The Cubs weaknesses are playing right into the Mets strengths in the NLCS
By all accounts, the Cubs came into the National League Championship Series with a young, energetic, balanced and high-octane offense.
They’re a wonderfully disciplined team with a 9.1 percent walk rate, second only to the Dodgers in the National League, they hit for a lot of power, and while they had the fifth best on-base percentage at .321, it’s only five hundredths of a point less than the league leading Giants at .326. They led the league in pitches per plate appearance with 3.97.
But they’re not perfect by any means.
They had the highest strikeout rate in the National League by nearly 2 1/2 percent over the Padres at 24.5 percent, had a middle-of-the-pack team slugging percentage at .398, had 96 weighted runs created which was eighth best in the National League, and produced the sixth best OPS at .719.
And the Cubs main offensive weakness could be playing right into the Mets hands.According to research performed at ESPN, the Cubs were last in the league at hitting fastballs over 94 mph with a .229 average.
Matt Harvey (fastball average at 96 mph), Jacob deGrom (fastball average at 95.5 mph) and Noah Syndergaard (fastball average at 97.7 mph) are in the top five in pitches thrown over 94 mph.
Jeurys Familia’s average velocity on his fastball was 96 mph, his splitter 94 mph.
The Mets as a team threw the most pitches over 95 mph in baseball during the regular year in 2015, and it’s not even close.
In this series alone, the Cubs are seeing 4.15 pitches per plate appearances, which is actually above their season average. But there really struggling against those hard fastballs and Mets pitchers are commanding counts, which is resulting in very little production from the Cubs.
They’ve seen 116 strikes with a pitch velocity over 94 mph. They have swung at 66 of them, and swung-and-missed at 21 of them, or 32 percent. They’ve only put 24 of those fastballs in play, making 18 outs on those hard fastballs.
Big swings against big fastballs don’t often work.
In total, the Cubs have walked just four times while striking out 20 times. They’ve had a total of 20 base runners in the two games, three of which have scored.
The Cubs dynamic trio of Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo have combined to go 4-for-21 with a double, home run and six strikeouts in the first two games of this series.
And, this is all having not seen deGrom yet, who starts Tuesday’s game three.
If deGrom is in command on Tuesday – something he struggled to do in his last start against the Dodgers – the Cubs will be in for more of the same. For Chicago, it’s going to come down to better run prevention and doing what they do the best, which is to work deGrom into deep counts, elevate his pitch count, and get into the Mets bullpen, an area they have the statistical advantage in.
Of course, run prevention may be their biggest challenge on Tuesday night, as the Mets have been superior enough in the first two games of this series to support their fantastic pitching.
And even if the Cubs figure it out for a day, it only starts back up again with Steven Matz (his two-seam fastball averaged 95 mph in 2015) on Wednesday, and Harvey again on Thursday with Syndergaard for a potential game six on Saturday, and deGrom for a game seven on Sunday.