Cubs: Recent run-scoring flurry is a bit deceptive in nature

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images /

The Chicago Cubs offense has seemingly come alive of late. However, the output is not as impressive as it may seem, for a few different reasons.

Chicago is averaging roughly six runs per game dating back to the start of the Detroit Tigers series. The North Siders have scored six or more runs in three of the last five games, also pounding out at least 10 hits in four of their last five contests.

Those numbers include Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the Washington Nationals, a game in which the Cubs pounded out 13 hits and got a pair of long balls from David Bote and Ian Happ, respectively.

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Speaking of Happ, he’s hit a pair of homers and has looked strong in his return from the injured list. Joc Pederson has been scorching hot since coming off the IL. Willson Contreras is on a good roll, while Kris Bryant and Matt Duffy continue to generate pretty steady offense for the Cubs.

So, those are all good things, right? Of course. Yet, fans shouldn’t get overly optimistic with respect to the recent offensive performance.

Cubs: Run-scoring flurry is a bit deceptive.

Let’s start with the competition, because it’s been bad. The Tigers have the worst bullpen ERA in baseball and the starters rank 29th in xFIP. The Nationals’ pitching staff ranks 29th in fWAR.

Granted, you can only beat the opponent in front of you. The Cubs have done that, with the offense consistently giving the team a chance to win games. Still, it’s not as though the lineup is putting up big numbers against top aces or dominant bullpen units.

Remember, Chicago scored three combined runs in a pair of games against the Cleveland Indians earlier this month, stranding a whopping 24 runners. Part of that is a lack of clutch hitting, but it was also about the likes of Shane Bieber, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase buckling down and getting strikeouts or ground balls in big spots.

Those three names should sound out, because they’re also the last really elite power pitchers the Cubs have faced. Consider, for example, the first two games against the Nats this week. Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin started for Washington, both guys being more of the finesse variety.

Well, the Cubs can handle that archetype. They have all year. Chicago’s lineup had an .860 OPS against finesse pitchers prior to Tuesday night’s game, per Baseball Reference. Conversely, the offense has really struggled with power pitchers. The lineup is hitting just .162 with a 555 OPS against more lively arms.

Now, it should be said the above is a pretty league-wide trend, especially with strikeouts being up and batting average at an all-time low. That said, the numbers are still worth mentioning because of the kind of pitchers the Cubs have faced as of late.

On Wednesday, Max Scherzer took the ball for Washington and proved troublesome for David Ross’ club. The right-hander allowed just two runs over five innings of work en route to the win, giving the Cubs their first matchup against a power starter since Bieber.

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Scherzer might not necessarily be a fair barometer because he’s one of the very best pitchers in the game. But it’s these October-caliber arms that have proven troublesome for Chicago – and he was no exception.