It’s OK to Breathe Now
My wife bought me an Apple Watch for my birthday last month. I love it in most ways. But I have not made up my mind yet about the built-in lifestyle/exercise apps. The apps give me a number of reminders during the day. Many are an annoyance. A good one though is a reminder every so often to breathe. I am putting that one to good use during Cubs games this month. Gotta remember to breathe. Take an occasional deep breath with a long relaxing exhalation. Watching baseball is a leisure time activity after all.
Nice win yesterday. Jose Quintana threw a gem. Kudos go to Kris Bryant, Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo too. But I want to talk about a few other things this morning.
Two subjects have dominated the posts here on View from the Bleachers the past few weeks. First, who is the Cubs’ most valuable offensive player? Second, who should be in the starting rotation if the Cubs make it into the post-season, as now looks likely? As to the former, I think you can make a case for more than one guy. As for the latter, I think the four who belong in the post-season rotation are obvious and, barring injury, the arguments for anyone other than the top four are lame.
The stats tell the story. Let’s start with the Cubs offensive MVP. Here are your leaders and a selection of their offensive stats (before Sunday’s game):
Player BABIP AVG OBP SLG WAR
Bryant .332 .295 .408 .537 6.5
Rizzo .278 .277 .396 .517 4.3
Contreras .312 .272 .349 .503 3.1
Baez .343 .271 .316 .475 2.0
This surprised me. I did not expect Bryant to be the clear leader in so many offensive categories. Obviously, this is a select sample of the many offensive metrics that the quants track these days. But Bryant dominates the others that I did not include here too, except for RBIs (where Rizzo is running away with the team lead). Bryant’s OPS has been above .900 every month of the season except June. The stats confirm what we already know. Kris Bryant is good at baseball. He probably is our MVP on offense.
POST SEASON ROTATION
The stats for starting pitchers are similarly unambiguous. The top four are clear:
Pitcher ERA K% BB% WAR
Arrieta 3.43 23 7. 7 2.6
Lester 4.56 23.5 8.1 2.4
Hendricks 3.14 20.7 7.1 2.2
Quintana 3.79 28.3 6.5 1.5
Montgomery 3.44 18.7 10.0 1.2
I can draw only one conclusion. If Jon Lester is healthy, then our rotation in the first round should be Jake Arrieta, Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Quintana. Michael Montgomery’s value is highest in the bull pen. If it were me, I would have John Lackey in the bull pen too. I don’t see leaving him off the post-season roster altogether.
WHO IS OVERALL MVP?
But wait. The stats tell us that Bryant is our offensive leader. They tell us who should be our starting pitchers in the post-season. But do they tell us who the Cubs’ overall MVP is? The short answer is no, the stats don’t tell us who is most valuable overall this season. Last year, Bryant’s offensive dominance was so great that it carried the day for his overall value. This year, his offense has continued to be top drawer, but not so much that it ends the discussion. This year, we have two other players who bring so much value defensively that they have to be considered for overall MVP too. Javier Baez is our best defensive player and deserves recognition for that. He must be in the conversation. At the same time, Willson Contreras is our second best defender (and arguably plays the most important defensive position). The difference between them is that while Baez still swings at the occasional breaking ball that bounces two feet in front of the plate (like he did in Saturday’s loss), Contreras has become the third most productive offensive player on the team.
I think Willson Contreras is our MVP overall. I understand that others like Javy Baez, Tony Rizzo or Kris Bryant. A plausible argument can be made for each of them. But I like Contreras for his contributions in total this season.