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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Why the Cubs’ awful offense could trigger full rebuild if downward trend continues this summer

As a team, the Cubs have a 66 OPS+. For those not very familiar with the stat, that means if you lump their on-base percentage and slugging percentage together, adjusting for ballpark and league context, they are collectively 34 percent worse than a league average hitter. ...

Now, here’s where we talk about small samples and how it’s early and all that. The problem is that this isn’t new. The Cubs won the NL Central last year, but they hit .220/.318/.387 as a team with mostly the same personnel (swapping out Kyle Schwarber for Pederson isn’t a huge difference, skill-set-wise). Sure, there was lots of context behind that, including that it was only a 60-game season during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

If we looped that back in, though, we’re now talking about a 70-game sample with pretty terrible offense. Back another year, one of the complaints about the Cubs from 2019 was too much boom-and-bust. That was, they’d go a stretch scoring little or no runs and then would explode and it would make their overall stats a bit deceptively good. Well, the boom is gone now. In 10 games, the Cubs have scored this many runs per game, sorted by most to least: 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1, 0.

Unable to string hits together, four of those runs have come on sac flies while 14 of their 29 runs have come on home runs. Ross pointed out after Monday’s loss they seem to be too offensively-reliant on the home run, but the problem with the home runs isn’t necessarily the percentage. It’s that 10 of their 12 home runs have been solo shots. No one is ever on base. If there was more traffic, those 12 homers might’ve resulted in something like 20 runs and they could be 6-4 or even 7-3 right now.

Instead, this has all the makings of a pretty terrible offense, baking in the context of how their six games against the Pirates’ went.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 15, 2021 at 11:48 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs

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   1. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: April 16, 2021 at 12:12 AM (#6013740)
I see that Schwarber would be leading the team in slugging, OPS, OBP, homers, and RBI.

But yeah, this offense looks really horrific and based on last season, I'm not sure we can expect THAT much of a spike as the season continues. Long days ahead.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: April 16, 2021 at 12:45 AM (#6013746)
For those not very familiar with the stat, that means if you lump their on-base percentage and slugging percentage together, adjusting for ballpark and league context, they are collectively 34 percent worse than a league average hitter. ...

Nope. About 17 percent. Regardless of level of familiarity with the stat.

I see that Schwarber would be leading the team in slugging, OPS, OBP, homers, and RBI.

Today's 0-4 (of his 14 PA) took care of that.
   3. Brian C Posted: April 16, 2021 at 02:11 AM (#6013749)
I feel like there has to be something organizationally amiss with this franchise. It seems like offense just gets worse and worse over time - players join the team and get worse, players that were already here get worse, coaches come and go and things get worse, and so forth. There's something wrong here with the organizational approach, somewhere.

Frankly I think that team-wide the approach is terrible. Way too many guys confusing passiveness with patience - take strike one down the middle, take strike two down the middle, and then they seem to hope that the pitcher starts nibbling and walks them. Early on during a broadcast they showed that the Cubs had the highest percentage of PA last season that went to 2 strikes, and that's just no way to be successful no matter how willing you are to take a walk. I'd really like to see more early-count aggression from guys not named Javier Baez. Too many pitchers seem to take it for granted that a bunch of guys in the lineup are going to take it easy early in the count - Happ is a particularly bad offender here - I really can't stand to watch him hit - but Rizzo does a lot of this too. Bote and even Bryant also, although I'm inclined to lay off of Bryant for now because he's actually been not-awful. This is how you end up with a team BA of .163 but with a relatively high (under the circumstances) .254 team OBP.

One of the things that really annoyed me was Bote winning the 2B job over Hoerner. Sure sure, I know Hoerner was horrific last season, but he's the closest thing the Cubs have to what they need - a contact(ish) hitter who can possibly put up a decent batting average and generally make pitchers change up their approach at least once each time through the order (the "OK just throw a bunch of #### in the dirt" change of approach to Baez doesn't count). Maybe it wouldn't work out, but Bote is very obviously what he is at this point - a reasonably decent player to have off the bench but way out of his depth as a starter. If Hoerner fails, he fails, but I can't understand not giving him the shot.

I'm just sad that the team that was so much fun to watch a few years ago has turned into this. They're like a bad parody of ca. 2001 sabermetric concepts.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: April 16, 2021 at 02:44 AM (#6013752)
Oh yeah, team crappiness, forgot about that bit.

Agree with Brian -- there's something wrong somewhere. I'm willing to believe that having all guys being TTO is a sum less than its parts but it's got to be more than that. Did Heyward catch some sort of anti-OPS virus in the 2015-16 offseason and it's slowly spread over the last 5 seasons?

