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Chicago Cubs: Comparing reigning MVP Kris Bryant to his 2016 self

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Apr 10, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) hits an RBI double during the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (17) hits an RBI double during the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant had a stellar season in 2016. For his efforts, he won an MVP award. How does his performance so far in 2017 stack up?

Since making his major league debut on April 17, 2015, Kris Bryant has been a superstar for the Chicago Cubs. In his two full years with the Cubs, Bryant has slashed .284/.377/.522 with 65 home runs and 201 RBI.

Throw in his .900 OPS and 143 OPS+, and it’s no wonder why the 25-year-old has already earned National League Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, respectively.

Now that the 2017 season has progressed into May, we now have a full month of numbers to compare to Bryant’s MVP season. Surprisingly, Bryant’s play in April was very similar over the last two years.

Lets compare:

Batting Average

April 2016 – .289

April 2017 – .289

Home runs

April 2016 – 4

April 2017 – 4

RBI

April 2016 – 15

April 2017 – 14

OBP

April 2016 – .372

April 2017 – .391

Slugging Percentage

April 2016 – .506

April 2017 – .515

OPS

April 2016 – .878

April 2017 – .907

Breaking it all down

As you can see, Bryant is having a very similar beginning of the season in 2017 as he did last year. The reason this is so important is because the Cubs need Bryant to help right the ship. After Wednesday’s 3-0 shutout loss, Chicago sits at .500 on the season (17-17). That is a far cry from the 25-8 mark they posted through 33 games last season.

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While their record does not reflect it, the Cubs’ offense ranks in the top ten in OBP and runs scored. However, that same offense ranks 16th in batting average and 19th in slugging percentage.

Batting average is a category where Kris Bryant has been able to help the Cubs so far this season. After being held hitless in the first three games of the season, Bryant proceeded to hit at a .333 clip to finish the month of April. That is similar to the .316 mark Bryant posted after going 0-for-7 in the first two games of 2016.

Perhaps the most intriguing thing about comparing Bryant’s performance in April is the fact that he walked more this April than he did last year. Bryant drew 16 walks this April compared to nine in 2016. Also on the rise in 2017 was the amount of strikeouts. In April of 2016, Bryant struck out 18 times which is seven less strikeouts than the 25 punch-outs Bryant recorded this past April.

May awaits the young slugger

The calendar has now flipped to May, but that doesn’t mean the Cubs have started to play better. The Cubs are 4-6 in May thus far after going 8-1 through the first nine games of May last season.

Despite the Cubs’ struggles as a team this month, Bryant has put up solid numbers. So far, the reigning MVP is 12-for-33 with three home runs and four RBI. Compare that to Bryant’s first nine games of May last season, and one can see that they are very similar. In those games, Bryant went 12-for-39 with one home run and seven RBI.

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

Through the first 33 games of 2017, Bryant is slashing .301/.405/.549 with seven home runs and 18 RBI. By that standard, Bryant is ahead of where he was this time last season. Through the same amount of games in 2016, Bryant was slashing .285/.367/.477 with five home runs and 22 RBI. While he had more RBI last season, his home run total, batting average, OBP and slugging percentage are all higher.

What this means for Bryant is that he is on pace to eclipse his 39 home runs in 2016 and shatter Fangraphs projections of 33 home runs for the 2017 season.

This is good news for the Cubs as they are looking to ride the NL MVP and others toward another World Series Championship.

Looking Forward

The Chicago Cubs have a stud in Bryant, there is no doubt about it. Even though he got off to a slow start in 2017, the third baseman has rebounded. He has rebounded in such a way that he is on-pace to be better this season than he was last year. That, of course, would potentially mean another MVP honor, and another significant pay raise this offseason.

Yes, 133 at-bats in 2017 is a relatively small sample size, but the same sample size last season proved to be a good indicator of what to expect from the young third baseman.

Even if the Cubs have a disappointing year in 2017 (I am not panicking, just simply throwing out an idea), one thing will be certain. That is the fact that Kris Bryant will always be around to post great numbers and compete for many different pieces of hardware.

I think Bryant would be the first to tell you that he doesn’t really care about his numbers as much as he cares about the performance of his team. Right now, that performance is lacking, but with the help of their star, that could change in a hurry.

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