Chicago Cubs News: Examining Kris Bryant’s 2017 Season

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: Kris Bryant
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 19: Kris Bryant /

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant finished seventh in the 2017 National League MVP voting and receiving one first-place vote. While not great, Bryant’s 2017 season was far from bad.

Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant had a terrific 2016 season.

In 2016, Bryant posted a line of .292/.385/.554/.939 with 39 home runs and 102 RBIs. Factor in a WAR of 8.3, .396 wOBA and 148 wRC+ and it is no surprise that Bryant was named the 2016 National League MVP.

Bryant’s 2016 season was so great that it led many fans to believe that the elite third baseman regressed during the 2017 season.

Chicago Cubs
Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

In 2017, Bryant had a line of .295/.409/.537/.946 with 29 home runs and 73 RBIs. For comparison’s sake, Bryant had a WAR of 6.7, .399 wOBA and 146 wRC+.

The question that needs to be asked is: did Bryant really regress in 2017?

Bryant By the Numbers

The biggest regression that Bryant had between 2016 and 2017 was with runners in scoring position. In 2016, Bryant hit .263 with runners in scoring position along with 53 RBIs. In 2017, Bryant hit .237 with 44 RBIs.

The lazy narrative is that Bryant lacked the “clutch” gene in 2017. After all, how else would you explain Bryant’s drop in run production?

Well, actually, there is another explanation for Bryant’s reduced run production in 2017. That explanation is that for most of the 2017 season, Bryant was hitting second in the Cubs’ lineup.

In 2017, Bryant had 492 plate appearances from the 2nd spot in the Cubs’ spot and a combined 169 plate appearances in the 3rd and 4th spots. Looking at 2016, Bryant had 379 plate appearances in the 2nd spot and 275 plate appearances in the 3rd spot.

From there, you then have to look at who Bryant was hitting behind. In 2016, a bulk of Bryant’s plate appearances came with center fielder Dexter Fowler hitting in front of him. Fowler had an on-base percentage of .393 with the Cubs in 2016 with 20 extra base hits excluding home runs.

In 2017, Bryant was hitting behind outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Jon Jay. Schwarber hit .190 from the leadoff spot in 2017 with only 7 extra base hits excluding home runs. Jay hit .267 from the leadoff spot in 2017 with 13 extra base hits excluding home runs.

So, how does that impact the verdict of Bryant’s 2017 season?

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Well, it ultimately is deciding factor. Bryant did not regress during the 2017 season. Bryant adapted to the situation that he was placed in. The Cubs’ saw a reduction in production from the leadoff spot in 2017 and that forced Bryant, hitting second, to be the catalyst for the offense.

As a catalyst, Bryant took it upon himself to get on base and create run-scoring opportunities. That is proven when you figured Bryant’s BB% increased by 3.7% and K rate dropped by 2.8 % in 2017 compared to 2016.

Kris Bryant’s ability to adapt is what made his 2017 season, while not MVP-worthy, still impressive in it’s own right.