Early on during a broadcast they showed that the Cubs had the highest percentage of PA last season that went to 2 strikes

Would like to see this broken down before putting too much stock into it (not asking you to do it). I'm pretty sure it's bad but if, say, those extra 2-strike counts were largely 3-2 counts, maybe that's not as bad as it sounds. Or if counts went from 0-1 to 2-2 more often, maybe that's OK. If we had more 0-2 counts or more that went from 3-0 and 3-1 to 3-2 than anybody, that sounds like a big problem.

If memory serves I also saw a factoid cited somewhere that we had the worst swing & miss on pitches in the zone than anybody ... or it might have been less contact which could be a mix of passivity and swing & miss.

Anyway, right now we just have such amazingly bad numbers we have to assume things will get much better. I mean the team BABIP is 198 -- that's simply not possible, less believable than covid. Team K rate is 29.4%. And it's not like we've been facing the elite pitching staffs.

As to the article -- the headline quesiton is pretty obvious. If the offense doesn't get itself straightened out, we'll be lucky to be playing 400 ball by summer. And half the roster are FAs at year's end. Problem is, most of those guys are currently hitting .150 with a 30% K-rate so who's buying what we'll be selling (if the offense doesn't improve). If this keeps up, Hendricks and Contreras are the only real assets we have left. (Sure a half-season of Bryant.)
   5. The Duke Posted: April 16, 2021 at 08:43 AM (#6013760)
They are 5-7 during what will surely be their worst hitting stretch of the year. That’s not bad
   6. Charles S. is not doing chainsaw bears any more Posted: April 16, 2021 at 11:40 AM (#6013780)
They are 5-7 during what will surely be their worst hitting stretch of the year.

You're probably right, but I'm having trouble sharing your confidence. And even if this is their worst stretch, they will likely have some better stretches that still suck pretty bad.
   7. Brian C Posted: April 16, 2021 at 01:57 PM (#6013812)
Would like to see this broken down before putting too much stock into it

Agreed in principle, and I wouldn't say that it explains everything of course. But it sure seems to fit my eye test of what we're seeing - pitchers are just having too easy of a time getting themselves into favorable positions against virtually everyone in the lineup.
   8. Moses Taylor hashes out the rumpus Posted: April 16, 2021 at 02:47 PM (#6013826)
Sure sure, I know Hoerner was horrific last season, but he's the closest thing the Cubs have to what they need - a contact(ish) hitter who can possibly put up a decent batting average and generally make pitchers change up their approach at least once each time through the order (the "OK just throw a bunch of #### in the dirt" change of approach to Baez doesn't count). Maybe it wouldn't work out, but Bote is very obviously what he is at this point - a reasonably decent player to have off the bench but way out of his depth as a starter. If Hoerner fails, he fails, but I can't understand not giving him the shot.

There's absolutely no logical reason to be so confident on Bote or hang so much on Nico as a real help.

Bote for his major league career was hitting .240/.338/.406 in 711PAs coming into this year.
Nico for his major league career is hitting .247/.309/.333 in 208PAs.

Bote has obviously been terrible this year, but he has never had a starting job before or consistent playing time (maybe for a good reason), but this is a hill that doesn't make any sense to me.

---

Your overall larger point stands - and my counter to Duke 5-7 comment - is that this is virtually the same exact offense for the last 3+ years (or since Theo called the offense "broken"). Something is fundamentally wrong, and changing hitting coaches again ain't the answer.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 16, 2021 at 02:53 PM (#6013829)
They are 5-7 during what will surely be their worst hitting stretch of the year. That’s not bad

And even more lucky that CIN is only 7-5 despite a 120 OPS+.
   10. dejarouehg Posted: April 16, 2021 at 03:23 PM (#6013839)
This is just a continuation of the putrescence that's been going on for a few years. As a team, the remind me of Kevin McReynolds with the Mets;do nothing for a a bunch of days and then have a big day that obfuscates the lack of impact. May the Cubs breakout for 2-3 games where they score 25 runs. Their overall offensive stats will be skewed but they'll still be incredibly flawed.

They'll be overly susceptible to falling behind in counts and then chasing pitches low and away.

As much as I love El Mago, I would never commit any significant amount of money to him. I have no faith he will ever come close to what he was with the bat. No discipline.

Was there any realistic scenario where they weren't heading into a re-building mode? To me, it's more about the fact that they might not chase after any of the big 3 free agents and that would constitute a surprise.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: April 16, 2021 at 06:57 PM (#6013893)
Stolen from today's chatter: coming into today's games, the Cubs were 7-for-82 with RISP. Today didn't help that stat.

It's certainly true the Cubs are lucky to only be 5-7 (now 5-8). But 6 of those 12 games were against Pitt. And the disastrous offense didn't start until game 5. So we started 3-1 and have now gone 2-7 since then averaging less than 2 runs per game. We got two really well-pitched games in that stretch (4-2 and 3-2 wins).

