BUYIN’ INTO BRYANT

His 139 wRC+ from ages 23 to 27 tops all ex­pan­sion-era Cubs ex­cept Santo

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - Twit­ter: @Gro­chowskiJ JOHN GROCHOWSKI

When it comes to over­all pro­duc­tion, Kris Bryant has been one of the best hit­ters the Cubs have had.

With de­ci­sions to come about how much of the Cubs’ core to keep in­tact, it should be noted Bryant has been their leader in weighted runs cre­ated plus. WRC+ is a top-shelf of­fen­sive met­ric that as­signs weights to ev­ery out­come from home runs to dou­ble plays. The re­sults are ad­justed to ball­parks and nor­mal­ized to ma­jor-league av­er­ages so that 100 sig­ni­fies an av­er­age hit­ter.

Bryant’s 139 ca­reer wRC+ means he has been 139 per­cent as pro­duc­tive as an av­er­age hit­ter. That not only leads cur­rent Cubs, but it ranks third all-time among Cubs with 3,000 or more plate ap­pear­ances, trail­ing only 1920s and 1930s star Hack Wil­son (153) and 19th­cen­tury out­fielder Ge­orge Gore (141).

Among those who played in the ex­pan­sion era that be­gan in 1961, Bryant is the leader, fol­lowed by Billy Wil­liams, Sammy Sosa and An­thony Rizzo (all at 134), Der­rek Lee (131) and Ron Santo (128). Ernie Banks is down the list at 118 over­all, but he was at 135 for 1953 to 1960, the por­tion of his ca­reer out­side the ex­pan­sion era.

In his five sea­sons and a few games in 2020, Bryant has started climb­ing Cubs ca­reer lists. In the ex­pan­sion era, he’s 12th with 138 home runs, third with a .901 OPS, sec­ond with a .385 on-base per­cent­age, fourth with a .516 slug­ging per­cent­age and sev­enth with a 27.8 fWAR in ad­di­tion to lead­ing in wRC+

Does that put Bryant on a track to be the team’s best hit­ter since ex­pan­sion should he re­main with the Cubs? It’s not quite that sim­ple, though he still is near the top in wRC+ when age is fac­tored in.

Bryant ar­rived at Wrigley Field ma­jor-league-ready for his age-23 sea­son in 2015. His 136 wRC+ ranked 17th in the ma­jors, and his 6.1 fWAR ranked 10th. There were no young­player grow­ing pains.

The de­cline years, where age erodes skills and num­bers, have yet to come. We’ve seen Bryant only in his prime.

How do oth­ers stack up from ages 23 to 27, Bryant’s ages in 2015-19?

Lee didn’t come to the Cubs un­til age 28, so he has no same-age com­par­i­son to Bryant with the team. Wil­liams, in 1961-65, and Rizzo, in 2013-17, are within two points of their ca­reer num­ber with 136 wRC+. Sosa was at 115 in 1992-96. His ex­plo­sion came two years later, start­ing at age 29, with 160 wRC+.

The hit­ter who ex­ceeded Bryant’s pro­duc­tion for ages 23 to 27 was Santo. His 150 wRC+ tied Al Ka­line for sev­enth in the ma­jors in 1963-67. Add in de­fense, and Santo’s 40.7 fWAR for those five years was sec­ond to Wil­lie Mays’ 43.6.

To stretch back a few years, Banks put up 133 wRC+ in 1954-58, his age-23 to age-27 years.

Bryant, who re­mains un­der club con­trol through 2021, tops that. From 1961 on, he tops all Cubs in wRC+ over­all and tops all Cubs at com­pa­ra­ble ages ex­cept Santo in his re­mark­able stretch start­ing in 1963.

GETTY IMAGES

In five sea­sons and a few games in 2020, Kris Bryant is among the Cubs’ ex­pan­sion-era lead­ers in a slew of of­fen­sive cat­e­gories.

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