Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

5 Statcast storylines for '17 Cubs

March 31, 2017

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play in every Major League ballpark since Opening Day 2015. And with two full seasons of data now collected, plus advances in applying that data, Statcast™ is better than ever. New

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play in every Major League ballpark since Opening Day 2015. And with two full seasons of data now collected, plus advances in applying that data, Statcast™ is better than ever. New metrics, such as Catch Probability and Hit Probability, will provide a deeper layer of analysis and further our understanding of the game.
With that in mind, here are five Statcast™ facts to know about the Cubs heading into the 2017 season.
1. The majesty of Kristopher Bryant
Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League Most Valuable Player Award winner for more than just his bat, but that's where it all starts. Bryant ranked third in the NL with 59 barrels (batted balls whose combination of exit velocity and launch angle yield an expected batting average of at least .500 and an expected slugging percentage of at least 1.500) last season as he mashed 39 home runs. Many, of course, were moonshots -- Bryant's averaged 5.4 seconds of hangtime, per Statcast™, fourth-highest among 20-homer hitters. In the Statcast™ Era (2015-16), no one has a higher average launch angle than Bryant's 19.5 degrees.
Highest average launch angle in 2015-16 (minimum 600 Balls in Play)
1. Kris Bryant: 19.5 degrees

  1. Brandon Belt: 18.3 degrees
  2. Chris Davis: 18.1 degrees
  3. Ian Kinsler: 17.8 degrees
  4. Matt Carpenter: 17.7 degrees
    2. Other half of Bryzzo
    KB's partner in crime, Anthony Rizzo, hit anything and everything on his way to 32 homers. Make a pitcher's pitch? Doesn't matter -- Rizzo's 17 homers on pitches Statcast™ tracked as outside the strike zone are third most in MLB since 2015. Lefty-lefty? Rizzo's 14 homers in those matchups are fifth most in baseball over that span, and his .471 slugging percentage is fifth best (minimum 250 at-bats). Trying to keep the ball down? Good luck -- Rizzo's .380 average against sinkers/two-seamers from '15-16 ranks third in MLB, his .725 slugging ranks first and his 19 homers rank second.

Most out-of-zone homers in 2015-16

  1. Nolan Arenado: 27
  2. Evan Gattis: 20
    3 (tie). Anthony Rizzo: 17
    3 (tie). Nelson Cruz: 17
    5 (tie). Rougned Odor: 16
    5 (tie). James Dozier: 16
    3. Pitching lessons from the Professor
    Despite his primary pitch being a sinker that averaged just 88.1 mph, per Statcast™, Kyle Hendricks led the Majors with a 2.13 ERA last year. How? A master class in limiting quality of contact. Hendricks allowed just 16 barrels all season, third fewest among qualified starters. And it was no fluke: According to Hit Probability, for the batted balls Hendricks allowed, the expected OPS against him would have been just .595, second lowest among qualified starters. Hendricks' changeup was especially effective -- his .133 batting average and .232 slugging percentage allowed were both second lowest in MLB (minimum 100 at-bats).
    Lowest estimated OPS for qualified SP in 2016
  3. Noah Syndergaard: .592 (actual OPS: .639)
    2. Kyle Hendricks: .595 (actual OPS: .581)
  4. Max Scherzer: .604 (actual OPS: .619)
  5. Jose Fernandez: .612 (actual OPS: .624)
  6. Jonathan Lester: .630 (actual OPS: .602)
    4. Jason Heyward's stellar outfield defense
    For all of Heyward's hitting woes in 2016, his outstanding defense was huge for a Cubs team that rode run prevention to the franchise's first World Series since 1908. Catch Probability places Heyward in the upper echelon of outfielders. Heyward made a respectable four 5-Star catches (Catch Probability 0-25 percent) in '16, but it was in the 3- and 4-Star ranges that he really shined. On 4-Star opportunities (Catch Probability 26-50 percent), Heyward converted 11 of 17 outs, the ninth-best rate among outfielders with 10-plus 4-Star chances. And on 3-Star opportunities (Catch Probability 51-75 percent), Heyward turned 13 of 14 into outs, the third-best rate in baseball.
    Highest 3-Star catch rate in 2016 (minimum 10 3-Star opportunities)
  7. Mookie Betts: 100 percent (24 of 24)
  8. Brett Gardner: 94.4 percent (17 of 18)
    3 (tie). Jason Heyward: 92.9 percent (13 of 14)
    3 (tie). Lorenzo Cain: 92.9 percent (13 of 14)
  9. Josh Reddick: 92.3 percent (12 of 13)

5. Javier Baez's cannon arm
Baez always commands attention on the diamond -- the silky-smooth tags, the acrobatic slides -- and the arm. Over the past year, Baez has two of the five hardest Statcast-tracked assists from second base, his primary position in 2016. That arm strength and quick hands allow Baez to play deep at second base -- his average starting depth of 153 feet from home plate was third deepest of 43 players who spent 4,000-plus pitches at the position.

Hardest tracked throws on assist by 2B

  1. Rougned Odor: 91.3 mph (July 9, 2016)
  2. John Forsythe: 91.3 mph (April 21, 2016)
  3. Javier Baez: 89.6 mph (March 20, 2017)*
  4. Starlin Castro: 87.4 mph (Aug. 13, 2016)
  5. Javier Baez: 86.3 mph (Aug. 27, 2016)
    *2017 World Baseball Classic

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.