The Chicago Cubs have sunken about as low as they can, dropping two out of three to the lowly, last-place Cincinnati Reds. Is this the bottom?
In their last seven games, the Chicago Cubs have given up an average of 7.14 runs per game. That’s a recipe for losing. The most disturbing part of this prolonged slump is that the Cubs are losing to some pretty mediocre teams. The Cardinals were only a couple games over .500 when they swept the Cubs in Chicago. The Mets were struggling mightily to score runs before the Cubs came to town.
That brings us to the Reds. The Cubs’ have absolutely owned the Cincinnati Reds up until this series. You can’t expect Chicago to sweep them every time, but they really shouldn’t be dropping series’ to teams that bad. The general rule for making the playoffs is that you beat the teams you’re supposed to beat, and go about .500 against everyone else.
The Cubs have not been doing that for quite a while now. The team that was once blowing away the competition with authority is now struggling to even stay competitive against some of the worst teams in the majors.
Normally this would be the part where I tell you there’s nothing to worry about, and that everything will turn out just peachy. But I’d be lying if did that. Fans should be legitimately concerned about the Cubs right now.
Let’s start with the offense. According to FanGraphs, the Cubs rank 25th in the majors, striking out nearly nine times per game. Pair this with the fact that the Cubs haven’t been walking nearly as much, and you’re left with a shortage of scoring opportunities.
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The most troubling thing about the Cubs’ offense is their recent inability to manufacture runs. Over the last two to three weeks, the Cubs have relied heavily on the long ball to score runs. It can be a thing of beauty when everyone is clubbing it, but you can’t count on that day in and day out. Teams that rely solely on home runs to score generally don’t win a lot of games.
I’ve given my thoughts on the bullpen before, and I’ll do it again. Here’s the thing; if Chicago doesn’t drastically improve their bullpen, they won’t go on any sort of run in October. Adam Warren pitched well enough to win on Wednesday against the Reds, giving up just one run in five innings of work. The bullpen came in and quickly gave up the lead, giving up four runs. This can’t go on if the Cubs want to right the ship.
The bullpen has been shaky for most the season, really. That facet of the game was being overshadowed by the fact that starters were going seven or eight innings every game, and giving up little to no runs. Naturally, the starters have come back down to earth, making it all the more evident that the bullpen needs to start pulling its own weight.
Everything was great when the Cubs were obliterating their opponents every night, but how do they fare when the game is close? In short, not good at all. Here’s a frightening piece of information from ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.
I keep hearing “everything will be fine,” but when a team is consistently bad in the same areas of the game for nearly a month, there’s actual cause for concern. Am I saying this season is a wash? Absolutely not. We’ve all seen what this team can do, and they could very well get back to being that team. But you can’t just expect them to. Will they go on another 25-6 run? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a really good, competitive team again.
Yes, there’s still half a season left to be played, but fans shouldn’t just assume that the Cubs are going to cruise right into a spot in the NLDS. “It’s a long season” goes both ways. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years of following the Cubs, it’s that you should never count the St. Louis Cardinals out.
Getting Dexter Fowler and Jorge Soler back might be the answer for the offense, but the bullpen is a different story. I would expect Epstein and Hoyer to go out and get a couple of good arms, but that doesn’t completely solve the problem. Even if the Cubs acquire a couple of really good relievers, they can’t just use them over and over again every day. The core relievers already on the team will have to improve.
I really hate to be the voice of negativity. And let me reiterate that I’m not calling this season a bust. I truly believe that the Cubs will start figuring things out, but let’s not take this season for granted. That’s all I ask.
That brings me to my last point. It’s okay to be frustrated; I know I am. I see a lot of people, especially on social media, saying that showing frustration and having the occasional hot take makes you a bandwagoner. Nonsense. The people saying that are probably working on getting their anthropology degrees.
In fact, it only legitimizes your fandom by proving that you are emotionally invested in your team. That said, there’s a difference between voicing your frustrations and just flat-out being a troll. Don’t be a troll.