If the Cubs’ defense has seemed a little error-prone season, that’s because it has been.
Nevertheless, the Cubs remain one of the best defensive teams in baseball, again ranking among the leaders at turning balls in play into outs.
Their 32 errors entering play Monday — tied with the Brewers for the second-most in the National League behind the Giants’ 34 — put them on a pace for 118, 23 more than last season.
But the Cubs have been very good at preventing hits. And when a runner is on base, it doesn’t matter whether he got there via hit or error.
Defensive efficiency measures the percentage of balls in play the defense turns into outs. The Cubs’ .718 DefEff is below their historically good .728 of 2016 but better than their .699 of last season. They’re second in the NL to the Braves’ .723.
That is borne out by the Cubs’ 26 defensive runs saved in the Baseball Info Solutions metric, third in the NL behind the Brewers’ 47 and the Diamondbacks’ 35 and fourth in the majors behind the American League-leading Astros’ 29.
In a plus/minus system, runs saved weighs plays a fielder makes or doesn’t make compared to an average fielder. Other factors include good plays vs. misplays, double-play efficiency for middle infielders, arms for outfielders and more. Average is zero, and below-average fielders have negative runs saved. The White Sox (-27), Orioles (-32) and Phillies (-37) have had the weakest team defenses in 2018.
The Cubs are at average or better at every position. They have zero DRS at catcher, broken down into +1 for Willson Contreras and -1 for Victor Caratini.
Albert Almora Jr.’s +6 ranks third among major-league center fielders. In the plus/minus category, he’s +5 compared to an average center fielder. He’s +2 for good plays vs. misplays and -1 for outfield arm, leading to the total of +6 in center.
Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber have boosted their numbers with their arms. Heyward is +2 in limited play in center but is only +1 in right, where he was +18 last season. A +3 for right-field arm offsets a -1 for plus/minus and a -1 for good plays/misplays.
Similarly, Schwarber’s +2 in left is mainly because of a +3 for his arm. Last season, his total was a -9.
Addison Russell ranks second in the majors at shortstop at +6. He ranked second in 2016 and 2017.
Javy Baez already has six errors at second and four at short after four and 11 all last season. Runs saved reflects his up-and-down start, with a +2 and second and a -2 at short.
The corners have been solid, with Kris Bryant’s +1 at third and Anthony Rizzo’s +4 at first. Jack-of-all-trades Ben Zobrist has been a big positive with a +4 in right to go with a +1 in left, a +1 at second and a -1 at first.
The Cubs hope to fix the erratic part, but their defense has been efficient despite the error