Are the Cubs disproportionately affected by the juiced ball?
The Cubs have a lot of players with big-time raw power. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, and Ian Happ all fall into this category. Javy Báez does to an extent as well, though with his more opposite-field focused approach this season he could be playing into the juiced ball more than his teammates. The Cubs have a lot of players who have already maximized their power, so they’ve missed opportunities to go after hitters who can barely get the ball over the fence in the juiced ball era. Players with warning-track power like Scooter Gennett can take more advantage of the juiced ball because the extra feet it affords can turn balls that would have been flyouts into home runs. Bryant gets a similar advantage on balls that he didn’t hit very well, but most of his home runs would be home runs regardless of a few feet of extra distance.
The Cubs also have a lot of pitchers who don’t miss bats. This works great when batters are hitting the ball on the ground, when the Cubs could rely on their previously-excellent infield defense, but it doesn’t work nearly as well when batters are pulling the ball in the air. The front office has tried to remedy this over the last couple of seasons, but their track record of signing pitchers with swing-and-miss stuff has been iffy at best. Yu Darvish turned his season around, but signings like Brandon Morrow, Craig Kimbrel, and Tyler Chatwood haven’t exactly paid off yet—although none of those deals on their own are terrible, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cubs regret all of them.
The Cubs have accomplished quite a bit under the current regime, but they have also had some trouble adapting to changes in the way the game is played. It will be interesting to see how Theo Epstein and his team try to remedy this issue.
Hey, look at this reliever
Aaron Bummer not only has one of the best names in baseball, he also has one of the best sinkers. He has the second-lowest sweet spot batted-ball rate of any pitcher in baseball, as well as the second-lowest batted-ball distance (second in both only to Zack Britton). Unlike other relievers featured in this section, his fastball spin rate is only in the 12th percentile of major league pitchers, and his strikeout rate is only slightly above average. It’s nice to see relievers that can have great success by getting ground balls, even in today’s game.
Some observations from the Cubs end-of-season WAR and wRC+ leaderboards (all stats before Sunday’s game)…
- Nicholas Castellanos will end the season with a 154 wRC+ as a Cub, which would be the highest on the team.
- Ian Happ has a higher wRC+ (barely) than both Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber.
- Victor Caratini (108 wRC+ and 1.5 fWAR) and David Bote (107, 1.4 fWAR) were valuable depth pieces this season. Albert Almora (64, -0.7) and Daniel Descalso (43, -0.8) were not.