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Chicago Cubs: Even at 5 runs per game, they’re leaving too many on base

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Apr 23, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo prepares in the dugout at the beginning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 7-5. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo prepares in the dugout at the beginning of a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 7-5. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Cubs know how to score, but their tendency to leave a few too many runners on base has hurt them so far this season.

There are many indicators of what separates a good offense from a bad one. One of the most practical is how many times a team can get on base during a game. Because unless you’re hitting homer after homer, you have to hit with runners on base to score. So far this season, the Chicago Cubs haven’t had any trouble in that department.

The team currently sits at No. 2 in the league in collective on-base percentage (OBP) with a .344 mark, just behind the Washington Nationals. With players like Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist – players with a good batting eye and can work a walk – it’s no wonder that the team is scoring just over five runs a game.

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However, that number should arguably be even higher. While the Cubs may get on base just fine, at times they struggle to get the runners across home plate. According to Team Rankings, a sports statistic website, the team is leading the league in runners left on base per game, stranding 7.86 per contest.

Cubs in rare air with LOB

Yesterday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team left 13 runners on, including six in the first two innings. It can be very frustrating to get that many runners on and still lose, as baseball analyst Scott Lindholm points out.

Better teams are going to get more runners on base simply because they possess better players. The Cubs led the league in the same stat last year, with the two teams in last being San Diego and Cincinnati, clubs with porous offenses.

It’s common sense to want to have a bunch of baserunners a game because that means you’re putting yourself in a position to score, and while the Cubs are scoring runs just fine, their inability to get that big hit is costing them games.

Yesterday’s game is the perfect example. The team loaded the bases in both the first two innings and only scored once. In the 9th they were down one and had runners on 1st and 2nd with one out and couldn’t come through. Another game with the Pirates two weeks ago had the Cubs load the bases the final two innings, and both times they couldn’t score.

When you win, it doesn’t matter how many runners you leave on base. When you lose, however, the number of men stranded can be a painful, almost haunting figure to look at.

In their nine losses, the team left 7.67 men on base per game, which means they certainly had opportunities to come away with the win, but couldn’t quite get that clutch base knock when it mattered most.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Cubs aren’t clutch. The team has a number of wins when down late in the game, and just last night Rizzo hit a two-run homer in the eighth to cut the deficit to one. The team will always be in the game; it’s just a matter of execution.

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Leading the league in runners left on base is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it signifies that you’re getting on base at an elite rate. On the other hand, it says that you’re wasting more opportunities than anyone else.

Of course, it’s preposterous to expect every runner that reaches to score, but we’ve seen multiple times this season games that the Cubs seemingly should’ve won squandered because of missed chances. Let’s hope the trend doesn’t continue.

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