Are the Cubs Good?
Also: A submariner and thoughts on the NL Cy Young race
Ben Bailey · September 1, 2019 · 4m ·

After winning the 2016 World Series, it seemed like the Cubs were set up to be the next baseball dynasty. They had a young core of players that were only expected to get better, and enough high-level prospects waiting in the minor leagues as reinforcements. What happened?

Well, for one, nearly every member of the World Series roster has, if not regressed, not improved. Of that 25-man roster, only 12 remain on the Cubs, and of those 13, only Javy Baez, Willson Contreras, and Jason Heyward have been better this year than in 2016. The team's veterans have aged as well as one could hope, but their young core hasn't developed the way many expected.

Kris Bryant has been much better than some fans think, but it's hard to replicate an MVP season like 2016. Kyle Hendricks has continued to pitch very well, but you can't expect him to lead the league in ERA like he did the year of the World Series run. Before rebounding this year, Anthony Rizzo's wRC+ had decreased every year since 2014. Addison Russell served a domestic violence suspension and (less importantly) hasn't posted a wRC+ above 85 since 2016. Albert Almora was worth one win more in 2016 than 2019, despite getting only 117 plate appearances that year. Kyle Schwarber has improved defensively since his rookie season, but his highest wRC+ since was 115 last year.

The Cubs are good, to be sure. But they're not the Cubs that we thought they would be. Some fans will blame inefficient free agent signings or bullpen inconsistencies for this team's failure to repeat, but to me the fault lies mostly with the offense. By this point, it doesn't feel like this group of players can be the offensive force they were in 2016. I can't place the exact problem (and if it were that simple the front office would have fixed it by now), but the team just doesn't have the same feel around it that other “super teams” around the league do. It's hard to reconcile this feeling with the feeling that watching that 2016 team gave you. The Cubs are disappointing in that they're not a super team, but it's hard to be too disappointed in a team that's still putting up the win totals they are.

Yes, the Cubs are good, but they're not great.


Hey, look at this reliever

The Giants called up submariner Tyler Rogers. He has thrown 24 pitches in the majors, all classified as curveballs by Statcast, though Brooks Baseball says he throws a sinker and a slider. He's the twin brother of Twins reliever Taylor Rogers, which is a nice story. I'm also fascinated by his delivery.

If I had to guess, I don't think Tyler will be as good as Taylor. But it sure is fun to watch him pitch.


WAR leaderboard check-in

The National League Cy Young race has heated up due to Hyun-Jin Ryu's ERA continuing to rise due to allowing 18 runs over his last three starts. Ryu still has the best ERA in the NL, but it's only 0.09 runs better than the next best, Mike Soroka. Without such a large ERA gap, many voters will look to more advanced metrics to cast their ballots.

Jacob deGrom is only 0.2 Fangraphs WAR behind Max Scherzer, who leads the National League with 5.8 (and trails only Lance Lynn). The next five pitchers on the list are in the American League, and Ryu's rotation-mate Walker Buehler is third in the NL in WAR while Ryu is only sixth.

Right now, I'd probably give my vote to Scherzer, but I'm curious to see how the rest of the season plays out.


Good baseball writing

Ben Clemens on the “incomparable” Javy Báez:

This package shouldn't work. Mixing the swing tendencies of a slap hitter with the contact rate and power of a slugger is a recipe for disaster. Incredibly, though, it all plays…It looks impossible, looks unsustainable — and yet, for the second year in a row, it's working.

Meg Rowley on a very short baseball game:

It isn't necessarily a bad way to celebrate — nude is the best way to commemorate being in love — but when Janet in sales lands a new account, her co-workers generally let her keep her blouse…The game was all fretting and uncertainty before, and then, with one crack of the bat, in one mighty swell of relief, things settle in your favor; you were anxious, in pain even, and now you are content. Also? Somewhat nude.


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