Last season, the Chicago Cubs seemingly came up with clutch hit after clutch hit. Through the first half of 2017, the reigning World Series champions rank near the bottom of the league in virtually every statistical measure.
Outside of last week’s come-from-behind win over the Washington Nationals, the Chicago Cubs have consistently failed to deliver the big hit. It seems like multiple times per week, the club comes up one big hit short of a win.
And it shows in their record. Entering Wednesday’s series finale against Tampa Bay, the Cubs once again owned a sub-.500 record. The struggles surely can’t be placed on any one issue. For instance, several starting pitchers have underperformed and injuries – something the team avoided last season – continue to pile up.
But when you don’t come up with clutch hits, you aren’t likely to win many ballgames. Especially when the starting rotation performs in an up-and-down fashion.
Of course, Happ also strikes out – a lot. With runners in scoring position, the rookie whiffs in just under one-third of his at-bats. As he matures, hopefully the feast-or-famine mentality evens out a bit more for consistency sake.
Key pieces coming up empty
With these younger players stepping up, the blame falls almost squarely on the veterans.
Reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant is barely above the Mendoza Line at .207. Ben Zobrist, who has battled injury this season, started Wednesday at a disappointing .185. Outside of those two names, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez are all batting below .230.
The month of May marked a brutal team performance at the dish. In June, the Cubs fared better – but are still far from producing as they did in 2016 en route to 103 regular-season victories. First baseman Anthony Rizzo did his part, batting .320/.429/.608 with six home runs and 20 runs batted in.
The big picture is yet to come together
When you look at the entire National League, you’d expect the Cubs to at least rank in the top third in one or two offensive categories. If that’s the case, as it was with me, you’d be wrong.
The main measure in which Chicago ranks well is home runs. Joe Maddon‘s club ranks sixth in the NL in long-balls, but rank in the bottom third in hits (14th), doubles (11th), runs batted in (11th) and average (14th). With runners in scoring position, things really take a turn for the worst.
The Cubs rank as one of the three-worst teams in the entire league in average, on-base percentage and OPS with runners in scoring position. Essentially, we’re talking about an offense that’s putting up numbers comparable to those of the San Diego Padres.
Not exactly encouraging.
We keep telling ourselves this team has too much talent to perform like this. We called it a World Series hangover in April, but that’s faded to slight discontent and a near-panic as the All-Star Break approaches. The talent on this roster is clear. But with this year’s Chicago Cubs, it comes down to what is done with said talent that matters.
If this club doesn’t start producing with runners in scoring position and delivering the big knocks, a third-straight postseason appearance is in serious jeopardy.