Sure, as I said, it can't continue being this bad ... unless we sell everybody off quickly. But by the time the offense straightens itself out to maybe be league average will be dropping back towards the league bottome where they probably belong. This was always a reasonably likely outcome for this team -- it's cobbled together hoping to catch a bit of luck to win baseball's weakest division. We knew coming into the season that Bote, Sogard, Heyward, Pederson, Happ, Alzolay, Williams, Arrieta and everybody in the bullpen except maybe Kimbrel are somewhere between fungible and average-ish.

We're probably down in the 5th percentile at the moment but even if we get back to expectation that's a mediocre team ... which, fair enough, in this division and our lucky 5-8 start could still pull it off.

And there's no future in this team. The Cubs have just 3 guaranteed contracts going into next year (Hendricks, Heyward, Bote). We have options on 5 players (Arrieta so far so good, Kimbrel no chance, Chafin, Marisnick, Pederson). We have 7 players in arb -- Contreras (1 left), Happ (2 left) and fungible guys we pulled off the non-tender pile (Tony Wolters, Rex Brothers, etc). The only guys on this team I fully expect to be on next year's team are Heyward, Bote, Happ ... and I'm sure they'd trade Happ for a solid offer.

Financial flexibility is great if you've got a bunch of established and emerging young talent. And I suppose if the only way you can contend is to buy a bunch of FAs, you want financial flexibility -- it's just unlikely to work and you'll be out of flexibility quickly. Instead, we're just headed to some very, very bad seasons.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: April 16, 2021 at 07:07 PM (#6013894)
As much as I love El Mago, I would never commit any significant amount of money to him.

Depends how significant. I agree he's lost offensively right now (21 Ks and 1 BB in 47 PAs is inexcusable) and all of 2020 too. But he may be the best defensive player in the game right now (maybe Andrelton) and that's worth something. I'll guesstimate the defense should be a good bet for the next 4-5 years so I'd probably be OK for up to 5/$75 or something. But I agree you don't pay him like "30 HR GG SS" which sounds like 8/$240.
   13. The Duke Posted: April 16, 2021 at 09:17 PM (#6013917)
What’s also missing is that there are four other bad teams in the division and someone has to win it. At this point I think the brewers are the team to beat. The cardinals are trying to win with old retreads like carpenter, Martinez, Miller, wainwright and Molina. Most, if not all, will disappear next year. The reds have no depth and lost a lot of pitching. The pirates have nothing. The brewers have a couple good pitchers which probably gives them an advantage.

Next year it’s possible all five teams could look like the 2021 pirates. The cardinals have a good mix of players so maybe they are the favorites in 2022 but in any division they would be under .500 in 2022.

The Cubs don’t have to do too much to stay relevant.
   14. Brian C Posted: April 16, 2021 at 11:04 PM (#6013933)
As a team, the remind me of Kevin McReynolds with the Mets;do nothing for a a bunch of days and then have a big day that obfuscates the lack of impact.

Alas, even this seems optimistic at this point. If they find a way to make the overall stats look respectable with a couple of big games, that would be a huge improvement.
The Cubs don’t have to do too much to stay relevant.

Challenge accepted, apparently.
   15. dejarouehg Posted: April 17, 2021 at 08:51 AM (#6013948)
Next year it’s possible all five teams could look like the 2021 pirates. The cardinals have a good mix of players so maybe they are the favorites in 2022 but in any division they would be under .500 in 2022. The Cubs don’t have to do too much to stay relevant.


I believe a lot of people, myself included, have underestimated the Reds.

As for the Cubs possibly staying relevant because they have the potential to end up being the best of a bad lot, what good is that? So you may make the playoffs and then get your doors blown off? That's NBA nonsense and the reason so much of their playoffs are a charade.

Regardless of the sport, I think a team should have to have a .500 record to make the playoffs. And if your division doesn't have one, then the team with the next best record from any other division that didn't make the playoffs should make it.

The incredibly rare occasion (from NBA, at least) where an 8 seed beats a 1 seed doesn't justify the torpor that is ordinarily the early rounds of playoffs.

I know I'm a get off my lawn guy, but the September/playoff excitement was incredible when it was 4 divisions and 4 playoff teams. (Then again, everything seems to be better when you were a kid.)
   16. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: April 17, 2021 at 04:06 PM (#6014016)
As for the Cubs possibly staying relevant because they have the potential to end up being the best of a bad lot, what good is that? So you may make the playoffs and then get your doors blown off? That's NBA nonsense and the reason so much of their playoffs are a charade.

