Fowler? More like Fairer, amirite?
In the two months leading up to the All-Star break, Dexter Fowler was a man adrift. He was triple-slashing .210/.282/.343 (.625 OPS) with only 14 extra base hits and a wRC+ of 72. In short, he was about 28 percent worse than an average hitter. I don’t know about you, but that’s not really what I would prefer from a guy in the leadoff spot.
The Cubs probably would’ve preferred a little more production too, as they scored 2 or fewer runs in 25 of the 55 games during that two-month stretch. But in the 35 games since the break, the Cubs have pushed across 2 or fewer only 6 times and have now scored 5 or more runs in 6 straight and 9 of 10 games.
It’s impossible to give just one player all the credit for the resurgent offense, but it’s hard to look past what Fowler has been doing at the top of the lineup. Sure, the guys behind him have been absolutely mashing, but the leadoff man has been setting the tone for this team like a pitch pipe.
Fowler has been tuning up piped pitches too, upping that slash line to .320/.457/.578 (1.035 OPS) with 6 homers and 18 total extra base hits in 34 second-half games. He’s also got a staggering 184 wRC+ during that time, which essentially means that he’s been 84 percent better than the average hitter. When your leadoff hitter is putting up numbers like that, it makes things so much easier for the rest of the guys behind him in the lineup.
In fact, on a team with guys like Kris Byant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber, one could argue that Dexter Fowler has been the Cubs’ best hitter over the last month and change. One would have some very strong points in one’s favor in said argument too, namely the WAR factor. Fowler’s WAR since the break stands at 2.2, the highest total on his team (Schwarber and Bryant – 1.3) and 5th in all of baseball. That wRC+ mark also leads the Cubs (Schwarber – 160) and is 9th among all major leaguers since the break.
Fowler has provided some pretty solid defense in center as well, ranking in the top 12 in both UZR and Def, overall metrics used to quantify a player’s value in the field. I don’t think it’d be fair to say the guy is anything approaching spectacular or elite, but he’s more than held his own out there.
It’s possible — likely even — that Fowler’s production tails off a big here as we head into September and beyond, but what he’s done over the last month and change has stockpiled quite a bit of leeway for him. But we can cross that bridge of regression when get back to it. For now, I’m just going to enjoy watching Fowler make things happen for the Cubs.