Won't Get Fooled Again
Ok, it's not quite as dire as the title suggests but Bert's latest Bleacher Nation farticle about the offense got me thinking. It's super early, and beware of the Small Sample Size, but I can sympathize with those who already feel like it's a copy of the last few years. That's not a compliment either, so "Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss?' With respect to The Who, we'll just say 'not quite.'
In my last farticle, I outlined how I think Jed Hoyer is more of an accountant when it comes to roster construction. With that in mind, I think there is a chance he had very real expectations of shaking up the roster. We saw it with the Darvish trade and I think more trades were on the way but the value never lined up. So, with Free Agency looming and a winnable division, he reloaded with Jake and Joc for one more shot. Still, I think a major roster shakeup is looming because the offensive profile hasn't changed. Let's take a look...
What started as a curiosity search turned up some interesting and perhaps troubling data. I searched for just some basic team batting stats. I'm not diving into BABIP, OPS+ or anything like that. Ever since the World Series victory of 2016 (and the departure of Dexter Fowler/legitimate leadoff hitter) it feels like this team is feast or famine. They're either hitting dongs left and right or getting shutout by journeymen pitchers like GOO (aka Gio Gonzalez). When you look at all of the components of team OPS, they're all pretty darn similar the past few years. To quote Dennis Green, "They are who we thought they were."
Since moving to leadoff, Ian Happ has done a terrific impersonation of Fowler. His .245.365.604 out of the leadoff spot looks to have solved a major problem (a few seasons too late). But in the meantime guys have gotten older, regressed, or just not delivered on their promise when trying to round out the roster. Most notably, OBP has steadily trended lower since 2016. Similarly, walks are down and strikeouts are up. While the overall numbers may look similar to the 2016 team, the losses of Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist cannot be understated. Their high walk, low(er) K rate, and .360+ OBP are what this team lacks.
It boils down to this: the league has changed but the Cubs have not. The Front Office has failed to compliment the free-swinging style of the core with contact oriented bats. I see it more as a Front Office/Ownership failure than player failure. The guys are who they are. So, unless contact guys like Sogard, Hoerner, and others can force their way into the lineup, I fear what we've seen thus far is who they are. I still think there will be more good days than bad and they'll win the division. However, they'll ultimately be overmatched in the postseason once again. Until then "...I'll get on my knees and pray we don't get fooled again" in 2022.
Matt might sound like he's sprung a very early season Doom Boner, but in reality he's 100% correct--the Cubs should've shaken this core up long ago. The problem goes deeper than just the lineup, tho, because the team also has a fan problem. As we see the #ExtendRizzo hashtag trend across #CubsTwitter, I can't help but wonder why we aren't saying #ExtendKB instead since he's the most complete hitter among the core, and still the actual best player on the team. Do we want the team to be good, or are we trying to continue living on the feels of 2016? If it's the former, then we probably *should* want some new blood on the team--and I'm not necessarily talking about just adding the most expensive, sexy names on the market to the existing group--while accepting that our favorites maybe aren't the guys that will propel this team going forward. --Staci