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Chicago Cubs: Examining Addison Russell’s slow start

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Apr 23, 2017; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell hits an RBI single against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning 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 shortstop Addison Russell hits an RBI single against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at Great American Ball Park. The Reds won 7-5. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell has struggled at times during the early goings of 2017. We dig beyond the numbers and explain why he’ll be fine.

Already into his third MLB season, Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell has begun to establish himself across baseball as a premier shortstop from the defensive aspect of the game.

His offensive prowess has yet to reach the potential he has exhibited through stretches in his young career.

Still, Russell has shown the knack for power such as during last year’s World Series.

As the offensive struggles for the Cubs well-documented, Addison Russell could be a microcosm for the team’s successes and struggles, specifically from April into May.

For the month of May, Russell is only hitting .150. The Cubs, as a team, are hitting .213 in May, the second-worst in MLB only ahead of Pittsburgh. In April, the Cubs hit .255, the eighth-best in MLB and Addison Russell was hitting .258.

Among the prime candidates for the team to rebound offensively, how does the start of this season compare to the beginning of 2016?

Russell’s 2016 versus 2017

Through Russell’s first 36 games of 2016, the shortstop hit .241 with 28 runs driven in. Interestingly enough, his offensive numbers across the board into 2016 and 2017, during the same stretch of games, very nearly mirror one another.

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This includes plate appearances, (2016: 153, 2017: 150), at-bats (130, 137) and hits (32, 31). He has struck out fewer times than 2016 but walked less in 2017.

So what could be contributing to Russell’s struggles in 2017?

Joe Maddon has routinely hit Russell higher in the batting order, thus increasing his opportunities in all situations since making his debut in 2015. In 43 plate appearances, Russell has hit in the cleanup spot. He’s seen the most action from the fifth spot through 21 games this season.

He’s done a decent of job of not expanding his strike zone, keeping his O-swing percentage at 26.1 percent. This is slightly better than league average (29.8 percent) and compared to last season through the first 36 games (27.1 percent).

With increased responsibility in the batting order comes making the necessary adjustments against pitchers and how they plan to attack the hitter.

Hitting higher in the lineup and in the middle of the batting order with more frequency, Russell figures to see higher leverage situations more often.

Russell has also dealt with his sore right shoulder the past week. It has kept him out of games and may have attributed to his struggles.

Russell on track

Through it all, Russell’s numbers are on par with his 2016 numbers. His end of season numbers figures to be in-line with his career averages.

As the Chicago Cubs come off a nine-run outburst against the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night, including Russell’s third home run of the season, both could be breaking out into a good stretch.

It won’t be surprising to see Addison Russell fueling the charge.

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