It’s a little over one week into the 2019 baseball season, which means fans have seen just enough baseball to wonder “what if” about any number of extreme scenarios. Say, for example, the idea that the Cubs are only going to win around 48 games and that the pitching staff is just destined to give up four or more runs every night.
As snake-bitten as this team seems right now, neither of the above statements is very likely to hold true over the course of a 162-game season. Here are six other things that are fun to think about now but will probably be nowhere near true in September.
Four players are on pace for more than 15 fWAR in 2019 and only one of those players is Mike Trout. The other three are the Mariners‘ Tim Beckham, the Dodgers‘ Cody Bellinger and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. That would crush Barry Bonds’ single season record for fWAR from 2002. In fairness I should point out that Fangraphs WAR only goes back to 2002. Over at Baseball Reference the single season bWAR record is the 14.1 Babe Ruth put up in 1923.
Speaking of Bellinger, he’s currently on pace for 103 home runs, a record that would demolish the existing mark of 73 held by Barry Bonds. Dodger fans would surely enjoy that, as they detest pretty much anything having to do with the Giants.
One note on the Dodger star and a significant record held by a Cubs player: He’s also currently on pace for 280 RBI, which would demolish one of the longest held records in sports: Hack Wilson’s single season RBI record of 191 with the Cubs in 1930.
Now, I want to be clear: What deGrom is currently doing is very different than my tongue-in-cheek projections above. He’s currently in one of the best stretches ever for a starting pitcher and just tied Bob Gibson’s quality start record. He’s not on this list for any of that, all of that is genuinely amazing.
DeGrom is on this list because his FIP is currently -0.23 and I will buy a deGrom jersey if he manages to keep a negative FIP through the regular season. The lowest FIP in Fangraphs’ database is the 1.81 Clayton Kershaw put up in 2014.
A lot of strikeouts
Strike outs have been on the rise every season for the last decade, but a couple pitchers are taking their K/9 to ridiculous levels in the early going in 2019, and aside from DeGrom (what can I say, the man is absurdly good) they really aren’t your usual suspects. The starting pitcher most likely to strike out an opposing hitter in the early going of 2019? The Tigers Matt Boyd who is sporting a K/9 of 18.26 across 11⅓ innings pitched. The Cubs will get a first hand look at the reliever most likely to strike out a batter in their upcoming series against the Marlins in a couple of weeks because Nick Anderson is currently sporting a K/9 of 20.77 across 4⅓ innings.
Were you also wondering about some absurd things the Cubs are doing? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Jason Heyward, MVP
Finally the Cubs’ big 2016 acquisition is off to a hot start. The right fielder has made some uncharacteristic errors, but I think fans will probably forgive him for those if he continues OPSing 1.034. In fact, projecting out from the last week of baseball, Heyward is also on pace for 49 home runs and 32 stolen bases.
Jon Lester, pinch-hitter
I sort of laughed when Joe Maddon put Lester in to pinch hit he other night and I imagine you did too. However, considering the big lefty is currently sporting a 1.000 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) in his five plate appearances in 2019, perhaps this was not a terrible idea.
As fun as it is to project some early season numbers, the point still holds that approximately none of these things are going to be true in September. Frankly, that’s great news for a Cubs pitching staff that is currently sporting a 6.70 ERA and a 6.09 FIP. It’s less great news for the team’s red hot offense which currently sports a 125 wRC+ and a .374 wOBA but a rather unsustainable .335 BABIP.
The bottom line is, it’s early and the law of averages indicates all of these outliers are going to even out, including the Cubs’ 3-7 start.
- All numbers from Fangraphs through games of Monday, April 9, except where indicated otherwise.