The Cubs Are Dominating the Ground-Ball Game

Guess what! Here’s another place where the Cubs have been really super good. Ground balls — you’re familiar with them. When you’re the team pitching, you want those ground balls to get scooped up and turned into outs. From the Baseball-Reference Play Index, here are the best teams this year against grounders, as measured by slugging percentage allowed:

slg-grounders

Twins in last. Cubs in first! Cubs in first by a decent amount. Now, we can track this historically. Here are the league-average marks since 1988:

slg-grounders-league

Something truly bizarre happened between 2000 – 2002. That’s some bad data recording. Or at least, some inconsistent data recording. Those are the three crazy years, but just to be safe, let’s ignore the years before, too, and just focus on what’s happened since 2003. Since 2003, here are the top 10 lowest slugging percentages allowed on grounders:

SLG Allowed, Grounders, 2003 – 2016
Team Year SLG
Cubs 2016 0.202
A’s 2005 0.213
Cardinals 2004 0.213
Red Sox 2016 0.215
A’s 2010 0.221
Blue Jays 2008 0.222
Cardinals 2016 0.222
Astros 2006 0.222
A’s 2014 0.223
Mariners 2016 0.223
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
2016 seasons very obviously incomplete.

Long way to go here — nothing is set in stone. The Cubs’ number will bounce around, and it isn’t quite fair to compare a partial season to a bunch of complete seasons, but this at least tells you about the Cubs’ pace. The Cubs are on pace to be phenomenally good against ground balls, as their lead above is one by 11 points over the 2005 A’s. That there are four teams in there from this season provides that necessary reminder that it’s too soon to go nuts, but, hey, all right, nice job Chicago.

StatCorner provides some related information. There, the Cubs have been 17 runs better than average on grounders. That ranks them No. 1, narrowly ahead of the Indians, and well ahead of the third-place Rockies. The Braves are at -15 runs because everything about the Braves has been terrible. This isn’t about the Braves, though. This is about the Cubs, and about another area where they’ve been an excellent baseball team. They can’t stay this good everywhere. But boy are they ever good.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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Psychic... Powerless...
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Psychic... Powerless...

Wonder how much of this is due to Wrigley Field, which has traditionally had a slow infield.

Spartacus
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Spartacus

It’s possible, but they did tear out and completely rebuild the field a few years ago. I wonder if the grass is still as long as it used to be.