Heading into this weekend’s series, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs have shown very different trends and tendencies in 2017.
It’s safe to say the first six weeks of the Chicago Cubs’ 2017 season hasn’t gone exactly as planned. The team enters this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals at 17-17, two games back in the NL Central.
St. Louis, meanwhile, leads the division – due largely to a six-game winning streak entering Friday’s opener. The Cardinals’ starter tonight, Mike Leake, is a perfect 6-for-6 in quality starts this year and will look to continue that streak against Chicago in front of the home faithful.
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Looking just at the difference in records (19-14 against 17-17), one would likely draw a few conclusions. Initially, I assumed the Cardinals probably scored more runs than the Cubs (it takes runs to win, right?)
Chicago has outscored their division-rival by a 57-46 margin so far this season. By most measures, the Cubs actually rank ahead of St. Louis (runs, hits, RBI, OBP).
But neither team has been an offensive juggernaut over the season’s first month. The Cubs are plagued by a .240 average and a disappointing clip with runners in scoring position.
Cardinals’ pitching has an early advantage
The Cardinals, meanwhile, have faced similar struggles, batting just .236 as a team with RISP. (Compare that to the Cubs’ .220 mark). The biggest problem for Chicago pitching, or at least one of their issues, comes in the form of a .256 opponent average in similar situations.
Cubs pitching has been shelled in the first inning on a near-daily basis. Chris Bosio‘s starting rotation has pitched to a 4.56 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 34 games to-date. Former staff leader Jake Arrieta (5.35 ERA) has been one of the biggest disappointments this year, struggling badly for nearly the entire season.
After sending Brett Anderson to the 10-day disabled list, Chicago taps right-hander Eddie Butler in Friday’s opener. The high-upside arm, acquired this offseason, makes his first Cubs start in enemy territory. He dominated at Triple-A Iowa, pitching to a 1.17 ERA in five starts.
If Butler helps shore up the rotation, the Cubs take a big step toward getting back to playing consistent baseball. The offense, while at times erratic, is averaging 4.88 runs per game.
The Cardinals’ bats are very evenly matched, coming in at 4.66 runs per contest, according to Team Rankings.
While any Cubs fans heading down south for this weekend’s series will surely be harangued and harassed about the current standings, one thing is abundantly clear. The slimmest of margins currently separate these two clubs.
Chicago must get better starting pitching, especially from Arrieta, and come through in the clutch. St. Louis, meanwhile, hopes to keep riding their strong pitching to another deep October run.