Chicago Cubs: The offense hasn’t been great – and that’s good news
A little over two weeks into the season, the Chicago Cubs’ offense hasn’t been over-the-top. And, if you ask me, that’s a promising sign.
Sitting at .500 entering Wednesday’s series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers, the first two-plus weeks of the 2017 season has been a mixed bag for the Chicago Cubs.
Of course, highlights include raising the National League and World Series championship pennants at Wrigley Field and receiving the team championship rings. Low points, as if we need reminding, consist largely of blown saves, poor clutch hitting and a four-game losing streak.
But, through all the frustration, there is light. Although many fans seem unaware of this, baseball seasons are long. No, like, really long. We’re two weeks in, sitting at .500. And the offense hasn’t really gotten started yet, either.
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Last year, Chicago finished second only to the Colorado Rockies in runs scored. The Cubs smacked 199 home runs, led the league with a .343 OBP and drew a league-high 656 base-on balls.
It was the perfect combination of power and intelligence.
Granted, the team did strike out over 1,300 times, but you learn to take your lumps. In essence, the players got on base and came up with clutch hits to keep things moving.
This season, that hasn’t been the case. At least not entirely.
Lacking pop, but promising signs emerge
Dexter Fowler set the table for last year’s club almost perfectly. He pushed a .400 OBP for an entire season, serving as the team’s leadoff hitter. In 2017, Joe Maddon dubbed Kyle Schwarber the heir apparent to that role.
And, well, it’s taken some adjusting from fans.
First, the positive. He’s launched a trio of home runs out of that leadoff spot. He also boasts an impressive .379 on-base percentage. In short, he’s getting on base, which is his primary job as a leadoff man.
But he’s batting just .241 on the young season. And he’s striking out – a lot. With his 22 strikeouts, Schwarber leads the entire National League in that category. Needless to say, that’s not a leaderboard one wishes to be atop.
Entering Wednesday’s finale, the Cubs, as a team, rank fourth in the NL in strikeouts. But they also rank third in base-on-balls. This group is doing a lot of what they did last year in terms of batting average, etc.
It’s all coming down to clutch at-bats.
Clutch hitting yet to come
With runners in scoring position this season, Chicago is batting just .227. With men on-base, that mark falls even further, down to .222.
For whatever reason, the offense has failed to deliver under pressure. As a club, Joe Maddon’s group carries a dismal .167/.318/.167 slash-line with two away and runners in scoring position.
How many times have we seen this team leave the bases loaded this season?
According to Baseball Reference, Cubs hitters are 2-for-14 with the bags loaded (.143). In those situations with two away, the club is hitless in 2017.
Clearly, there’s room for improvement. Which brings me to my line of thinking.
This club is at .500 in mid-April, despite the aforementioned clutch hitting woes. Yes, the Cubs are reigning World Series champions. But they’re also one of the youngest teams in Major League Baseball.
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There will be ups and downs, just like there were in 2016. But it’s illogical and unreasonable to expect the offense to continue sputtering as it has so far this season for the next six months. Instead, take encouragement from the results so far.