Tuesday Trends: Fun with Small Samples Through 4 Games

Every Tuesday of the 2020 season, I looked forward to writing “Tuesday Trends,” a weekly column about the inevitable ups and downs of a baseball season. Like a bell, Tuesday announced itself as the day on which I should check in on whether Jeremy Jeffress successfully walked the tight rope over the past week or whether there were any signs of life with Albert Almora Jr.

Inevitably, he did and there weren’t. Week-to-week though, that Tuesday Trends bell rang and I did my best to answer it.

We’re now in 2021 and with only four games behind us, this isn’t exactly the ideal time for a column focused on trends. Who’s up? Well, anyone with a couple of hits. Who’s down? Everyone else. It may be a little tricky, but so was the moon landing. Now, like then, the bell has rung again and I’m here to answer.

Trending up

The middle of the rotation
Three new(ish) arrivals to the Cubs rotation shined brightly in the season’s opening series. Longtime Brewer Zach Davies, longtime Pirate Trevor Williams, and longtime Cub Jake Arrieta were each effective in their first starts of the year, giving up only five earned runs over 17.2 strong innings and change. Their solidity was much needed after a less effective start on opening day by the guy ahead of them in the rotation (more on that later).

Arrieta was particularly impressive, striking out five and giving up only a single walk. His strong results led to a game score of 64, surpassing all but three of his starts in Philadelphia. The fact that he produced one of his best starts in years the instant he put on a Cubs uniform might lead you to believe that the Cubs have the recipe for the veteran to be more successful in Chicago than he ever was in Philadelphia.

Kris Bryant‘s revenge tour
After a brutal 2020 in which the former Rookie of the Year and MVP finished with a wRC+ of 77, many expressed concern that KB’s best years might be behind him as he enters what many expect to be the final year of his Cubs career.

While there hasn’t exactly been enough time to prove his doubters wrong, the towering third baseman got off to a strong start in the season’s opening series. Fueled in part by his hitting of the team’s first home run of the year, Bryant’s wRC+ sat at a whopping 230 through the first three games (that’s 130% better than league average). An ofer on Monday brought that down a bit, but it’s an encouraging start either way.

Holding steady

Ian Happ doing Ian Happ things
That .125 batting average sure isn’t pretty, but Happ’s stat line looks generally familiar with a focus on the extremes. A low batting average coupled with a walk-fueled high OBP and strong slugging percentage has been a common sight for the coffee-loving centerfielder and that’s exactly what we’ve seen so far.

Oh, and he hit a really long home run.

Trending down

Kyle Hendricks’ string of Opening Day success
The Cubs’ ace tossed nine innings of shutout ball to get the 2020 season off to a roaring start. On Opening Day this year, he did not.

Don’t sweat it. He’ll be fine.

Joc Pederson‘s red hot spring
While no one expected the newest Cubs hitter to continue the level of success he carried through the spring, Pederson has certainly taken it to a bit of an extreme so far. His wRC+ currently sits at -65 (note that “-“) and he’s yet to record a hit.

Maybe the Cubs just need to start playing their home games in Mesa year-round. Or maybe he’ll be fine too.

He’ll be fine. We’ll all be fine. Have a great week.

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