The Chicago Cubs and walks have been a problem since last season. Things have changed, but not much has differed from last season.
The Chicago Cubs‘ bullpen and pitching staff as a whole had a problem with walks in 2017. Pitching coach Chris Bosio was fired in place of Jim Hickey as a result. So far in 2018, even in a small sample size, the walks haven’t changed much.
In 2017, the league average walk rate for teams was 8.5%. For the Cubs, it was 9.1%. That ranked seventh in the major leagues. Breaking it down even more, for relievers, the league walk rate was 9.2%. The Cubs were not good here, at 11.2%, which led the major leagues. Starting pitchers had a league walk rate of 8.1%. This one was below league average for the Cubs at 7.7%, good enough for 10th best in the majors. The starting pitching is and has been very good for the Cubs for the duration of the window.
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Walking more than they should
Now in 2018, the league walk rate is 8.8%, and the Cubs are walking an alarming 11.3% of hitters. The starting pitcher walk rate is 8.4%. The Cubs’ is 10.8%. Relievers are walking 9.5% of hitters across the major leagues, and Cubs’ relievers are walking 11.9% of hitters.
Cubs’ pitchers can get by because they don’t give up a lot of contact. But the reverse side is that they throw a lot of pitches because of the walks. Cubs’ relievers are only giving up a .197 batting average against with just a .249 BABIP. The bullpen will get outs, but it may not be without a few baserunners along the way.
The Major League strikeout percentage among all pitching staffs is 22.5%. The Cubs are right at league average in strikeouts, so they are able to compensate a little bit for the walks. It is only May which is way too early to place blame anywhere, and Jim Hickey has a great track record of success in the past.
One thing is true, however, and that is the walks are not a good trend for either group of pitchers, and if the walks keep up like this all year, fans may not be able to point to coaching for much longer.