This has been a weird Cubs season. Not the least of reasons is that it started with them raising a World Series champions flag and carrying a big gold trophy around the field. But the team that roared through the regular season unchallenged last year couldn’t get anything going in the first half. At the All-Star Break they somehow found themselves two games under .500 and 5.5 games behind the uninspiring Brewers.
Maybe it’s because of that ugly first half where they only played well in fits and starts, that we haven’t appreciated the second half as we should. They erased that Brewers lead in short order, going 13-3 to start the second half, and they have been in first place for the last 34 days.
They have the second best record in baseball since the break, and they lead baseball with 73 homers in the second half. When rookie Ian Happ homered on Wednesday against Pissburgh he became the sixth Cub to hit 20 homers this year. Six! That’s the most the Cubs have ever had in the 141 year history of the team. Happ also is the quickest Cub to 20 homers, doing it in the first 89 games of his career. If you consider him a second baseman (he probably is, though he’s only played 35 of his 89 games there so far) he’d be the fastest second baseman in history to 20 homers. Ever. That seems like a long time, is that a long time?
If not for the ludicrous season that the Dodgers Cody Bellinger is having, Happ would be in the conversation for rookie of the year, but there isn’t even a conversation to be had. Happ’s season has been really impressive for a 23 year old with only one full season in the minors, but baseball history has seen some pretty incredible debuts.
The other five Cubs with 20 homers are Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras Kyle Schwarber and Javy Baez. Bryant and Schwarber are having weird offensive seasons.
Schwarber has only 48 RBI to go with his 24 homers. That Rick Wilkins-esque line is even weirder considering he’s only hitting .199.
For Bryant, his slash line is as good as it was last year when he was one of the youngest MVPs in baseball history. He’s hitting .288/.406/.529/.935, as compared to .292/.385/.554/.939, but he “only” has 24 homers and 57 RBI compared to 39 and 102 last year. The problem hasn’t been with Bryant, but rather with the inability for anybody to get on in front of him. Last season, Dexter Fowler got on almost 40 percent of the time, but the Cubs have struggled to find anybody who can actually lead off. Even Jon Jay, who has a .387 on base average hasn’t done much leading off, where his on base average plummets to .309.
Bryant has scored 91 runs, because he’s on base so often and because Rizzo hits behind him, so he’s still super productive, it’s just a different kind of production.
In the playoffs an offense can’t be too reliant on homers, but needs to have that club in their bag. No team will have as many power threats in their lineup than the Cubs.