A little past the halfway mark of the season, the Cubs have very few areas of real concern. The offense is one of the very best in baseball. The starting pitching has been healthy and extraordinary (with a few bumps in the road lately). The biggest concern throughout the first half has been with the bullpen. Rondon and Strop have both been very good, but getting the ball to them has been a big challenge. 

In 2015, there was a third reliever in the pen that posted fantastic results - Justin Grimm. But 2016 has been something of a nightmare for Grimm (or for the fans when he pitches). While he has been better than his 5.79 ERA would suggest, he has still been pretty bad. The 4.42 FIP and 4.12 xFIP both point to a reliever that cannot be relied upon in close games.

So is there any hope that Grimm returns to his 2015 level of performance? Let's take a look at some charts!

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This is a question I've heard asked a lot over the past few days. The first question to ask: is the offense really struggling?

I'm going to look at the splits by month to see how much the offense has really tanked during June when compared to the glory days of the first couple months when the Cubs were running roughshod over the rest of baseball.




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I've been holding off on writing this article.  There have been some signs that something's off with Jake Arrieta.  I figured he would suddenly snap out of his funk, unfurl a complete game shutout and make me look silly in the process.  And he still might do just that.  But, I can't keep sitting idly by.  Something's wrong with Jake.  I don't mean to be alarming, but this just isn't right.  I have to write about this, much to my own chagrin.

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If you've heard Theo Epstein talk about player development, you've probably heard this phrase: Control the Zone.  Short hand for how Theo wants Cubs players to use the strike zone to their advantage, people generally understand the application when it comes to hitters.  Work counts in your favor, and attack pitches you can drive, not just pitches that happen to be strikes.

The same logic applies to pitchers as well.  The Cubs want to control the zone, which means throwing strikes and more importantly, not walking people.  What's missing in that equation is the corollary to 'attack pitches you can drive'.  Just like the Cubs want hitters to focus on strikes that they can drive, they want pitchers to throw strikes that are less likely to be driven. This isn't easy to do, and almost as difficult to measure, but I think contact management is something the Cubs put a lot of weight behind. 

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You might have heard that Kris Bryant had a pretty good game last night.  He became the first player in baseball history to hit three home runs and two doubles in the same game.  His 16 total bases are the most ever by a Chicago Cub in a single game.  He became the youngest Cub to hit three home runs in one game.  He pretty much single-handedly willed the Cubs to victory.  He did so while playing three different positions during the game.

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As we all know, Addison Russell is an exciting young shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. At only 22 years of age, he is already a key component to the best team in baseball. Dating back to his days as a prospect, he has often been compared to Barry Larkin.

So why does he suck against left handed pitching? As evidence look at this chart from 2016:

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Willson Contreras has taken MLB by storm. It would be fair to say that if he could keep up the hitting pace of his first seven games (.412/.474/.941) that he would be the greatest player in the history of baseball. That won't happen, of course, but there are reasons to believe that Willson Contreras might just as good as any of the young studs the Cubs have assembled.

It goes beyond his short stint in MLB, of course. Let's begin with his performance for the past 1.5 years in minor league ball. Willson had his breakthrough year at AA in 2015, going .333/.413/.478 at the plate. More importantly, he showed tremendous plate discipline and contact skills with 10.9 BB % and 11.9 SO %. If you added in HBP, he got on base with free (and painful) passes more frequently than he struck out across 521 PA. He continued that excellence into the Arizona Fall League (where many of baseball's best prospects play when the regular minor league season concludes) with a .283/.361/.547 line and 11.5 BB % / 14.8 SO % peripherals. 

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