This piece, by BP Wrigleyville’s Matt Trueblood, originally appeared on the Baseball Prospectus main site, where it was available exclusively to BP subscribers. We’ve posted a sneak preview here.
If you had to put your finger on a single reason why the Cubs were swept by the Mets in the NLCS this week (and more broadly, why they weren’t quite themselves throughout the playoffs), the best thing to which you could point would be the dreadful performances of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. The young sluggers who had been the engine of the team’s offense for most of the season batted .188/.257/.375 and .176/.243/.441, respectively, in 72 combined plate appearances. When your third and fourth hitters do that in eight playoff games, you should feel fortunate to come out of those games with a 4-4 record.
Bryant is of little concern. He’s still adjusting, still evolving into what he’ll eventually be as a big-league hitter. Change is happening at a dizzying pace, but, still, he had been playing quite well up until his playoff collapse. Starting with the game in which he hit a season-turning walk-off home run to beat the Rockies (July 27th), Bryant batted .309/.386/.549 over his final 264 regular-season plate appearances. He ran cold at the wrong time, but so it goes.
On the other hand, something went wacky for Anthony Rizzo sometime in early June, and it never got totally turned around. Early in the season, remember, Rizzo was seeing virtually nothing to hit. Pitchers were avoiding challenging him at all, and he was ruthlessly forcing them to come into the zone before he would attack anything.
Shortly after Memorial Day, though, that changed.
To read the rest of Matt’s article, head on over to Baseball Prospectus.
Lead photo courtesy Caylor Arnold—USA Today Sports.