What You Need To Know: The Cubs offensive woke up to the tune of nine runs on 13 hits (seven of which were for extra bases, four of which were home runs) after scoring only six runs in their previous four games.
Next Level: Coming into tonight Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and Anthony Rizzo had OPS+ of 72, 75, and 96. While immensely frustrating, it’s pretty clear based on past results that this is not the true hitting talent for any of these players, and thus each was due for some positive regression. That began tonight—as each of the Russell, Schwarber, and Rizzo triumvirate had solo home runs—and hopefully will continue going forward as Wrigley Field should feel less like a frozen tundra during this home stand compared to earlier home games in the season. To know why it’s especially imperative for these three guys to turn it around check out the Cubs’ regular lineup sorted by OPS+. (Thanks to Baseball Reference.)
In short, it’s been as ugly as you imagined it as Kris Bryant is the only regular with an OPS+ greater than 100, and if you combined Albert Almora’s OPS+ of 89 with his center field platoon mate Jon Jay’s, it gets even worse. So who’s likely to turn it around? Ben Zobrist is steadying lineup presence and a former World Series MVP, but he’s almost thirty-six years old and has a bad back. Jason Heyward has a knuckle injury and could come off the disabled list later this week, but after watching him at the plate last year I’m going to need to see more than two and half weeks of above average performance to fully jump back on that train. Javy Baez is what he is at this point, a low OBP, high slugging guy with an elite glove who will go through long periods of slumping. Contreras and Almora both were at Triple-A this time last year. By default, that leaves us with the aforementioned Russell, Schwarber, and Rizzo. Unless of course, Ian Happ is here to stay.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 17, 2017
Top WPA Play: The Cubs jumped on Reds pitching early as Willson Contreras lined a Bronson Arroyo 76 mph heater into the center field ivy for a ground rule double to give the Cubs a 3-1 lead (+.171).
Bottom WPA Play: Zach Cozart continued his hot start to the season (currently at an OPS+ of 159) with a solo home run off of John Lackey to give the Reds their only lead of the game (-0.076).
Lead photo courtesy David Banks—USA Today Sports