Today the Cubs stand at an amazing 39-16, on pace for 114 wins on the year, just below the record of 116 wins.
I couldn't help but look at the stats for the Cubs and think that everything is going better than anyone could have humanly expected for them. It's not surprising given their 39-16 record.
Currently, their 5 starting pitchers all have an ERA under 3.00 and none have missed a start.
Jake Arrieta - 9-1, 1.80 ERA
Jon Lester - 6-3, 2.29 ERA
John Lackey - 6-2, 2.88 ERA
Kyle Hendricks - 4-4, 2.84 ERA
Jason Hammel - 7-1, 2.14 ERA
Jake Arrieta had a season for the ages in 2015 culminating in the 2015 NL Cy Young award. While expected to perform well, was another 8.7 WAR season expected? I would have doubted it. But so far he's just under pace for it (on pace for about a 8.5 WAR).
Jon Lester has been an elite pitcher (> 6.0 WAR in 2008 and 2009, 5.2 WAR in 2010), but the last three years his WAR has been 3.0, 4.6, and 3.1. Were the Cubs expecting another 5.0 WAR from him this year? I doubt it, but he's on pace for it so far. The 2.29 ERA would be the best of his career and his ERA+ of 175 would be the best for his career. It's worth noting his current FIP is at 3.22, so nearly a full run above his ERA. Perhaps that'll level out as the year goes on.
In 2015 at the age of 36, John Lackey probably had the second greatest year of his career (5.7 WAR vs 6.3 WAR in 2007). While a really good pitcher for the middle of the rotation, did the Cubs think he'd repeat his performance in 2015 at the age of 37? He's got better peripheral stats (FIP of 3.19 vs. 3.57 and SO/W ratio of 4 vs 3.3) so far and on pace for a 4.4 WAR. Excluding 2015, that would be his best WAR since 2007.
Never considered an elite prospect Kyle Hendricks had a good year in 2015 at the age of 2015 with a 1.7 WAR over 180 innings. He had a 3.95 ERA and 3.36 FIP. Some improvement may have been expected and hoped for, but a 3+ WAR for your number four starter along with a 3.92 SO/W ratio? Probably unexpected.
Jason Hammel had a career best 3.1 WAR in 2014 (and a 3.0 WAR in 2012 for Baltimore). He had a 1.8 WAR in 2015 and so far has a WAR of 1.9. So was a 5 WAR player expected in 2016? Doubtful. His FIP of 3.41 is over a full run higher than his ERA, so this will likely level out over the rest of the year.
But everything hasn't been just good on the pitching side, it's been great on the hitting side too. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are doing about the same they did in 2015. There's been no regression here.
Anthony Rizzo 2015 - .278/.387/.512
Anthony Rizzo 2016 - .251/.390/.524
Kris Bryant 2015 - .275/.369/.488
Kris Bryant 2016 - .274/.358/.507
If anything Rizzo should do better, as he has a likely unlucky .232 BAbip right now. Bryant's strikeout rate has gone done as well so his numbers could rise as well.
But at the top of the order we have Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist.
Dexter Fowler - .303/.421/.515
Ben Zobrist - .326/.438/.500
How in the world was this expected.
Fowler has a career high WAR of 2.8 in 2012 and a WAR of 2.2 in 2015. He already has a 2.7 WAR in 2016. His current OPS of .936 would annihilate his career high of of .863, which was gained in Colorado.
Zobrist is a multiple time All Star from his days in Tampa, but is this the kind of resurgence that was expected from a 35 year old? I would say not. He hasn't had a OBP over .400 since 2009 and has never hit above .300. His current OPS of .938 would be his highest since 2009 and first above .900 since 2009. In fact, this is for a player who's OPS was .816 in 2015 and below .800 in 2013 and 2014.
About the only sore spot so far has been the performance of Jason Heyward. He's struggled so far and is sitting with a .615 OPS, well below his career average of .774. But everything else seems to be going way better than expected.
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