Chicago Cubs: Ben Zobrist shows positive flashes in season debut

(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /

Ben Zobrist looked solid at the plate Friday night, a positive sign considering he struggled offensively in 2017 due to a wrist injury.

It is no secret that Ben Zobrist was not himself at the plate in 2017. After a stellar 2016 debut campaign with the Chicago Cubs, Zobrist regressed tremendously in year two on the North Side.

In 2016, Zobrist hit .272 in 147 games/523 at-bats, hitting 18 home runs with 76 RBI and an .831 OPS. Of course, he made the All Star team and helped the Cubs win the World Series, earning the MVP honors in the Fall Classic.

Tough second year on the North Side

2017 was far less kind to Zobrist at the plate, as he hit just .232 in 128 games/435 at-bats. His home run and RBI total decreased to 12 and 50, respectively. Furthermore, his OPS dipped to .693, which is even more troublesome.

In his defense, the switch-hitting Zobrist was hampered by a left wrist injury for much of the 2017 season. The injury impacted his ability to hit well right-handed, which is evident when comparing his splits.

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Zobrist hit just .179 in 106 at-bats against left-handed pitchers compared to .249 in 329 at-bats against righties. While the sample size as a right-handed hitter is small, his numbers speak for themselves.

Exit velocity down

The effects of Zobrist’s wrist injury are also evident when looking at his exit-velocity averages from 2016 and 2017. By comparing his exit-velocity from both sides of the plate in 2016 and 2017, it is clear that Zobrist made less hard contact in 2017.

Making contact with the ball in general became tough for Zobrist due to his wrist injury. From Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune:

"Perhaps Zobrist’s biggest mistake was trying to play through the wrist injury he suffered on a swing against left-hander Alex Wood of the Dodgers on May 26. But the pain became so acute that Zobrist was forced to attempt a bunt with runners on first and third with no one out in the fifth inning against the Rockies on June 9."

Solid results in Zobrist game No. 1

Bunting with two on and nobody out is as clear as it gets: Zobrist’s injury made him a different player. One should not put too much stock into one game. However, Zobrist looked great in his season debut Friday night.

In a 17-inning loss to the Miami Marlins, Zobrist went 3-for-7. He doubled in his first at-bat, just missing a home run by a couple of feet.

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Such a hit is a great sign for the Cubs regardless, of course. Zobrist driving the ball to the fence right-handed is even better. The Cubs should have a potent offense this season; adding a healthy Zobrist into the mix makes them even better.