Last week the Cubs beat the Pirates 21-0. It was the largest shutout in franchise history and a really fun game to watch. The Cubs had 23 hits with 19 RBI’s even though they left 21 men on base. Heyward left 6 and Ortega left 5. The Cubbies did all this damage with just one home run. A far cry from the power-oriented Cubs of the last few years. If the Cubs would have scored 21 runs last year, they would have had 18 home runs. Nico Hoerner went 4 for 5, Alfonso Rivas was 3 for 6, Ian Happ was 3 for 5, Willson Contreras was 3 for 5, and Seiya Suzuki was 3 for 4. Everybody raised their batting average and OBP.
According to MLB.com, after this performance the Cubs are one of the best, if not the best, offensive team in Major League Baseball. The Cubs are number 1 in batting average, fourth in RBI’s, second in runs scored, fourth in slugging, number 1 in OBP, and number 1 in OPS. Recently, the Cubs have been a boom or bust, homerun or strikeout team, which makes this year’s numbers extraordinarily refreshing. Further numbers continue the story: 10.2% swinging strike rate, 76.9% contact rate, 85.8% contact rate in the zone. The Cubs are 17th in homers, but everything else is clicking as planned. Javier Baez alone would have doubled the swinging strike rate.
Kyle Hendricks and the pitching staff were also able to fix their numbers. Hendricks went 7 and gave up two hits and no walks. Newcombe pitched a clean one and Effross pitched 1 hit and two strikeouts. Hendricks ERA came down under 4.
So, what is 21-0 worth?
Sure, the big run win captured all the headlines. But by Sunday, the week of April 17th didn’t really look good, didn’t feel good, and didn’t smell very good. And it started so well: a win against the Rockies who are doing so much better this year and a win against perennial playoff team Tampa Bay. But then the Cubs lost four in a row, two to Tampa and two to the Pirates who typically the Cubs would stack wins against. After the 21-0 win, the Cubs lost the final game to the Pirates. When the dust settled, the homestand was 2-5. Taking out the big game, the Cubs score was 25-32, a -7 run differential.
Cubs pitching wasn’t that bad. The mid-week Tampa game gave up 8 runs, but all three losses to the Pirates came when Cubs pitching gave up just 4 runs. The Pirates starters’ ERA in those 3 losses were 6.35, 3.86, and 6.46. Not necessarily shut down grade, but the Cubs couldn’t produce.
21-0 set all sorts of franchise records, but the Cubs are in fourth place, below .500 at 7-9.
During an off week, we should definitely celebrate a win but an overreaction to the big win is not interesting. The hitting is much improved: Contreras .807 OPS, Happ .897 OPS (.333 average), Hoerner .809 OPS (.327 average), Alfonso Rivas 1.371 OPS (I know, 12 at bats but he is exciting to watch), and of course Seiya Suzuki at 1.180 OPS and 13 RBI’s. The new lineup is hitting well, and the pitching is over-delivering. If we can just get them to work at the same time.
Keep scrapping and the wins will come.