What is happening with the Cubs?


by - Correspondent -
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Jason Vinlove - USA Today Sports

CHICAGO -- After going 2-7 in their last nine games, the Cubs are now 18-19 on the season and have platooned to fourth place (3.5 GB) in the NL Central as a result of getting swept by the Yankees at home, and then going 2-4 on their most recent road trip. The defending champs’ record has now dipped under .500 for the third time this season (0-1, 6-7, 18-19). Last season, that never happened once. The Cubs have been inconsistent in almost every part of the game so far in the season, and we are almost a fourth of the way through the season.

The first and foremost problem is the starting pitching. Despite having the ninth best ERA in the league, the Cubs are losing games they should win. The bullpen has been less than average. Jake Arrieta is the only Cubs starter with a winning record (4-3). However, he has an ERA of 5.44, the highest of his career since 2012, when he went 3-9 with Baltimore and had a 6.20 ERA. It seems as if the starting pitching is starting to improve as Lester, Hendricks, and Lackey have all had solid starts as of late, along with the newcomer Eddie Butler throwing six scoreless innings against St. Louis in his season debut. Quality starts doesn’t matter if the Cubs continue to lose games

Last year, the Cubs’ “worst” starting pitcher was Jason Hammel, who went 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA. Those are exceptional numbers for a number five pitcher in the rotation. This year so far, the pitching just has not been there, but there is plenty of time to turn that around. The few bright spots on the bump this year have been Carl Edwards Jr., Mike Montgomery, and Wade Davis, who is still yet to give up his first run as a Cub. The rest of the bullpen has been excruciating to watch. Also, Miguel Montero has an ERA of 0.00, so look out for him to play more if the bullpen needs a break.

The Cubs offense has not shown up, either. Ranked 25th in the league in batting average (.236), they are not where they were last year. In the 2016 regular season, they were ninth in BA. Cubs slugger Kris Bryant has been one of the few bright spots in the batting order, jumping out to a .299 average after a slow start to the season. However, he fell ill with a stomach bug and missed the entire St. Louis Series, and the Cubs’ offense felt the absence, only punching out six total runs in three games against their rival. Bryant also leads Chicago in HR’s, OBP, and hits so he needs to get back in the lineup as soon as possible.

The two biggest power hitters in the Cubs batting order Kyle Schwarber, the leadoff hitter, and Anthony Rizzo, the usual number three spot, have the two worst batting averages of any everyday player in the lineup. (Schwarber .179, Rizzo .213). They have been in massive slumps lately, which is a big reason the Cubs are under .500. Jason Heyward seems to have found his stroke this season, but he is currently on the 10-day DL with a hand injury and may be out longer than he had hoped. He will be eligible to get off the disabled list on Tuesday if the Cubs medical staff thinks he is good to go.

Recently, the starting pitching has been better, but the offense and the bullpen have not been there to back them up and win games. With a 10-game homestand looming, there is a lot of room for optimism for fans. Despite it being very early in the 2017 campaign, the Cubs are built for the entire season. Joe Maddon has thrown out so many different lineups already because to prepare for some of the injuries that he has been currently dealing with. With ridiculous depth and a farm system that keeps spitting out top prospects, they will hit their groove soon. Once the offense and defense start firing all on all cylinders, and a couple of nagging injuries are moot, the wins will start piling up. It’s not how you start it; it’s how you finish it for the Cubs.

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