Chicago Cubs: A look at the 2018 season one quarter of the way through

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

It’s been an interesting season so far. It might also surprise you that the Chicago Cubs are ahead of their pace for 2017.

*This piece was done prior to the 10-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday

We are forty-four games and a quarter of the way into the 2018 season.  Here is a look at where the Chicago Cubs stand; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  At this point in the season, it might surprise most fans to learn the Cubs are ahead of their 2017 pace.

The Cubs are at or near the top of MLB in every batting category.  They are 4th in run differential,  2nd in runs per game, 3rd in OPS (despite being below league average in HRs), 7th in extra-base hits and even 6th in team batting average despite the struggles of some key players.

The good

More from Cubbies Crib

The Cubs bullpen is ranked among the best in baseball, behind only Milwaukee.  The ‘pen is likely to improve with the return of Eddie Butler from the DL (groin), perhaps the August arrival of Drew Smyly who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, the rise of Luke Farrell, and the surprisingly strong outing by Randy Rosario, an acquisition from the Twins, against the Reds.

What can or needs to be said about Kris Bryant?  Bryant is at a season-high .305 BA after 39 games. And his OPS higher than at any point in his MLB career, and he is almost even in BB/SO ratio.  This half of the Bryzzo Souvenir Company is right where he needs to be at this point in the season.

On defense, the Cubs rank second in the MLB in Total Fielding Runs Above Average and third in Defensive Runs Saved Above Average.   We all see Javy Baez’s slick fielding and rocket arm, Russell’s range, and Heyward’s  Gold Glove play in right, but often overlooked is Kyle Schwarber’s defense in left,  as described by Cubbies Crib veteran Jake Misener.

The bad

The RISP/LOB bug continues to bite the Northsiders. The Cubs rank first in runners left in scoring position per game and 2nd in runners left on base.

The strange ordeal of Justin Wilson persists.  About the best thing you can say about Justin Wilson? His WAR and Runs Above Replacement is in positive territory.  He has performed well in games in non-pressure situations. He clanked two high leverage games, against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and moving forward I don’t see Maddon using him again in high leverage situations.

And the ugly

The Cubs schedule the first forty-four games of the season has not been soft.  Many weeks have looked like a playoff series.  The Cubs have played fewer games against sub-.500 teams of any team in the division.   Only these past two weeks have they had the luxury of facing multiple bottom dwelling clubs in the White Sox, Marlins, and Reds.

The Cubs newly minted FA pitcher Yu Darvish has woven a mixed tapestry of starts.  From inning to inning you’re not quite sure which Yu you’re going to see.  Both his WHIP and FIP numbers are the worst of his career.  Opinions vary as to the lack of consistency but with his latest win in Cincinnati. Let’s hope he has reached the corner he needs to turn toward a season of better starts.

It pains me as much to write it as it likely does for you to read it.  Anthony Rizzo has been downright ugly this first quarter of the season.  Just comparing 2018 Rizzo to previous Rizzo seasons,  his OPS is down 100 points from his next worst season in 2013.

Next: Cubs' Rizzo and his misfortunes

His BA is the lowest of his MLB career, his SO, BB, and HR rate are on par to be his worst since 2013, resulting in a -2 RAA.  I could go on but I think you get the picture.  His fortunes should rebound at some point as he’s had some horrible luck at the plate, and when they do, MLB pitchers will be in a lot of trouble.