How Important Has Dexter Fowler's Second-Half Performance Been for the Cubs?
When the Cubs traded for outfielder Dexter Fowler in the offseason, he was coming off of four years averaging around 2.3 WAR per year. Fowler contributed enough to be a solid starter, but not a top-three player for a contending team.
The Chicago Cubs, a “sleeper” pick to contend this year, put up a record of 47-40 in the first half of the year. The team’s play was solid but not enough to keep up with the division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, in the second half, the Cubbies own a record of 32-17, good for a winning percentage more than 100 points higher than their first half. Chicago’s best player over that span: Dexter Fowler.
After a sub-par first half where he hit .232/.308/.369 for a wRC+ of 86, Fowler has been on a tear the entire second half of the season. Over the last 49 games, he owns a .297/.426/.560 slash line and leads the Cubs in WAR at 2.6, wOBA at .420, and wRC+ at 169.
Fowler has arguably been a top-10 player in Major League Baseball over the second half. He ranks 6th in on-base percentage, 8th in WAR, 12th in wRC+, and 12th in wOBA.
Some of Fowler’s success in the second half can be attributed to nearly doubling his walk percentage from 9.5% to 17.1%. He’s also hitting the ball harder more often, at a 35.9% hard hit rate compared to just 24.4% of the time in the first half. And finally, Fowler is hitting line drives at a 25.4% rate, up from 20.1%.
Fowler’s increase in line drives and hard contact has led to an ISO of .263 for the second half, much higher than what he has registered throughout his career (.154)
Fowler’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) in the second half is a little high, at .361 (the league average is around .300). But, after registering a low .283 BABIP in the first half, Fowler’s increase makes sense.
Overall, Fowler has registered a 2.5 WAR, his highest since 2012 (2.8 with Colorado), and has launched 17 home runs, which is a career best. He ranks fourth on the Cubs in WAR, trailing ace Jake Arrieta (6.8), Anthony Rizzo (5.8), and Kris Bryant (4.4).
On the year, Fowler has accumulated a nERD of 1.42, the second best of his career, trailing only his 2012 season (1.95). The nERD measurement shows how many runs a batter would contribute compared to a league-average game of 27 plate appearances. Fowler also ranks third among position players on the Cubs in nERD, behind Rizzo (3.54) and Bryant (2.33).
The Cubs currently sit at eighth in numberFire’s team power rankings. They own a 99.3% chance to clinch the playoffs and are projected to finish the year 93-69. They currently occupy the second Wild Card spot, as well.
Simply put, Fowler has been a big reason for the team’s success and climb in the standings over the last couple of months, and the Cubs now own a 4.6% chance to win the World Series, the eighth best odds in all of baseball.