Recipe for Success
The case has been made that both offense and pitching have not been terribly off target. So the question remains: what factor most consistently governs Cubs on-the-field performance?
In a word, defense.
Let’s start with the obvious. It’s no secret that Albert Almora’s insertion into centerfield dramatically increased the team’s defensive efficiency. His glove work has been otherworldly. Even looking past his ever-growing highlight reel of running, diving, and leaping catches, analytically he is arguably one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball thus far. He covers more ground than all but two outfielders, and he combines athleticism with a strong, accurate throwing arm.
Perennial defensive stalwarts Rizzo and Jason Heyward have been their usual Gold Glove selves. Addison Russell continues to prove himself as one of the very best defensive shortstops in all of baseball. He’ssecond only to Cleveland’s Lindor in defensive wins above replacement at his position to this point in 2018. The effervescent Javier Baez has been his usual self as well; breathtakingly adroit in the field but prone to errors triggered by throwing from crazy angles after chasing down balls he had no business getting to. We’ll take that with Javy…it’s part of his charm.
At catcher, Contreras is as good as it gets, although his propensity to missile balls at infielders can rub a guy the wrong way from time to time. Bryant and Kyle Schwarber have been the weak links defensively, but both have started to come around of late. Apart from a forgettable play or two, neither have been complete disasters.