Hey, there. Hope your Friday is going well.
Hours before the first pitch of the first Cards-Cubs game of 2021, here are a few things to catch you up on the Cubs. Just trying to be a helpful citizen.
1–The Offense Is Improving: After a dreadful opening month the Cubs’ lineup is baking and heating up. The Cubs batted .216 with a .697 OPS in April. This month they’re 4th in the majors with a .273 batting average, 4th in OPS (.781), 5th in onbase percentage (.340) and 5th in slugging (.440.) After averaging 4.3 runs per game in April, the Cubs are averaging 4.9 runs per game in May.
2–The Cubs Bullpen Is Outstanding: Their relievers rank fourth in the majors with a 3.16 ERA and have the No. 1 strikeout rate at 29.1%. Opponents are hitting .208 against the Chicago bullpen, with a .324 OBP and .319 slug. The Cubs relievers have allowed only 28% of inherited runners to score; that’s tied for seventh-best in the majors. Nine Cubs relievers teamed to deny the Washington Nationals a run against the Cubs bullpen during the four-game series that ended Thursday. This month Cubs relievers have combined for a 2.12 ERA (second-best in MLB) and a 32% strikeout rate (best in MLB.) The only problem with the CHI bullpen is its high walk rate for the season (11%). But that’s gone down in May.
3–Cubs Closer Craig Kimbrel Is Back In Fearsome Form: In 18 games he’s has nine saves, a 1.03 ERA and an absurdly dominant 43.4% strikeout rate. Kimbrel, a right-hander has held LH batters to a .111 average with a strikeout rate of 51%.
4–The Cubs Are Finally Developing Some Talented Homegrown Pitchers: This more about the bullpen than anything but the Cubs are excited by the talent and progress of starting pitcher Adbert Alzolay, who seems to get better with every start. But the youth movement is more profound in the bullpen. Rookies Dillon Maples, Justin Steele (LH), Keegan Thompson and Tommy Nance have combined to to allow only six earned runs in 39.1 combined innings for a 1.37 ERA.
5–Kris Bryant Is Having A Helluva Season: His 2.2 WAR ranks fifth in the majors. Not only has Bryant played at five different positions this season — third base, first base and all three outfield spots — but his hitting prowess is back. Going into the series against the Cardinals Bryant is batting .308 with a .401 OBP and .615 slug. He has a 174 OPS+ which means he’s 74 percent above the league average offensively. Bryant is up to 10 homers and 31 RBIs.
6–Using OPS, the hottest Cubs hitters in May are Ian Happ (1.331 OPS), Bryant (.920), Joc Pederson (.916), Anthony Rizzo (.887), Nico Hoerner (.873), Javvy Baez (.869) and Willson Contreras (.747.)
7–The Rotation Is Making Progress. Especially Kyle Hendricks, who got through a terrible April to deliver a May ERA of 2.70. And after a brutal April, Zach Davies has a 2.11 this month. The Cubs ranked 29th in April with an ugly 5.81 ERA. But they’ve managed to improve; the 4.01 rotation ERA for May ranks 15th.
8–The Cubs Defense Isn’t Great: According to Fielding Bible the Cubs rank 25th among the 30 teams in Defensive Runs Saved; they’re minus 8. (By contrast the Cardinals are 14th at plus 8.)
9–Former Cardinal Outfielder Jason Heyward Is On The IL. A strained hamstring has him sidelined. Heyward, 31, is having a poor start to the season, batting .185 with a .254 OBP and .341 slug. His eight-year $184 million contract runs through 2023. Since signing on with the Cubs before the 2016 season, Heyward is batting .249 with a .386 slugging percentage and .754 OPS.
Enjoy the Cubs-Cards series. And have a great weekend.
As always, thanks for reading …
Please check out Bernie’s sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen live online and download the Bernie Show podcast at 590thefan.com … the 590 app works great and is available in your preferred app store.