The Cubs might have the best collection of talent we’ve seen in the National League in a long, long time — maybe since the Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry Mets of the mid-1980s. They have a deep and diverse lineup with Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo likely to hit 1-2-3 this season. They’ve got an excellent rotation, with Jon Lester et al., and they have Wade Davis to close for a really good bullpen.
However the spine of the team is the defense. There are no perfect metrics to measure this part of the game — or any part, for that matter. But there are numbers that evidence the Cubs’ glove work was historically great. Joe Maddon’s team posted the highest number of defensive runs saved (107) since the stat was first traced in 2003, breaking the record of the 2005 Jimmy Rollins-Chase Utley Philadelphia Phillies.
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Jason Heyward was fourth among all outfielders in DRS; Addison Russell was tied for the most among shortstops with the Giants’ Brandon Crawford; Rizzo led all first basemen.
And Maddon arrange a special weapon in Javier Baez, placing him wherever the ball was most likely to be hit. With only 383 innings at second base — fewer than 45 games — he had more DRS (11) than all but two second basemen.
Batting average on balls in play is regarded as the pitchers’ flip of a coin, in a sense. A ball is hit and it might fall into play. Or it might not. Some of that is based on the defense’s ability to translate balls in play into outs. In 2012, the Angels had Mike Trout in center field, Torii Hunter in right, Vernon Wells in left, a younger Erick Aybar at shortstop and the No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers in BABIP, Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana, with no other starting pitchers in the Top 15. jerseys wholesale
The 2001 Mariners won 116 games and had an outfield that included Ichiro Suzuki and Mike Cameron, and Seattle had four pitchers among the Top 15 in BABIP.
Last season, 73 major-league pitchers threw enough pitches to qualify for the ERA title, and among those, five of the top 13 pitchers with the lowest BABIP pitched for the Cubs. All five were starting pitchers.