To this point, the Chicago Cubs offense has showcased what led them to a championship three years ago: the ability to work counts and drive the ball.
We all may worry about the Chicago Cubs and their ability to keep runs off the board – but few people are concerned about them putting them on. After a historic cold spell ended their 2018 season prematurely, the team is showing what made them annual World Series favorites in recent years: getting on base at a high rate and driving the ball all over the yard.
The Cubs boast three of the top10 players in the National League in terms of OPS and four of the top 13. That includes team leader Anthony Rizzo, third baseman Kris Bryant, catcher Willson Contreras and infielder Javier Baez.
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Rizzo is putting together arguably the best season of his Major League career. To-date, he’s put up a .993 OPS with a team-leading 15 home runs and 42 runs batted in – all coming before June 1. Paired with Bryant, who returned from his outfield collision over the weekend in dramatic fashion Wednesday, smacking a solo home run to center field in the Cubs’ 2-1 win, looks to be healthy and ready to re-take his mantle among the game’s best sluggers.
As for Contreras, the Venezuelan native is putting what can only be called a disappointing 2018 behind him. After surging to the first All-Star selection of his career in the first half (seven home runs, 34 RBI and an .821 OPS prior to the break), he bottomed out down the stretch, hitting just .152 over the season’s final month as the Cubs succumbed to the rival Milwaukee Brewers.
This spring, he admitted getting out of his routine following his breakout 2017 campaign, in which he set career-highs in both home runs (21) and RBI (74), and said he had re-dedicated himself to his preparation.
That’s culminated in the ninth-best OPS in the Senior Circuit and tops among big league backstops entering play Thursday. It’s hard not to love that kind of production from a catcher, especially one under team control for the next half-decade.
As for Baez, he’s fallen a bit off his early-season pace in the wake of a lingering heel injury that cost him some time and moved him over to third from shortstop in Wednesday’s finale in Houston. Still, he’s hitting above .300 and carries a .973 OPS into this weekend’s series against the Cardinals, so you can’t really complain there.
Looking at the big picture, Chicago trails only the high-flying Los Angeles Dodgers in OPS and OBP among NL squads and they lead the league in long-balls after a historic showing in the month of May. Any fans who were around back in 2016 can’t help but be reminded of that year’s club that led the league in on-base percentage and trailed only the Colorado Rockies in OPS and runs scored.
Could they ride the same formula to success in 2019? Don’t casually dismiss the idea. If the front office addresses the glaring holes in the bullpen and the experience of the rotation wins out in these rough stretches, this summer could have a very familiar feel in Wrigleyville.