Chicago Cubs: Kris Bryant’s new role in the lineup
Before injuries challenged the depth of the Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant was posting MVP numbers batting third. Now, his role has changed. Is it the best thing for the team?
Before the start of the 2016 season, Chicago Cubs third basemen Kris Bryant spent time working on his swing. In an article written by Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Bryant said that he was altering his swing in hopes of striking out less. He led the National League with 199 strikeouts in his rookie campaign. Bryant said that his swing angle “was too steep,” and that was his “downfall” as a player.
Well, it worked. His performance is the model of consistency. Or, at least he was in the first half of the season. It has truly been a tale of two halves for Bryant regarding his power this year. Let’s dive into the numbers.
The season started off a bit quiet for Kris Bryant, even with the Chicago Cubs performing so well. In April, he batted .289 with four home runs, 15 runs batted in, and 17 runs scored. May was a bit better, going .274, seven homers, 22 RBI, and 20 runs.
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In June, Bryant hit full stride. Even though he averaged .275, his other number increased to the tune of 11 homers, 23 RBI, and 25 runs scored. Going into the All-Star Break, Bryant was a top candidate for the National League MVP.
Now, there are a couple of reasons for this success early in the season. First of all, when center fielder Dexter Fowler was healthy, his on-base percentage was .398, and he hit 19 doubles. This was during the first half of the season.
Jason Heyward had an OBP of .331 in the first half as well, but if he did not get on, Fowler usually moved over a base. Bryant was in the third slot in the order, and he took advantage.
With a runner on first and less than two outs this season, Bryant is hitting .306. He has 30 hits, 17 walks, has scored 35 runs, and knocked in 30. Let that sink in for a second. He has been on base 47 times in this situation and scored 35 runs. Insane numbers.
Here is another. Runner on third and less than two outs? Bryant hits .381, with 16 runs batted in and 25 runs scored. Not bad considering this has happened only 25 times all season. In all, when Bryant is batting third in the order, his average is .276, with 50 RBI, 49 runs scored.
After Fowler went down, Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon started adjusting the lineup. He needed someone to spark the lineup. Several players filled that role, and Bryant moved up to the second spot. His numbers? Not the same but, quite possibly, better in some regards.
Since moving up in the order, his average has moved up as well. In July, Bryant has a .308 batting average, but only four home runs and eight runs batted in. His slugging went down from .686 in June, to .500 in July. Yet, he still managed to score 20 runs.
Overall, when Kris Bryant bats second, he has done well. He is getting on base more often, which has allowed Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell to push him to the plate. While his power numbers are down, his runs remain consistent. Maddon saw the work Bryant put in over the offseason and trusts him to move runners over and get on base.
Oh, and the strikeouts? They are down a bit this year.