Chicago Cubs: 28 down, 134 to go – a look at the season’s first month

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Javier Baez
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Javier Baez /

It’s hard to believe the first month of the 2018 season is already behind us, but it is. The Chicago Cubs are 16-12. Have they played as well as their record shows?

If I had to sum up the first month of the Chicago Cubs’  season in one word it would have to be “inconsistent.” In most cases when that word is used, it describes just one phase of the game, but sadly for the Cubs, it fits pretty much every aspect. Take a look at what I mean…

Dominant pitching – with one big exception

The Good:

The Cubs’ pitching staff has been led by Kyle Hendricks who is rounding into form. He is 2-2 with a respectable 3.19 ERA and leads Cubs starters with 29 strikeouts and a 1.09 WHIP in his first six starts of 2018.

Another bright spot for the Cubs’ staff has been Tyler Chatwood. Despite two rocky outings to begin his Cubs’ tenure, he carries a 2-2 record with a sterling 2.83 ERA. The biggest flaw in Chatwood’s game has been the walks. He has walked 23 batters which ranks third in the National  League among qualified starters.

The Bad

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This one kind of answers itself. The bad? Yu Darvish. The right-hander has been downright awful, despite turning in a strong six-inning effort against Milwaukee on April 26. Darvish enters the first full week of May with an earned run average north of 6.00 – and a fifth inning ERA that sits at an astronomical 31.50.

He has given up a lot of hard contact and  has only been able to make it through the fifth inning once in his first six starts in a Cubs jersey. The team already tweaked his delivery – but it’s been a lot of the same. In other words, poor results.

A feast or famine offensive showing

The Good

At the plate, the Cubs have been led by Albert Almora Jr. and Javier Baez.

Almora  seems to have solidified himself as the Cubs’ primary leadoff hitter, and he has taken the chance and ran with it.  He is hitting .275 and hitting the ball hard and with authority atop the lineup all the while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense in center.

Hitting behind Almora, Javier Baez is shining. “El Mago” has been “El Fuego” thus far in 2018. He is batting .279 with an NL-leading 26 RBI. Another plus for Baez is that he been that he has cut down on his strikeouts. In his 112 plate appearances, Baez has struck out just 25 times. He’s doing this while continuing to play high quality at second base.

The Bad

The Cubs offense has struggled pretty much all season, only averaging about four runs a game, but the players have struggled the most have been Ian Happ and Anthony Rizzo.

Happ won the leadoff role out of Spring Training and even led off the season with a home run, but it has all gone downhill from there. He is hitting just .233 and has struck out a team-leading 36 times. It feels like has zero confidenc, and it looks like he doesn’t want to be at the plate.

It’s hard to believe that the lowest batting average on the team belongs to Antony Rizzo. He is below the Mendoza Line. He’s hitting just .171 with just three home runs and 13 RBI. Rizzo also spent about two weeks on the disabled list with a back issue.

Next: Cubs head to St. Louis, hoping bats heat up this weekend

Can the Cubs turn it around?

28 games isn’t too big of a sample size when it’s a 162 game season, but the starts Rizzo and Darvish have had raise some red flags. But, at the end of the day, this Cubs team is just way too talented not to hit and pitch like they are capable of. I fully expect this team to get hot when the weather heats up.