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Why can’t the Cubs hit with the bases loaded?

It’s been a very odd problem this year.

Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Monday night, the Cubs finally got a hit with the bases loaded, a two-run single by David Bote in the ninth inning. That was nice, although at the time, it was more or less just piling on. Bote’s hit made the score 9-3. Previously, the Cubs had gone 0-for-2 with the bases loaded in Monday’s game.

This has been a theme this year. Overall in 2020, the Cubs are 7-for-36 (.194) with the bases loaded and have struck out 14 times. All seven hits have been singles. That’s led to a .414 (!) OPS with the bases loaded, and you will likely be surprised to learn that’s not the lowest bases-loaded OPS in MLB this year. The Giants (.367) and Royals (.226) are worse.

Those numbers are all far below the MLB bases-loaded average so far this year, which is .774. That seems to be about normal — last year’s MLB OPS with the bases loaded was .781 and in 2018 it was .756. And las year’s Cubs did just fine with the bags jammed, hitting .264/.313/.616 (.929 OPS) with runners on all three bases, including 10 grand slams. That set a Cubs franchise record (the previous mark had been set in 1929!) and was only two short of the NL record set by the Braves in 1997 and tied by the 2000 Cardinals. The .929 OPS was their second highest in any baserunner situation — only their 1.020 OPS with a runner on third was better.

Some teams are doing quite well with the bases loaded this year. You have probably heard about all the grand slams the Padres hit last week. That’s given them a 1.778 OPS in that situation (12-for-27) with two doubles, two triples and six home runs.

So why is this happening? The first thing to note is that we are talking about very small sample sizes. No team has more than 43 PA (Mets) with the bases loaded so far this year. The Cubs are actually second in bases-loaded PA with 41, meaning they’re not having trouble getting runners on (the team OBP of .337 is tied for fourth in MLB), they’re just having trouble getting the runners in. And it’s not that they can’t hit with RISP — their RISP OPS this year, in 272 PA, is .742. That ranks 21st in MLB, which isn’t great, but it’s not near dead last, either.

On the other hand, last year the Cubs had 147 PA with the bases loaded, and that ranked 13th in MLB. So maybe 41 PA isn’t that small a sample size after all. And with the exceptions of Jason Kipnis and Nico Hoerner, this is largely the same group that produced decent numbers in this category in 2019.

I honestly don’t have any answers here, but the Cubs’ fourth-ranked OBP has not translated into many runs, as the 131 runs they’ve scored ranks 15th. (Games played is a factor here; of the 14 teams that rank above the Cubs in runs, 11 have played more games.)

Perhaps you have the answer. Is this just a small sample size that will resolve itself over the season’s remaining games? Or is this something David Ross and the ballclub ought to be concerned about?


The Cubs’ poor hitting in 2020 with the bases loaded...

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Small sample size. They’ll come out of it!
    (104 votes)
  • 59%
    They’d better fix it or they’re not going anywhere in this year’s playoffs
    (155 votes)
259 votes total Vote Now