By John Grochowski
The Cubs rolled through the regular season with their offense, pitching and defense all more than holding their own.
Their 808 runs scored were second in the National League to the 845 scored by the Coors Field-aided Rockies, 29 more than the third-place Cardinals.
The Cubs’ 556 runs allowed were 56 fewer than the Nationals, the second-stingiest NL team.
As always, there are numbers behind the numbers:
Offense: The Cubs walked a franchise-record 656 times to lead the NL. Their usual first four hitters — Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist — drew 324 walks. The NL average for the first four hitters was 261 walks.
There are big benefits both in getting on base and in not making outs. The Cubs’ .256 batting average was only two points higher than the league average, but their .343 on-base percentage led the league. The Nationals also hit .256, and their 203 home runs were four more than the Cubs hit. But they drew 120 fewer walks than the Cubs and scored 45 fewer runs.
Pitching: The Cubs’ 3.15 ERA was the fifth-lowest of the division-series era. Kyle Hendricks made a giant leap forward to lead the NL at 2.13, with teammate Jon Lester second at 2.44.
That mirrored the results in 1945, the last time the Cubs had an ERA champ and the last time they played in the World Series. The winner then was Ray Prim at
2.40, with teammate Claude Passeau at 2.46.
With Jake Arrieta 10th at 3.10, John Lackey 12th at 3.35 and Jason Hammel 19th at 3.83, all five pitchers in the Cubs’ starting rotation finished among the top 20 in ERA.
That was due in part to an extraordinarily low opponents’ batting average on balls in play. The .257 BABiP against Cubs pitchers not only was 44 points below the league average, but it was 33 points below that of the runner-up Giants.
It was the lowest NL team BABiP in the division-series era, the lowest since the Padres allowed a .254 BABiP in 1982
and the seventh-lowest of the
NL expansion era, which started in 1962.
BABiPs that far off mainstream results usually are short-term, and it’s assumed chance is a big factor. In the Cubs’ case, it stayed far below the league norm all season.
Defense: The flip side of BABiP is defensive efficiency, and the Cubs were extraordinarily good at turning balls in play into outs. Their defensive efficiency of .728 — about 73 percent of balls in play became outs — was 26 points better than that of the runner-up Giants and 41 points better than the league average.
The Cubs’ 94 runs saved were 36 more than the NL runner-up Giants and 35 more than the American League-leading Astros.
Cubs defenders were above-average at every position, but especially good was Addison Russell, who led the majors with 19 runs saved at shortstop. Javy Baez saved four at short, 11 at second base and one at third.
The Cubs’ pitching was outstanding, but give the defense major credit for a runs-allowed total that was 166 fewer than the average NL team.
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