Cubs infielder Javier Baez

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Bernstein: Cubs' Defense Is Back, And They Need It

The Cubs are playing the best defense in MLB.

Dan Bernstein
June 13, 2018 - 1:40 pm

By Dan Bernstein-- senior columnist

(670 The Score) It may not quite be as historically good as it was when they won the World Series in 2016, but the spectacular Cubs defense that powered that run has returned. They're the best defensive team going right now.

A shaky start in the field demanded attention earlier this season, the ensuing recovery has been noticeable and way too many walks have made it all matter a bit too much. The Cubs lead MLB in defensive runs above average at 19.6 and are nearly doubling the next-closest team in baseball in UZR/150 -- 12.6 to Cleveland's 7.1.  That this is happening as they lead the game in walk rate tells an important story.

Analyst Joe Sheehan calls it "dancing through the raindrops," this high-wire act of trying to make baserunners not matter by turning so many batted balls into outs. He uses the difference between FIP and ERA to show what should be happening and then what actually does, illustrating the outsized importance of their .739 defensive efficiency for a team that walks opponents at a rate that's by far the highest of this century. Cubs manager Joe Maddon may be letting his pitchers call off planned defensive shifts, but it's not keeping them from making plays.

Another researcher, Scott Lindholm, points to the fact that Cubs pitchers are allowing a BABIP of just .262, which is 40 points better than league average. It indicates a combination of great defense, soft contact induced and some pure luck, but it too is tops in all of MLB as the Cubs have been, in his words, "defying the FIP gods."

Lindholm doesn't call it "dancing through the raindrops," however, preferring the more ominous description of "playing with fire."

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​