1 hit vs. Crew: Too early to gauge Cubs' bats?

'Stay with the process' a mantra for cold sluggers; Bryant a bright spot

April 7th, 2021

CHICAGO -- Five games is far too soon to draw any real conclusions about any aspect of a ballclub. But try telling that to Cubs fans who have watched the North Side nine labor in the batter's box in recent seasons and Octobers.

In a 4-0 loss on Tuesday night, the Cubs' offense went quiet again opposite Brewers righty Freddy Peralta and the Milwaukee bullpen. That made the few mistakes made by Chicago starter loom large in his five-inning season debut.

"That's the beauty of 162 games," Cubs outfielder said. "If this happened in the middle of the season, you wouldn't blink. But when it happens early on, it just magnifies it. That's part of sticking with the process."

Last season, there was added pressure on each plate appearance in the abbreviated 60-game season. The Cubs hit .220/.318/.387 under those circumstances, and then plated precisely one run in their two-game postseason brooming at the hands of the Marlins.

However, there is simply no way to gauge if last season's issues might be back -- not when only five games are in the books.

"I would agree with that statement," Cubs manager David Ross said.

That said, here is a look at some of the early results for a Cubs offense that will be under the microscope all season.

The bright spot
Ross was asked recently for one thing that stood out in the first series of the season, and the manager pointed to the early showing by . In Tuesday's loss, Bryant's fourth-inning double off Peralta represented Chicago's lone breakthrough.

Through 20 plate appearances, Bryant has turned in a .963 OPS with a 162 wRC+, which would be a fantastic range at season's end after last year's injury-marred campaign.

That said, Happ issued an important reminder about all the hitters right now.

"This is, for guys, 10-15 at-bats out of 600, 700," Happ said. "So, you just have to really be patient."

Cold open to season
Both Happ and drove pitches deep into the outfield Tuesday, but the fly balls died and dropped into Milwaukee gloves. was hit by a pitch, but it was ruled that he swung at the pitch, resulting in a first-inning strikeout.

Those three hitters -- combined with and -- have combined for a 5-for-64 showing through Chicago's first five games.

Pederson, who was the Cubs' king of spring with eight homers and 19 RBIs in Arizona, has no hits through 16 plate appearances. In the seventh against the Brewers, Pederson even attempted to bunt for a hit. He popped the Brent Suter pitch up for an out to catcher Omar Narváez in foul ground.

"When things start rough," Happ said, "especially when you get really lucky and get 70 degrees and the wind blowing out at Wrigley, and you want so badly to have that good start, that when you don't, you've just got to remind yourself that it is a long haul and there's plenty of at-bats."

Early trends to watch
The good news: the Cubs have a 13.7 percent walk rate, which currently ranks near the top of the Majors. Chicago drew another four walks on Tuesday against Peralta, and five overall. That is a sign that the lineup is at least working deep counts and getting into opportunistic counts.

"The guys went up there and battled," Ross said.

Featuring a sharp slider, Peralta piled up eight strikeouts in his five frames. That pushed the Cubs' strikeout rate to 28.6 percent in the season's early going. Those whiffs contributed to Chicago stranding the few baserunners it produced.

And when the smoke cleared on the game, the Cubs' 1-for-25 showing dropped the team's overall batting average to an MLB-low .132. That is paired with a .265 on-base percentage, .316 slugging percentage and 65 wRC+.

This early, even a few productive days could swing the whole statistical storyline around.

"Stay with the process," Happ said. "It is a mantra that gets old very quickly, but it's always true."