So what’s wrong with the Chicago Cubs? That’s the question everyone is asking in Chicago right now. Last year the Cubs got off to a ridiculously hot start. They won 25 of their first 31 games and were off and running towards the postseason with a dominating 103 win regular season. They were able to finally break their curse and end the 108-years of misery that had swallowed the city of Chicago for over a century.
For the record I care not for the Cub’s century of losing. I’m not a Cub’s fan; however it was obvious that they were the best team in baseball in 2016 after they blew through the regular season and first two rounds of the playoffs. After winning the World Series it seemed fair to say that the Cubs would be the team to beat in 2017 once again.
Things have not gone according to plan this season for the Cubs. They’ve started out rather pedestrian and while they are in first place in a surprisingly competitive NL Central race, their record is only 25-22 after losing to the Dodgers on Friday night. The Cubs are just 3 games above .500 at home, and are break even (11-11) on the road.
So what could be the reason for the sudden mediocrity? You would probably think health concerns would come to mind, but the Cubs are almost fully healthy save for the annual Brett Anderson back injury.
The first that comes to my mind has to be the pitching staff. The starting rotation has been inconsistent. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are still great. Although they’ve taken a step back this season posting ERAs of 3.19 and 3.25 respectively. Hendricks led MLB with a 2.13 ERA in 2016. Lester posted a 2.44 ERA during his dominating campaign. Both hurlers are giving up over a run more per start this season.
The Cub’s pitching issues go deeper than some regression from Lester and Hendricks. The rest of their rotation has been pretty lackluster. John Lackey has a 4.82 ERA and is allowing opposing hitters a .276 average against. Former ace Jake Arrieta has a 4.92 ERA and does not seem to be the same pitcher who won a Cy Young award.
Overall the Cubs rank 14 in starting rotation ERA with a 4.26 mark. The Chicago starters have allowed a .261 opponents batting average against. That ranks the Cubs as the ninth best pitching staff in baseball with a 3.89 ERA. Certainly their bullpen has helped the situation with newly acquired closer Wade Davis posting great numbers (0.98 ERA, 24K, 0.76 WHIP) at the back of the bullpen.
The bats haven’t fared much better either. The Cubs are hitting .242 ranking them 20 out of the 30 MLB clubs. They’ve hit 62 home runs and rank 13 in slugging percentage which puts them in the middle of the pack power wise. Overall their offense has posted a 96 wRC+ which is below league average. The hit are not falling in for them either, they’re hitting just .223 with runners in scoring position. The base running speed has been non-existent as well. The Cubs have stolen just 15 bases ranking them at the bottom of baseball.
The defense has been poor as well. The Cubs have committed 36 errors; only one other team has made more mistakes with the glove. The Cubs rank 19 in defensive efficiency and 26 in fielding percentage. They don’t turn many double plays either, ranking 14 out of the 30 clubs in that area.
The problems are many for the Cubbies. Poor starting pitching, mediocre power, poor clutch hitting, and unimpressive defense and base running. If the Cubs want to repeat they’ll have to figure out a way to overcome these issues.
Maybe they just spent too long partying after their World Series victory? Talk about a World Series hangover.
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