Tuesday Trends: Cubs Can’t Help but Hover Around .500

After a little bit of a break, Tuesday Trends is back. I hope you’ll forgive me for my absence, Dear Reader, as I was on paternity leave. The Cubs, like parenting, have come with some ups and downs and there have certainly been a lot of those over the past week.

As the team continues to hover around .500, individual performances have ebbed and flowed. Let’s take a look.

Trending up

Kris Bryant‘s return to MVP form: If you’re one of those people that think Bryant “left,” it’s fair to say at this point that he’s back. Per FanGraphs, Bryant has already been worth 2.0 fWAR, a gaudy total to accumulate in under 40 games. His 175 wRC+ would be the best mark of his career.

Bryant’s strong numbers have continued over the last seven games in which he’s slashed .300/.440/.550. In other words, he’s shown absolutely no signs of slowing down towards what could be another MVP caliber season.

Matt DuffySpeaking of awards KB has won, the Cubs have benefited greatly from having the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up in Matt Duffy in their lineup of late.

Over his last 15 games, Duffy is slashing .292/.340/.417 while drawing a majority of the team’s starts at third base. Why has he been so valuable for this team in particular? It starts with his contact rate and ability to avoid strikeouts. Duffy is at the 98th percentile of all major league hitters in avoiding whiffs and the 78th percentile in avoiding strikeouts.

The results have been good, but they should probably be better. Duffy’s .339 wOBA is solid enough, but his .366 wOBA suggests he actually has room for improvement. It seems as if David Ross will prioritize keeping Duffy in the lineup so long as those results keep coming.

He also hit his first home run of the year on Saturday, a three run shot.

Holding steady

Rex Brothers‘ hold on a middle relief spot: I’ll admit it, I’ve been more than a little down on Brothers at various points this season. I’ve consistently thought the Cubs could have made better use of his roster spot by doing something like, say, not cutting ties with Duane Underwood Jr.

You know what, though? Brothers has been fine. Over his last 15 appearances, he has accumulated a 2.08 ERA, giving up six hits and six walks over 13 total innings while striking out 25. Over the course of the season, Brothers has struck out 26 while walking only seven.

While he hasn’t always looked dominant doing it, the results are certainly there. If the Cubs find themselves selling in July, Brothers could be someone they look to unload.

Trending down

Trevor Williams‘ feel-good story: Williams got his Cubs career off to a nice start. In his Wrigley Field debut in a Cubs uniform, the former Pirate pitched six strong innings, giving up only two runs and striking out six. He’s had seven starts since then: How have they gone?

Williams has put up some ugly numbers over the last 27 innings, giving up 21 runs and walking 16 with a ghastly 2.07 WHIP. None of that is a recipe for success. He did not fare well in his last outing in Detroit, giving up three runs in just two innings in what ended up being a losing effort largely due to the ineffective pitching.

The offense seems to have turned things around for the moment, but Williams and other starters will need to turn things around if the Cubs are going to distance themselves from .500 in a good way.

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