The Rundown: Bryant Needs Help, Butler Closing Gap, How Did Marquez Hit That?

Kris Bryant is really good and he’s the type of player you’d love to see batting with runners on base. Unfortunately, the Cubs have failed to provide him with a wealth of those opportunities through 34 games. Bryant has led off an inning 29 times in 2017, which sets a pace for 138 such plate appearances over the course of the season. That’s not bad, right? I mean, it’s only 0.85 PAs per game.

Well, sure, but it’s also a 9.2 percent increase over the 127 times he led off an inning last season. While Bryant has slashed .375/.482/.667 (that’s an 1.149 OPS) with a .484 wOBA and 200 wRC+ in those situations, it’s not exactly an ideal way to score more runs.

It goes without saying that the biggest culprit here is Kyle Schwarber, who has hit a mere .179 this season when batting with two outs. On the plus side, he’s got a .378 OBP in those situations, a product of a 24.3 percent walk rate in 39 plate appearances. While that 199-point spread is straight crazy, yo, it’d probably be more productive to keep the OBP the same with a significantly higher batting average.

Think about it: A walk gets you only to first base, but adding another 60-80 points to the average means a few more doubles in there. Which also means more runners in scoring position for Bryant. That’s someone we’ll hope to see from Schwarber, who, despite hitting third in the order yesterday, is expected to remain the Cubs’ primary leadoff hitter.

This is a small thing in light of other issues, and it’s still early enough in the season for these numbers to skew heavily in the other direction in a hurry, but I’d love to see KB leading off less frequently.

Cubs ring for Butler

It’s been something of a Butlerpalooza around here lately, so I’d rather not regurgitate all of that info here. If you’d like to read about how Chris Bosio worked with the pitcher shortly after the Cubs acquired him from the Rockies, check out what I wrote back in February. And if you want to know exactly what Butler has changed in order to achieve his excellent AAA results, read this piece from Brendan Miller.

There are several reasons to feel good about Butler’s potential, but pitching in Iowa is slightly different from throwing as part of a disappointing rotation in front of a hostile St. Louis crowd. This will be a perfect test of the pitcher’s mettle and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles it. If Butler goes out there and just pitches like he’s got nothing to lose, I really think he could open some eyes.

And considering that he’s stepping into the role vacated by Brett Anderson, it’s not as though Butler’s got a high bar to clear.

The most unlikely hit ever?

I’m sure infamous bad-ball hitter Vlad Geurrero would beg to differ, but the 0-2 pitch Rockies hurler German Marquez tagged for a two-RBI single Wednesday afternoon had no business being swung at, let alone hit fairly.

C’mon, seriously? And it’s not as though we’re talking about a slow breaking pitch that didn’t break. That’s 94.4 mph up around the neck. You just don’t hit those pitches, man. Not that it mattered, what with the Cubs failing to score any runs. I guess German was just having one of those career games all around, to the point that you just sort of shrug your shoulders and move on.

More news and notes

  • Matt Szczur went 3-for-4 with an RBI double for the Padres last night
  • David Price to make rehab start for AAA Pawtucket Sunday
  • Dylan Cease is racking up 13.50 K/9 with South Bend
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