Throughout his Rookie of the Year and MVP seasons for the Chicago Cubs in 2015 and 2016, the focus of the media was centered around Kris Bryant and his early success. But after another great year in 2017, Bryant is off to perhaps the best start of his career in 2018.
As unbelievable as it may seem, Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant may still be underrated.
The young slugger is generally looked at as one of the game’s superstars, alongside big names like Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. However, ever since his MVP season in 2016, it seems that his success has somehow still been somewhat underplayed.
Almost two months into the season, Bryant is currently batting .301 with 22 RBI, eight home runs and 25 strikeouts. He has been the Cubs most consistent hitter so far this season. Bryant leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
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Not only that, but Bryant has been off to a hot start this season. Early last season, his numbers were down. Many complained that his inability to drive in runs was a significant factor in the Cubs early struggles. Still, Bryant ultimately ended the 2017 season with MVP caliber numbers: .295 BA, .409 OBP, .537 SLG and .946 OPS.
But now, about a quarter of the way through the 2018 season, Bryant is off to perhaps the best start of his career, as he is exceeding past results in several different categories.
Bryant is batting .301 through the first two months of the season. At the end of May in 2017, his average was at .269. At the end of May 2016, Bryant was batting .274. Thus, he is having even more success at the plate early in the season than in past years, including his 2016 MVP season. Of course, there is a good chance he will regress at some point in the season, but at least now, he is on pace for his best season at the plate.
Bryant is hitting for power well in 2018, as well. As of May 18, Bryant has eight home runs. At the end of May 2017, Bryant had only hit seven home runs. Thus, he already surpassed that early total. In 2016, he tallied 11 home runs by the end of May. It is conceivable that he could exceed that total as well, or at least match it in the last week of May.
Perhaps the most impressive statistic for Bryant is his strikeout total this season. As of May 18, Bryant has struck out only 25 times this season. By the end of both May 2016 and May 2017, he had already tallied 46 strikeouts. With only one week left in May, it is very unlikely that he even nears that total. Bryant has come a long way from his rookie season, during which he struck out nearly 200 times.
With a lower strikeout total generally comes a higher contact percentage, and in Bryant’s case, that is no different. So far this season, his contact percentage is at 82 percent. Bryant has improved steadily in this category each year of his career.
If the season ended today, he would have the highest contact percentage of his career by far. In 2015, he finished the season at 66.3 percent; in 2016, 73.0 percent; and in 2017,77.4 percent. Bryant’s ability to adapt and improve at the plate to reduce his strikeouts and increase his contact percentage proves how good of a hitter he really is.
Kris Bryant is certainly seen as one of the best players in the game by most baseball minds. But a closer look at his statistics reveals that he may be even better than he gets credit for. He is off to an exceptional start offensively in 2018, and if he continues on his current pace, he could find himself in the MVP conversation once again.