The Chicago Cubs’ losing streak may have ended on Friday, but their woes have continued. The Cubs have found themselves in their worst slump since 2014 when they finished in last place.
On Sunday the Chicago Cubs finished off a brutal week of baseball, as they have lost six of their last seven games. The lowly slump started with a home sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals and ended with the Cubs dropping three out of four in Miami.
So how did the Cubs go from being the undisputed best team in baseball to struggling against mediocre teams?
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Well, for starters, injuries have been a killer. The Cubs haven’t been full force for some time now. Jorge Soler and Tommy La Stella both went on the DL at the same time and have yet to return. Soler was putting together some very productive at-bats right before he went down, and La Stella had proven to be one of the league’s best pinch-hitters.
The next Cub to hit the DL was Dexter Fowler. And as Joe Maddon says of Fowler, “When you go, we go.” Well, with Fowler out, the Cubs have not been going. The Cubs have missed Fowler sorely as he has been putting up career numbers at the plate.
Anthony Rizzo also missed a couple of games due to back stiffness. His injury wasn’t serious, and he has made his way back into the lineup, but any time spent without your MVP-caliber first baseman hurts.
Now to the part that has been driving most fans crazy–the bullpen. I shouldn’t even have to say it, but I will. And I won’t sugarcoat it either. The bullpen has stunk. Badly. This one can’t really be chalked up to injuries either. Clayton Richard is on the DL, but well…let’s face it, his absence hasn’t disappointed too many people.
Right now the only truly reliable bullpen pitcher has been the closer, Hector Rondon. Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill have been decent, but even they have faltered a bit lately. Pedro Strop, who was easily our second best behind Rondon, has also started to regress.
Today’s game is a prime example. Heading into the seventh inning, the Cubs were still in the game (even though it may not have felt like it), down by just a run. As the bullpen took over, they promptly gave up four runs in two innings, taking the Cubs right out of it.
It has become plainly obvious that the Cubs need to make some sort of trade(s) to bolster their pen. And preferably for somebody higher caliber than Tommy Hunter this time.
At the same time, this doesn’t excuse the Cubs’ lack of offense. They’ve been dealt a tough hand as far as injuries are concerned, but they still have above-average depth on their team. Chicago went 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position on Sunday. You can’t win many games doing that.
Brett Taylor of Bleacher Nation brought up a very good point earlier on Twitter. The Cubs aren’t taking nearly as many walks as they were earlier in the season. And it’s not because they aren’t taking pitches; they still are. But pitchers have started to adjust to Chicago’s strategy by hammering the strike zone, rather than trying to make them chase. This has put many Cubs hitters behind in the count early on in at-bats.
One bright spot, however, has been rookie catcher, Willson Contreras. Since being called up, Contreras has hit .348 with three homers, nine RBI’s, and a .464 OBP. His bat has already proven to be valuable to this team.
So much so that Maddon has even started him at first base and left field. Prior to this week, Contreras had not started a real game in the outfield since 2013. With the exception of one route taken on a base hit, he played solid out there and looked comfortable.
Up next is just what the doctor ordered, a three-game series at the Cincinnati Reds. The pitching matchups will be more than favorable for the Cubs, with Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester starting in the first two games.
So, let’s all take a deep, collective breath, and just forget about this week. The takes have been flaming hot since being swept by the Cardinals, and I promise you, I’m just as guilty. Seriously, I’m no fun to be around when the Cubs slump like this. But I, like the rest of you, have to forget about it and move on.
In the wise words of Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski, “Life goes on, man.” And go on it will. This Cubs team is as talented as they come. They’ll bounce back.