As Cubs sort out offense, Kris Bryant’s resurgence is a bright spot
Entering the season, Kris Bryant had one goal that trumped all others: Run your race.
Against the backdrop of his final year under contract and trying to bounce back after an injury-plagued campaign, Bryant set out to keep things in perspective.
Two weeks in, the results have synced up with that mindset.
As the rest of the Cubs lineup looks to find its groove, Bryant has been a consistent bright spot this season. He sits atop the team leaderboard in almost every offensive category while slashing .243/.341/.595 (.936 OPS).
“I don’t know where we’d be without Kris right now,” David Ross said. “He’s putting up numbers, driving the ball. He looks great, very confident. It’s nice to see the way the ball’s coming off his bat to all fields. He’s on a lot of pitches. Even his misses – he’s had a couple to the warning track.
“He looks comfortable, taking his walks, taking some tough pitches early on that I noticed. It feels like he’s right where he needs to be and in a groove. It’s extremely important for us and our lineup that he’s going well. That’s a huge bonus for us right now.”
In 34 games last year, Bryant had 10 extra-base hits (including 4 homers) and 11 RBI. In just 11 games this year, he already has 7 extra-base hits (including 3 homers) and 6 RBI.
A big reason for that is health, as Bryant dealt with an injured wrist and finger for most of last season.
His success against fastballs is the truest sign that he’s feeling right at the plate.
Carlos Peña had an awesome breakdown on Marquee Sports Network this week of how Bryant is hammering the fastball this season compared to last year:
The numbers support the eye test. This year, Bryant is hitting .318 with an .818 slugging percentage against fastballs. Last season, those numbers were at .238 and .413, respectively.
He’s also attacking earlier in the count and part of that can be tied to the fact that he no longer has to worry about setting a tone as the team’s leadoff hitter.
Bryant’s homer against the Brewers Monday came on the second pitch of the at-bat as he turned on a 93 mph fastball on the outer half of the plate to send it over the fence in left-center.
“We talked about it as a group — that was something that kinda went away last year,” Ross said. “Going back to — it seems so long ago — but him leading off and feeling like he may need to see pitches or get on base or whatever that mindset might be from that leadoff spot may have put him in a little bit of a hole and trying to do something that’s uncharacteristic of how he likes to play.
“That’s where it comes in to wanting these guys to be who they are and as he would say, run his race and do things his way. He seems to have processed all that information this offseason, come into this year and really being himself and that’s a really good thing for us.”
Want some more numerical proof?
Bryant is currently sporting career highs in exit velocity (90.1 mph) and hard-hit percentage (48.1%). During his MVP season in 2016, he posted an average exit velocity of 89.3 mph and a hard-hit rate of 39.4%.
Again, it’s only two weeks, but this is exactly the kind of start he — and the Cubs — could’ve hoped for.