On this rainy, overcast day in the Chicagoland area, let’s look at some Chicago Cubs Statcast leaders, specifically those with filthy xwOBA rankings. You can read more about this stat at the link, but basically it’s a Statcast measure of what a given batted ball should have produced (e.g. homer, single, out) based on various characteristics of that batted ball (things like exit velo, launch angle, and so on). It is defense independent, and ignores such related exogenous factors such as bad hops, sun in fielders’ eyes, and Phillies fans throwing batteries.
Saturday’s incredible 21-0 massacring of the Pirates certainly didn’t hurt these numbers, that’s for sure. Number in parentheses is that players xwOBA percentile rank (100 = the best, 1 = you at fantasy camp). A high number for a hitter generally means he’s generating effective contact, while a high number for a pitcher generally means he’s generating ineffective hitter contact.
Scott Effross (100)
Yep, I didn’t see that one coming. Veteran side-armer Scott Effross has been nails for Chicago early in the year – working to a 0.29 FIP across his first six appearances. He’s notched seven punchouts and is yet to walk a batter, establishing himself nicely in the bullpen mix.
Seiya Suzuki (97)
Seiya Later has shown up on so many leaderboards that MLB should issue him a discount card. It’s no surprise he leads all Cubs position players in this metric. He didn’t even look to be at his best on Saturday and still notched three hits before getting the rest of the day off.
Keegan Thompson (93)
In one of the more pleasant surprises of the young season, the Alabama Assassin* has been money so far this year. His expected slugging rank is 95 – he’s just not giving up a lot of damaging contact so far. HIs strikeout and walk rates are both very good as well. He’s still not throwing hard at all, so maybe the hitters will catch up with him, but this is an excellent start for Thompson.
*Not his real nickname. Could be dicey if Keegan tries to use it.
Willson Contreras (85)
Willson Contreras is playing like a man determined to prove that the Cubs’ failure (thus far) to extend him is a grievous mistake. He’s crushing the ball, with an exit velo rank of 94 and a hard hit rank of 96. David Ross will continue to play him at DH some this year, which should help to keep his lower half stronger as the season wears on. A career year is not out of the question, though Contreras finishing his career in Chicago probably is. Whiffs have been a problem for Contreras this year; he’ll want to rein those in moving forward.
David Robertson (81)
Feel-good story alert. From 2019 through 2021, the now-37-year-old threw just 18 innings. David Robertson could have auditioned for the new Apple TV+ broadcast team, but instead he’s returned to the mound and is smothering hitters’ power. Through his first six innings he has yet to surrender an extra-base hit. His exit velo is just average, but hitters have struggled to square up his high-spin cutter/slider/curve arsenal.
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Drew Smyly (74)
Smyly is doing it old school, generating hilariously weak contact with spin rates among the lowest in all the land. The worry is that he’s striking out very few hitters. The strikeouts will probably return; the hope is that more homers won’t come with them. Smyly may be an early candidate for Scott Feldman of the Year if he can go deeper into games – and into the season – without hitters solving his curve-heavy puzzle.