The Cubs are scoring plenty of runs – but their recipe might be unsustainable.
David Ross’ Chicago Cubs rank third in baseball with an .813 OPS so far this year. They trail just one club, the San Diego Padres, in total runs scored (38) – and those offensive efforts have helped the club overcome a disastrous bullpen in the season’s first week.
When you look at those numbers, you feel pretty good with where the Cubs sit. But if you decide to peel back some layers (think ogres and onions), the outlook might not seem as rosy to you.
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Although Chicago ranks near the top of the game in several offensive categories, including the runs, home runs, OPS and slugging percentage – several other markers don’t paint as promising of a picture. The Cubs enter Friday’s series opener against Pittsburgh with a lineup that’s been carried, in large part, by a few key guys.
Anthony Rizzo leads the team’s qualified hitters with a 1.265 OPS (although David Bote has been scorching hot of late, evidenced by a 1.783 OPS). Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Nico Hoerner have all played key roles, as well – but from there, several names should draw more concern than they’re getting in most circles.
Ian Happ, who got off to a hot start and has seen the bulk of the team’s reps in center field, has just a .286 OBP – and has struck out in 33 percent of his plate appearances. Obviously, we know about Happ’s swing-and-miss tendencies; last season, they led to his spending most of the year at Triple-A Iowa.
Kyle Schwarber is hitting just .227 on the year; although his .320 OBP is a bit more palatable. But after a breakout performance in 2019, in which he blasted a career-high 38 home runs, I think we’re all expecting big things from the slugging outfielder this season.
Two of the biggest question marks right now are Jason Heyward and Kris Bryant. We know Bryant is working through a lingering elbow issue that’s definitely got him off to a slow start, but Heyward has been rolling over balls again – and through his first 15 at-bats, carries a disappointing .369 OPS.
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Focusing on OBP and slugging percentage has carried the team so far. But if they want to maintain this momentum, they’ll need to start adding some base hits to the mix that don’t leave the yard.