This post started as a single thought: Where would this team be without Nicholas Castellanos?
But as I started looking at the numbers I realized that while the Nicholas Castellanos trade jumpstarted the Cubs offense at the trade deadline, the picture is a lot murkier than a hot take. After all, this is a team that scores 10 runs one day and follows it up with a 24-inning scoreless streak all of us would like to forget. So I wanted to do a bit of a deep dive on the Cubs offense what’s clicking, what isn’t and who’s contributing.
I started by looking around the entire league to see how the Cubs offense stacked up in 2019 and since August 1. Here’s the good news, it’s actually better than you think. Across MLB in 2019 the Cubs have had the ninth-best offense among all teams (by fWAR). Additionally, a lot of that offensive might lives in the A.L. with the designated hitter, so I looked at just the N.L. and found the following:
2019 NL offense ranked by WAR
Not only are the Cubs fourth in fWAR despite having played one fewer game than the Diamondbacks and two fewer games than the Braves, they are fifth in wRC+, fifth in OPS, and fourth in wOBA. Additionally, all of the offenses at the top of the NL aside from the Dodgers are clustered really close to each other over the course of the season.
That said, the season is long, and recency matters. So I wanted to look at what the Cubs have accomplished since the trade deadline.
The league since August 1
The Cubs overall numbers are actually better since August 1 than their season long numbers, but they have been overtaken by other teams who have been much hotter in the same time period, as you can see here:
NL Offenses since August 1
The Cubs’ wRC+ of 105 since August 1 is better than their league average 100 across the whole season. It also indicates they are still the fourth best offense in the league across that time. However, whereas before they found themselves sitting at 100 with their nearest competitors at 102, now there are multiple teams ahead of them over 110. So the Cubs got better, and stayed in the same spot... while other teams got better and moved around them.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that the Braves really tapered off from their hot start and have been passed by a surging Cardinals team, which echoes a lot of what we’ve seen in the standings.
Individual players since August 1
I also wanted to take a look at who might be responsible for some of this movement on the team, sort of a who’s hot on the Cubs right now. So I ran the numbers again since August 1, but this time looked at individual Cubs players with at least 30 plate appearances:
Cubs players offensive stats since August 1
|Albert Almora Jr.||16||33||1||5||6.1%||21.2%||.103||.273||.241||.281||.345||.253||51||-0.1|
The first thing that jumped out at me on this chart was that it’s interesting who is contributing to the Cubs offensively right now - and who is not. It will not shock Cubs fans who have been paying attention that Nicholas Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo top this list. Although it may come as a bit of a surprise just how good they have been. Castellanos has been worth 1.4 fWAR in a little over a month. Schwarber seems to be delivering on all of the promise of an offensive juggernaut with a monster slashline of .300/.406/.722 and 10 HR. Despite only four HR and an injured list stint, Anthony Rizzo is putting up great numbers in the heart of the order with a .333/.476/.517 slashline.
After that it gets a bit more interesting. David Bote has been absolutely crushing the ball in limited plate appearances. Victor Caratini stepped up in the absence of Willson Contreras. Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Ian Happ have been just about league average. While that is an improvement for Happ, it indicates that Javy and KB could be on the verge of breakouts of their own. Addison Russell, Jonathan Lucroy, Albert Almora Jr., Tony Kemp and Jason Heyward have really struggled, with negative fWAR during this time and wRC+ at about 50 or lower.
The Cubs have managed to stay in the heart of the playoff race while getting some unlikely contributions, but they are going to need to maintain and improve their offense if they want to stave off surging teams or have any hope of retaking the division lead from the Cardinals. The good news is that if you’ve been watching this team for the last few seasons you know they have a really hot streak in them and could put up numbers to rival any team in the league in these final 23 games. The offense looks positively reborn with the return of Contreras and Ben Zobrist. Let’s hope that’s the start of a streak that carries well into October.