The Chicago Cubs have already given us a few come from behind wins, and that is exciting. The problem is that we’re behind entirely too often. It’s not even May, but it’s a concern that the Cubs need to figure out a solution.
The Chicago Cubs couldn’t be expected to come out of the gate like they did last season. That was a start for the ages. A +74 run differential after 21 games? We often talked about how good that offense was last season. But this year, the actual reason has been exposed. The pitching. It’s easier to score that many more runs than your opponent when you aren’t allowed them. That hasn’t been the case this year.
We’re all very aware of the Cubs struggles in the first inning. That’s led to entirely too many comeback stories for my liking. While that’s exciting, I would prefer the blowout victories–at least a few more of them. The Cubs are averaging over five runs per game, and that should be enough to be a better team than 12-10. The pitching staff still sits in the top third in the MLB with a 3.73 ERA, but there are warning signs there.
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First, that dreaded first inning. The Cubs have a 9.82 ERA in the first while allowing eight home runs. Couple that with 11 walks and a recipe for disaster is simmering. The most home runs they have allowed in any other inning this year is three (9th inning), and they are yet to turn a double play in the first inning. When you look at the numbers, the staff isn’t that bad–except for that first inning.
Is it just World Series fatigue?
Can some of this be attributed to the World Series run? Possibly. Some of these guys–Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks) haven’t been near as sharp. But none of these three have been historically strong to start a season. So while we’re comparing much of this to the 2016 season–an unfair comparison–things could very well level out soon.
The other part of this is the effect on the bullpen. The Cubs have been strong from front to back in the pen. But with these rough starts from the rotation, often leading to higher pitch counts in the early innings, Joe Maddon has to turn to them sooner. The thought was not to wear the starters out this year, but they may very well still be fatigued out from last year.
After only a month of baseball, it is something to keep an eye on. The Cubs could very well have three to four more wins under their belt if not for allowing early runs. And that would have had us on the same pace for last season. But that of course, is baseball. Score more runs, you win. When you allow them is irrelevant. But what would we do if we couldn’t analyze and critique them? Damned if we do, damned if we don’t. By the way, shout out to my site co-expert Jake who completed the Race to Wrigley 5k this morning!