Despite obvious issues due to injury and overwork, the Chicago Cubs bullpen isn’t this team’s biggest weakness. It’s been the inability to hit with men on.
The Chicago Cubs enter June 2 at 31-25. They were in first place in the NL Central until a suffering a loss to the Redbirds in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday following a three-plus hour rain delay.
Despite issues with the starting rotation, bullpen, defense and offense at different points in time during the first two months of the 2019 season, the Cubs have managed to do better than tread water, at times looking like a serious contender to return to the World Series. Unfortunately, at times, they’ve also looked like a team that may succumb to the same issues that torpedoed a possible fourth straight trip to the NLCS last year.
So, who’s to blame for this Jekyll and Hyde act at Clark and Addison?
The short answer is no one in particular. To some, the easy answer is the bullpen – a source of contention and fan focus since the end of last season. However, that would be a bit lazy, as injuries and overwork have created a pen that relies on guys in the wrong spots rather than optimizing relievers where they’d shine. It also isn’t entirely their fault even when they do give up a run, as a razor-thin margin late in the game isn’t always going to result in a win, even with Mariano Rivera trotting out there (even Mo gave up over two runs for every nine innings he pitched).
The right answer is one simple stat: hitting with runners in scoring position. How the Cubs hit with runners in scoring position has been an issue throughout this entire competitive window. Even in their 2016 World Series run, gripes and complaints reared their ugly head constantly about the Cubs’ inability to drive runners in from second or third with less than two outs. In short, it isn’t a new problem.