The MLB and NBA playoffs could not be more different. It is outright common for a great MLB team to lose to a notably worse team in a best-of-5 or best-of-7 series; you can find examples as recently as 2019, with the 93-win Nationals beating the 106-win Dodgers and 107-win Astros on the way to the title. In 2017, the 91-win Yankees beat 102-win Cleveland and pushed the 101-win Astros to 7 games. 2014 had an 88-win team beating an 89-win team in the World Series, with both of them having upset teams at least 8 wins better along the way.

I wish it wasn't like this, but there is definitely more opportunity to make a deep postseason run as a mediocre team in MLB than in the NBA.
   17. Howie Menckel Posted: April 17, 2021 at 04:17 PM (#6014020)
May the Cubs breakout for 2-3 games where they score 25 runs. Their overall offensive stats will be skewed but they'll still be incredibly flawed.

"The first item of your order has been delivered. Thank you for your business."
   18. dejarouehg Posted: April 17, 2021 at 04:19 PM (#6014021)
I wish it wasn't like this, but there is definitely more opportunity to make a deep postseason run as a mediocre team in MLB than in the NBA.


Of course that general point is correct. But it doesn't take into account that in the playoffs, it's about pitching. The Nats were not a huge upset with their pitching and the 107 win Astros were also the beneficiary of a lousy division. I think the Marlins teams are better examples.

Regardless, today is the Cubs offense version of, "even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut." Hopefully it's more than that.
   19. Howie Menckel Posted: April 17, 2021 at 05:04 PM (#6014035)
Snowplows on the Coors Field turf have removed the offending white stuff, and the Mets and Rockies will try to play two.

once went to Denver in mid-April and it snowed 10 inches.
went back the following January - and it was 72 degrees.

Colorado is a funny state like that.
   20. Voodoo Posted: April 17, 2021 at 06:12 PM (#6014048)
19: wrong thread?
   21. gef the talking mongoose, peppery hostile Posted: April 17, 2021 at 06:59 PM (#6014067)
Howie believes, of course, that all threads should receive identical treatment.
   22. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: April 17, 2021 at 10:02 PM (#6014085)
Of course that general point is correct. But it doesn't take into account that in the playoffs, it's about pitching.

You mean like the 83-win '06 Cardinals, who beat the 97-win Mets and 95-win Tigers with a team ERA+ of 98? Three of their five World Series games were started by pitchers who had ERAs over 5 that season. (Weaver and Reyes pitched well in the Series itself, but they weren't particularly good pitchers overall; they just had good games at the right time. Which, again, can happen to any team that squeaks into the playoffs.)
   23. Brian C Posted: April 18, 2021 at 01:12 PM (#6014127)
Well, I don't think anyone would seriously argue that lesser teams can't win playoff series or even a championship if things break their way. But you have to understand why fans - and especially Cubs fans - would chafe at the implication that mediocrity is good enough because hey, maybe you can get lucky. This was the org's M.O. for decades under Tribune ownership, and we were promised that it was over when the Ricketts hired Theo to run things.

And then for awhile, it was over! The front office spent years building a core that was designed to be competitive over the long term, and chased some big free agents to plug the holes. But now we're stuck right where we were just over a decade ago - a mediocre, aging team that nonetheless is sort of expensive, not much in the farm system, and a general sense that the best we can hope for is for things to break right so maybe we can back into a playoff spot.

I don't think any of us really expected that what the Ricketts actually meant was "we'll do our best ... for a little while and then screw it." Especially since they told us that all the stuff they were doing - the Wrigelyville buildup, park renovations, Marquee Network - was to put them in a position to remain dominant on the field. So on top of the general inanity of being content to shoot for mediocrity, there's a history here that makes it just annoying to be told not to complain because the rest of the division sucks too.
   24. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: April 19, 2021 at 10:05 AM (#6014234)
Oh, absolutely; I am not without frustration regarding the last 3-4 Cub seasons (although I would be much angstier about it if not for 2016). My comments were meant as a specific response to the comparison of the lower seeds in the MLB and NBA playoffs, not as a general exoneration of the team's management approach.
   25. dejarouehg Posted: April 20, 2021 at 03:23 PM (#6014466)
An ESPN article on the Cubs hitting.

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/31291281/scouts-opposing-pitchers-why-cubs-hit
   26. sunday silence (again) Posted: April 21, 2021 at 10:45 AM (#6014625)

Depends how significant. I agree he's lost offensively right now (21 Ks and 1 BB in 47 PAs is inexcusable) and all of 2020 too.


I dont get this. YOu wrote a 900 word essay on why 500 AB is not enuf to draw any conclusions off of in the BUxton thread. As of today BRef shows Baez w/ 282 AB total from this year and last. Arent you a bit inconsistent here?

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