Over the last couple of weeks I’ve done a sort of weekly recap of this year’s Chicago Cubs and the good and bad that’s surrounded the team. Here’s last week’s and here’s the first one, posted April 25.
I’ve decided to make this a weekly feature, running (mostly) on Mondays. I’m borrowing the “three up, three down” theme from BCB’s Tim Huwe, who has done this sort of thing in the past in analyzing the Cubs farm system. Three of each seems about the right number. And yes, even in the Cubs’ no-good, very bad week just completed, there were still three good things to find.
With 27 games complete, one-sixth of the 2022 Cubs season is in the books.
So, here goes!
Keegan Thompson continues to impress
Despite the three-run double he gave up to Mookie Betts Saturday (with two of those runs charged to Daniel Norris), Thompson threw very well in the doubleheader nightcap, as he has all year.
Thompson doesn’t have quite enough innings (23) to be a qualified pitcher for the ERA lead (he’d need 27 as of this morning), but if he did, his 1.17 ERA would rank second in MLB to Pablo Lopez of the Marlins, and he’s allowed just one home run this year.
So, you’re saying, put him in the rotation. Except maybe this is a better role for him; the preparation and requirements for a starter are different than for a long reliever of this kind. If the Cubs had better “openers” this might just work.
Despite Seiya Suzuki’s troubles, his overall numbers remain good
Suzuki does continue to draw walks. His 16 bases on balls lead the team and are tied (along with Ian Happ) for ninth in the National League. His .828 OPS leads the team and, with one-sixth of the season complete, his 0.6 bWAR is on pace for a 3.6 bWAR season, which would be perfectly fine.
Rowan Wick is quietly putting together a good season
Wick has received some low-leverage appearances and has allowed two runs (one earned) in 9⅔ innings, with 12 strikeouts. Wick and Scott Effross (12⅓ innings) are the only Cubs relievers with more than one appearance to not allow a home run this season.
The Cubs are a bad team at Wrigley Field
This did not used to be the case with losing Cubs teams. Even some of the worst teams in franchise history managed to have decent records at home. The 1980 Cubs, a 98-loss team, went 37-44 at home and the 101-loss 2012 Cubs, who you likely remember well, were 38-43 at Wrigley. At least those numbers are close to .500.
Not so this bunch. Since the July selloff last year, the Cubs are 30-55, a .353 winning percentage that would be equivalent to a 57-105 regular season. The 30-55 mark breaks down this way: 12-32 at home, 17-23 on the road.
That matches the worst 44-game stretch in Wrigley Field in franchise history, originally set nearly half a century ago: June 24-September 27, 1974. That 1974 Cubs team went 66-96 and finished 32-49 at Wrigley Field.
A lot of this is happening because of the next item.
The Cubs have very little power
Through Sunday’s game, the Cubs rank 19th in slugging percentage at .362, a bit below the MLB average of .370. But most of that comes from doubles, where the Cubs rank 13th. They are tied for 23rd in home runs with 20, and only two players (Patrick Wisdom, 5, and Seiya Suzuki, 4) have more than three.
In the past, even many bad Cubs teams had guys who could hit the ball out of the yard. The lousy weather this spring in Chicago might have something to do with this (as well as MLB possibly messing with the baseball again). Cubs pitchers have allowed 33 home runs so far this year. Only three teams (Rangers, Mariners, Reds) have given up more. Of those 33 homers, only 13 have been hit at Wrigley Field, 20 on the road. Meanwhile, the 20 homers by Cubs hitters have been split evenly, 10 at home, 10 on the road.
The Cubs aren’t getting innings from their starters
This note is from Saturday’s second game:
In the 5th inning, Cubs bullpen (110.2 IP) surpassed the Cubs rotation (110.1 IP) in innings pitched this season.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) May 8, 2022
Entering Saturday, only the Rays (133/106), Orioles (114/113), Pirates (111/99), Rangers (110/103) and Reds (110/100) had more innings from relievers than starters.
Through Sunday’s game, the split stands this way:
Starters: 114⅓ innings
Relievers: 119⅔ innings
The “quality start” is a flawed measure of starting pitching, but in 27 starts, the Cubs have only three: Kyle Hendricks against the Pirates April 23, Marcus Stroman against the Braves April 26 and Stroman against the Brewers May 1. Only two teams have fewer: Pirates (1) and Reds (0).
The Cubs have only six other games this year where a starter has even managed to go five innings.
Hopefully, I will have a better report for you next Monday.
Give the Cubs a grade for the 2022 season so far.
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