Marcus Stroman was fired up after pitching eight strong innings against the Mets on Wednesday night.
Stroman and his infield turned 16 of 19 groundballs and bunts into outs, the last two coming when Francisco Álvarez hit into a double play to kill a potential Mets rally.
The Cubs have shown the best version of themselves with their groundball and bunt defense this season. They’ve turned 76.6% of grounders and bunts into outs, the 3rd-best percentage in the league. Shortstop Dansby Swanson ranks tied for 2nd at his position with 6 Runs Saved.
The standard setters in this stat have been the Rays, who are converting grounders and bunts into outs at a 78.1% rate. Wander Franco has lived up to his billing this season. He leads all shortstops with 8 Runs Saved.
The Rays also have one of the top multi-position defenders in baseball in Taylor Walls. Walls has 5 Runs Saved as a third baseman and 2 Runs Saved as a shortstop (along with -1 at second base).
The other team to take note of is the one in between the Rays and Cubs, the Mets, who rank 2nd in groundball and bunt out rate at 77.4%.
The Mets have made the biggest improvement in their out rate on grounders and bunts from last season to this season. In 2022, the Mets ranked 26th in this stat, with a 72.1% out rate. Their jump to 2nd comes from an increase in their out rate of just over 5 percentage points.
What’s particularly interesting about the Mets is that the elimination of the full defensive shift (shifts with 3 infielders on the pull side) may have helped them. Last season, they turned 72% of grounders and bunts hit in full shifts into outs, with, as noted on a recent broadcast, players having difficulty with running into each other because of how closely infielders could be positioned and with making plays from odd angles. That out rate was the lowest rate in the majors.
As is the case with the Rays and Cubs, the Mets’ shortstop, Francisco Lindor, leads their infielders with 3 Runs Saved.
MLB season-ending leaders in groundball and bunt out rate tend to finish at around 77 to 78%. The Cardinals and Yankees finished 1-2 last season at 77.3% and 77.2%, respectively. This season, the Cardinals rank 8th (75.1%) while the Yankees have slipped to 19th (73.4%).
The bottom two teams at turning grounders and bunts into outs this season are the Athletics (69.2%) and Reds (67.8%).
To illustrate the difference between the team at the top and the team at the bottom, consider this: If the Reds had the Rays out rate on grounders and bunts, they’d have turned 55 more balls into outs than they have this season.