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Cubbies On My Mind: Addison Russell and a Preview of the Second Half?

In his second installment of "Cubbies On My Mind," Christopher O'Neil breaks down Addison Russell's offensive campaign and the Cubs' pitching situation. Give it a read here.

Addison Russell’s Quietly Fantastic Season Continues

About a month ago, I wrote about Addison Russell and how he is having an All-Star-caliber season. Through Thursday, Russell remains among the best in the league, posting the 56th highest bWAR in the majors, and the fourth highest on the Cubs (behind only Javier Baez, Jon Lester and Willson Contreras).

Going into the All-Star week, Russell ranks above seven of the 21 positional NL All-Stars in bWAR (Charlie Blackmon, Bryce Harper, Matt Kemp, Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, Joey Votto, Christian Yelich). His slash line ranks in the NL (36th/35th/55th) show that his glove isn’t his only weapon. But defense remains the special aspect of Russell’s game. His dWAR of 1.6 ranks second in the NL and fifth in the majors.

Russell might not put up gaudy numbers like some superstars, but the value he brings to the Cubs is huge. His personality and the way he plays the game isn’t flashy like Baez, so people don’t notice his contributions as much. A team needs players who contribute in different ways, however, and Russell fills the subdued role fantastically.

Are Hendricks and Quintana Ready to Breakout?

The Cubs have gotten good performances from many of their players this season. The lineup and the bullpen have been among the best in the majors. Jon Lester has regained his All-Star form and is a candidate for the Cy Young halfway through the year. But the rest of the starting rotation has struggled to perform up to their expectations.

Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana have both struggled to find a rhythm in 2018, but were their performances in San Francisco this week a preview of the second half?

Hendricks had his best outing of the year, going 8.1 innings, allowing zero earned runs and striking out eight. His command was vintage Hendricks, working the corners and expanding the zone as much as the umpire would allow.

Quintana pitched six scoreless innings and brought his ERA below 4.00 for the first time this season. He allowed just five base runners and was in control the whole night.

Quintana’s last two starts have been solid, and Hendricks looked better on Monday than he had the entire year, so there is optimism on the North Side that both can help lead the team to another dominant second half.

Maybe pitching coach Jim Hickey has helped the duo figure something out, or maybe there is another reason, but Joe Maddon‘s teams have a habit of getting hot in the second half of the season. Are the 2018 Cubs going to follow the same pattern?

Stats of the Week

Total number of baserunners when a batter is at the plate – 2,427 (2nd in MLB) – The Cubs have had A LOT of men on the base-paths this season. This makes sense when you consider their league-leading OBP. The 2,427 number leads the third place team (Red Sox) by 153.

Percentage of all baserunners who score on the batter’s play – 14.4% (10th in MLB) – Much has been made of the Cubs “struggles” with situational hitting. This statistic would suggest that those “struggles” are a bit overblown. While being ranked 10th in the league isn’t exactly elite, the 1.8 percent difference between the Cubs and the league-leading Red Sox isn’t drastic. When you factor in the extra chances the Cubs have because of the statistic mentioned above, the results become the Cubs having the highest runs per game average in the National League.

Follow Christopher O’Neil on Twitter-Feature Photo Credit: CBS Chicago

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