In both wins and losses recently, the Chicago Cubs’ offense has scored a lot of runs after the seventh inning. Is this a concerning trend moving forward?
The motto etched into the World Series championship rings is once again ringing true for the Chicago Cubs: ‘We Never Quit.’
On a near-daily basis, Chicago seems to put up runs in the late frames, even making losses interesting for fans and nerve-wracking for opponents. First baseman Anthony Rizzo has played a critical role lately, headlined by his two-out, ninth-inning three-run blast over the weekend against the Reds.
In reality, it’s been following the same formula that’s led to the team’s success in the past: see a lot of pitches and draw walks. The team leads the NL in walks past the seventh inning this season.
The difference in the past week? Clutch at-bats. Those big hits that were missing early in April seem to be coming more regularly now, thanks to Rizzo, who’s batting .385 with his club trailing and Miguel Montero, who actually leads the team with a .471 clip in such situations.
Entering play Monday against Pittsburgh, the Cubs rank fourth in the National League in runs scored in the seventh inning or later. While this is promising in the sense the team truly never lies over and plays dead like past Cubs’ teams seemed to, it represents a weak link in the team’s armor.
Early and often a better recipe
Chicago enters the Steel City at 10-8, good enough for first in the National League Central. That being said, that record is the worst among division leaders not only in the NL, but across all of Major League Baseball.
Let’s take a look at the teams some of the best records in baseball: the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros
Colorado, a club shockingly leading the National League West early on, ranks dead-last in the league in late-inning tallies. In 19 games, the Rockies have scored just 16 runs past the sixth. Even more concerning for that team is the .163 average late in ballgames. At that pace, it’s hard to imagine they hold onto a division lead for much longer.
Still, it shows the power of getting an early edge over an opponent. This team scores less than a run per game in the last three innings, yet owns one of the highest winning percentages in the big leagues.
Houston, on the other hand, relies on an approach similar to Chicago. The team leads the entire American League with 40 runs late. When the daylight wanes in games, the Astros tear the cover off the ball, hitting over .300 as a team.
No right way to win?
It’s still early in the year and any trends are probably premature to chalk up as hard evidence.
But, still. Thinking the Cubs can’t win scoring late isn’t necessarily true. But giving starters some cushion to work off will only lessen the stress throughout the regular season. It’s hard to quantify what this means to a team, but down the stretch, it could be huge.
For now, take solace in the fact the offense is finally scoring some runs. Against the Reds this weekend, Chicago threw up 23 runs – a far cry from the disappointing showings we saw earlier this month.
Let’s just enjoy the clutch hitting. Sooner or later, the offense will be more consistent – and once they do, this team will roll.