What a week: The numbers behind the Cubs’ incredible offensive surge
Just seven days ago, the Cubs offense was stuck in a rut: they were last in baseball in runs per game (2.62), batting average (.166), on-base percentage (.267), slugging percentage (.307) and OPS (.574).
What a difference 7 days makes.
The Cubs offense has had a strong week and Friday afternoon’s series opener against the Brewers capped it off. The Cubs had 17 hits, 11 extra-base hits and 4 home runs en route to a 15-2 win over the Brewers.
The Cubs had 16 balls that were hit over 102 miles-per-hour, the most in the Statcast era (since 2015). The 11 extra-base hits are the Cubs’ most since Sept. 15, 2004 vs. Pittsburgh (12).
“It’s been rewarding because I see these guys work,” David Ross said. “Them putting in the work and being open to a lot of things and challenging themselves and continue to trust in each other — that stuff’s really rewarding from my seat. I’m happy for them.”
Since the Cubs’ offense exploded for a 13-4 win over the Braves last Saturday, the offense has been one of the best in baseball. Over the last week, the team has been slashing .308/.395/.582 (.977 OPS) and has scored 9.2 runs per game.
“With the season we had last year, everybody, you get in that mode to press and try to do too much,” outfielder Jake Marisnick said. “Well, we got a lot of games left. I think you’re seeing guys relax and start to put some at-bats together. I always hate the beginning of the season because stuff fluctuates, you put a little more pressure than normal.
The Cubs improved to 6-0 against left-handed starters with the win, although the Brewers’ starter, Brett Anderson, faced just 4 hitters and allowed 3 runs before leaving the game with right knee discomfort after recording just 1 out. The bats stayed hot against the righty that relieved him, Josh Lindblom, as they sent 10 hitters to the plate in the 1st, scoring 6 runs on 6 hits.
“When guys get hot and get rolling, the next thing you know, another guy gets rolling. The next thing you know, another guy gets rolling. The next thing you know, you have a bunch of homers and a bunch of hits and it’s just that contagious energy,” Anthony Rizzo said. “It’s not gonna always be like this, obviously. There’s going to be days where we’re getting no-hit through 3 or 4 innings, but it feels good to know. We just gotta keep grinding it out.”
The offense didn’t stop there. Rizzo and Javy Báez hit back-to-back home runs in the 2nd inning as part of a 4-run inning. The Cubs’ 8 position players were a combined 9-for-13 with 2 home runs, 4 doubles, a triple and 3 walks in the first 2 innings.
That’s boosting the individual performances, too.
Heading into last Saturday’s game against the Braves, David Bote was slashing .107/.235/.214 with 1 home run and 2 RBI. After the strong week, he’s up to a .196/.309/.370 slash line with 2 home runs and 11 RBI.
Rizzo has seen his numbers jump from .182/.302/.295 with 1 home run and 2 RBI to .246/.359/.508 with 4 home runs and 7 RBI.
Báez has spiked his average over 40 points, going from .191/.255/.404 with 3 home runs and 8 RBI to .233/.273/.507 with 6 home runs and 17 RBI.
Jason Heyward’s OPS has jumped from .557 to .637 in that stretch and Kris Bryant has seen his numbers jump from .220/.327/.537 to .313/.400/.641.
“Not getting hits early sucks and to be able to have these big days – a lot of guys are having big days – lets us all relax and exhale a little bit,” Rizzo said. “We don’t grip the bat as hard and don’t put as much pressure on ourselves. It’s just the nature of this game – we all try to be perfect and it’s impossible. These big days really help everyone relax.”
It’s the type of offense the Cubs were hoping for when they broke camp.
“You’re starting to see guys playing for each other putting together the at-bats and running the bases hard,” Marisnick said. “It’s contagious. Guys are playing for each other and putting at-bats together for each other and you’re gonna get good things when you do that.”
Hendricks returning to form
Prior to Friday afternoon’s game, David Ross stressed that he wasn’t too concerned with Kyle Hendricks’ early season struggles.
“I think Kyle’s been OK,” Ross said pregame. “I don’t think he’s been great, [but] I don’t think it’s the Kyle we’ve come to expect.
“We’ve seen Kyle go through some stretches where he’s really good and some where he’s just OK and I think he’s definitely looking to improve on his performance today.”
Ross was right.
Hendricks threw a quality start Friday against the Brewers, allowing just 2 runs on 6 hits in 6 innings of work with 6 strikeouts. The lone pair of runs came in his final inning of work, when he allowed back-to-back home runs to Kolten Wong and Billy McKinney.
“Feel really good overall. Just gotta keep being more aggressive, keep coming at guys, getting ahead in counts,” Hendricks said. “I was able to work on a lot of things today, just because we swung it so good. They really gave me the luxury of working on some stuff today and it helped, but i just gotta keep on that path.”
The outing lowered his ERA from 6.92 to 5.68 and his WHIP from 1.69 to 1.53.
Kyle Ryan returns
After plenty of setbacks, Kyle Ryan made his return to the Cubs roster on Friday, as he was called up to the Cubs from their alternate site prior to Friday’s game. Shelby Miller was placed on the 10-day injured list with a low back strain.
Ryan appeared in Friday’s game pitching 2 shutout innings allowing 1 hit and 1 walk and striking out 1.
Ryan’s start to the season was delayed when he opened the spring on the COVID-19 injured list, and he didn’t pitch in a spring training game. He began the season at the alternate site as he worked his way back into game shape.
“Somebody, that when he’s right, we trust him versus left and right,” Ross said. “It’s a really valuable piece down there when he’s right. He showed that a couple of years ago. We just wanted to make sure we did right by him as well as us, to set him up to build his arm back up sufficiently so that he could help us out.”