Cubs 1st Half Analysis

We’ve reached the All-Star Break, so it’s a good time to take a minute to stop and look at where the Cubs are at.

Below we see the Cubs win percentage throughout the season:

Obviously, the Cubs have not had a good year. They dropped 14 of 17 games from April 19th to May 8th and never were able to get it going from there. PECOTA had the Cubs at 72 predicted wins before the season started. They now have the Cubs at 69 predicted wins, so the Cubs first half has had worse results than expected.

Let’s take a look at how the Cubs have been at the plate.

Hitting

Contreras has clearly been the Cubs best hitter. Although, he struggled to finish the first half (2-for-34 over the past two weeks). Morel has been awesome to watch and Ian Happ has been impressive. After Hoerner and Suzuki, the rest have been below MLB Average.

Timely hitting has been a big issue at the plate this year. The Cubs rank 3rd to last with a .220 batting average with runners in scoring position. Only the Diamondbacks and Pirates are worse. The Cubs also rank dead last in batting average in high leverage situations at .167!

Now let’s look at the Cubs on the mound this year.

Pitching

I’ve kept track of a stat I created called Pitcher Score all year. This stat gives a pitcher a number from 0-100 based on each outing. The average MLB start is a 70. This score is determined by expected statistics like xwOBA and expected run differential after each pitch. The below chart shows the Cubs starters for this season.

Now onto the relievers, the Cubs bullpen as a whole hasn’t been good. It ranks 24th in the MLB in Bullpen ERA.

Keegan Thompson was great out of the bullpen and went multiple innings in a lot of his appearances and the Cubs are now using him as a starter. Robertson’s been really good as a closer. Mark Leiter Jr has basically stepped in the long relief role Keegan Thompson had. Effross and Givens have both been positives as well. Effross ranks 9th in the MLB in expected wOBA against, the next highest Cub is Robertson at 64th. After that, the pen gets pretty shaky.

One glaring issue is the lack of a lefty reliever. Brandon Hughes and Daniel Norris have filled that role so far but are definitely below average- and Norris was just DFA’d in the recent days. Steven Brault looks like the next lefty to get a shot at the role. He was really good in his two appearances against the Mets.

Overall, the Cubs have not gotten the results this year, but they really have been close in a lot of games. They’ve lost a lot of early leads, which probably speaks to that 24th ranked Bullpen ERA. It also speaks to their productive 1st innings; the Cubs rank 3rd in the MLB in 1st inning wRC+, yet they are 21st in the MLB in innings 2 through 9. Those two have combined for a lot of lost leads.

The story of the second half will be watching our young guys develop and seeing what goes on at the trade deadline. The Field of Dreams Game will be a highlight too! No matter what happens, I’ll be along for the ride and rooting on the Cubs every game!

Published by Will McClaughry

Sports fan, data enthusiast and former division 3 college basketball player

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