. The Reds are hitting just 225 at home but their opps are only hitting 219 in Cincy; hitting 213 on the road while giving up 200. The Cards are 244/228 but opps are hitting 220/206.

Overall, Cards are 8th in NL in Home BA while the other 4 teams are 12th through 15th ... 8th (Cubs), 10th, 11th, 14th, 15th in road BA ... but also 34d, 4th, 5th and 6th in home BAA and 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th and 11th in road BAA.

So, overall, they are 3 of the 4 worst BA but 4 of the best 5 in BA allowed. Nobody is hitting in NLC games for whatever reason.
   10. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: September 22, 2020 at 07:38 AM (#5978011)
League-wide BA is down 8 points from last year and 4 points from 2018

Geez, 2020 is the new 1968!
   11. John DiFool2 Posted: September 22, 2020 at 09:33 AM (#5978020)
I await next season to avoid all of the SSS/weirdness issues that this season has had, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see these trends continue.

In 10 years there will likely end up being some rather substantial changes made in the way the game is played (vs. all of these mainly cosmetic ones like ghost runners). Do we really want 30% strikeout rates and BA's hovering around .220, 45-50% of all runs scored via homers? Because that's where the game is headed. [says the slowly freezing frog]
   12. Ron J Posted: September 22, 2020 at 10:08 AM (#5978022)
#11 Seems to me that the issue is primarily that there's next to no pacing by pitcher. Go all out until you're out of gas and then bring in the next guy.

I wonder if a less dramatic rule change might work. Was thinking the if a team was only allowed 5 pitchers (And I'm open to a lower number) on an active game day roster (and yes, extra inning are an issue. Maybe allow a designated 6th pitcher in the 10th and one more every two innings)
   13. SoSH U at work Posted: September 22, 2020 at 10:38 AM (#5978026)
#11 Seems to me that the issue is primarily that there's next to no pacing by pitcher. Go all out until you're out of gas and then bring in the next guy.

Seems to me the issue is that pitchers want strikeouts and batters don't care about striking out. As long as you have a situation where the strikeout is an desirable/acceptable outcome to both parties, you're going to have a lot of strikeouts.

   14. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: September 22, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5978032)
the framing issue

He's dramatically improved this season.
   15. Moses Taylor, glorified meat shield Posted: September 22, 2020 at 11:09 AM (#5978033)
Hasn't the popular opinion been that the Cubs can't/won't extend both Javy and Bryant, so they'll eventually need to choose one to let go?

I don't know how popular that is, but it's been floated. Rumors have been they've tried to sign both to extensions before - though Bryant keeps denying that, though he publicly has said he would sign one - and Javy supposedly was closer during first ST this year and it was tabled when the season was delayed and never picked back up. Rizzo has also been very vocal about getting an extension; understandably the Cubs have been somewhat less incentivized to sign him but if the DH is permanent I think that should alleviate some concerns (though like I said before, he misses games every single year with back issues).

Like Walt has said though, a long term Bryant contract is incredibly scary right now. I'm willing to write off a decent amount due to weirdness/SSS, but Bryant is just continuing a downward trend. So while he won't continue to be *this* bad, he will continue to get hurt constantly and have long stretches of ineffectiveness (whether or not that is because he's playing through things he shouldn't, I don't know for sure).

   16. Rally Posted: September 22, 2020 at 11:26 AM (#5978037)
Cubs have scored 3.45 runs per game at home, 5.86 on the road.

Probably a few deadball years where they were worse than that at home, like 3.25 in 1919. Just objecting to the use of only batting average to quantify "worst offensive".
   17. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 22, 2020 at 02:29 PM (#5978052)
So plenty of money to spend and they can bring as many of those players as they want.
Or they could, you know, actually develop some young players so they don’t have to play Aging Free Agent Roulette.
   18. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: September 22, 2020 at 09:55 PM (#5978154)
Another weak offensive night. Who knows how whacky postseason will play out, but this team has the characteristics of a squad that's going to get crushed.

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