Chicago Cubs: Pennants are won in October not May
|Sunday, June 4, 2017, 5:34 PM- -|
Following a dismal California road trip last week, the Cubs were able to recover nicely against their divisional rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs suffered six consecutive losses against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres as it was the team’s longest losing streak under manager Joe Maddon and sent the Cubs to two games below .500. Upon coming home to Chicago, the Cubs have played better baseball, taking the series from the Cardinals and jumping them in the division standings.
Despite keeping themselves in striking distance of first place in the division, the Cubs have not been able to find a consistent groove. With all the talent they send onto the field for each game, the defending World Series champions have only been able to tread water to this point in the season. The Cubs have yet to get above four games over the .500 mark. Much of their struggles can be traced inconsistency on all facets of the game. They have received some solid outings from starters, but have been unable to get many solid outings in consecutive starts. The defense has shown glimpses of its record-setting 2016 season but still has made far too many errors. Perhaps most glaringly, the lineup has produced runs in bunches but has struggled to score consistently. On the west coast trip, the offense was blanked twice to open up the trip before performing well against Dodger’s ace Clayton Kershaw. After a strong display against Kershaw (which the team still lost), the bats went dormant again for the next three games in San Diego.
A primary reason that could be leading to the Cubs’ inconsistency at the plate is their reliance on home runs. The long ball was an issue for the Cubs on the trip both by the pitchers allowing them, and the offense not hitting them. The Cubs exhibit an abundance of power bats up and down the lineup, but they need to figure out other ways to score when the ball isn’t leaving the park. Home runs will always be a big part of this Cubs team, however, living on homers is a dangerous way to play, particularly in the unpredictability of Wrigley Field. Power is a huge weapon for the Cubs. Unfortunately, this season it has been their only weapon.
With all the talent the Cubs have in their lineup, they sit at only 15th in the MLB in runs scored. The Cubs have hit 69 home runs which is above league average, but not enough to carry so much of the load. They are all the way down at 26th in the league in hits per game and only the San Francisco Giants and the San Diego Padres have a lower team batting average. 16% of the Cub players hits on the season have been home runs, up from 14% last season. As a team, they have drawn a lot of walks and usually have not cashed in with those baserunners. Clutch hitting has escaped the Cubs this spring seeing them hit .226 with runners on and dropping to .210 with runners in scoring position; 29th in the league in both categories. The Cubs struggles to string hits together has exposed them to ground ball pitchers or days the wind is blowing in at Wrigley.
The team has been frustrating to watch, but they are as frustrated as we are and will make any adjustment they can to improve quickly. If the Cubs can get back into consistent clutch hitting they will produce considerably more runs than they have thus far. They have the power hitters they need to hit plenty of home runs; they just need to compliment power with effective situational hitting.
Even with these troubling offensive numbers, there is no need for Cubs fans to jump ship. Memorial Day has come and gone and we are getting into the heat of the summer. Hopefully as Wrigley heats up, so will the Cubs bats. Kyle Schwarber is going to hit better and could benefit from some confidence gained through his huge game winning grand-slam against the Cardinals. Addison Russell should get back to the RBI machine he was last season to compliment middle of the order superstars, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The numbers the Cubs have put up to this point in the season should rise as the summer rolls in, moving this lineup back into the top of the majors. If Cubs fans need any more silver linings, here it is: through June 1 the 2014 Kansas City Royals were 26-30, 2015 New York Mets were 29-23, and 2016 Cleveland Indians were 27-24. All of those teams recovered and went to the World Series. It’s only June and while there are certainly adjustments the Cubs need to make, recent history has shown that pennants are won in October not May.