Several Chicago Cubs players are on pace for huge numbers. An MLB-leading five players already have double-digit homers. Despite this, the team is struggling.
With five players on pace to have 30-plus homers on the season, you would think the Chicago Cubs would be at or near the top of most team offensive rankings. But, truth be told, that’s not the case at all.
Chicago ranks at or just above league average in batting average, RBI and runs scored as a team. They clock in eighth in on-base percentage and eleventh in slugging percentage, as well.
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Not feeding the beasts
But the role of hitters in the 6-7-8-9 spots are important all the same, especially in an NL lineup that features a pitcher who bats. Admittedly, the bottom of the order isn’t the place you typically find prolific slugging
The importance in those spots is the ability to turn over the lineup. That is key to feeding the beasts at the top of the order. And it’s not happening. In a big way. The bottom of the order and the bench are underperforming in every way.
My colleague Erik Mauro wrote on Friday how both Daniel Descalso and Addison Russell are leaving much to be desired at the plate. Descalso was coming off a career-best season in 2018. But did the front office really expect that a 32-year-old Descalso with a slash of .240/.324/.371 from 2011 to 2018 was going to reprise his 2018 performance?
And 2016 Russell, probably his best year, hasn’t been that guy since, well, 2016. And after a 40-game suspension did anyone think he’d be something more? You’d be a fool to think so.
But the real letdown has been midseason acquisition Carlos Gonzalez. The Cubs picked up the former Rockies slugger and Gold Glove-caliber outfielder after he was designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians on May 26.
But he like many other Rockies suffer from that phenomenon that afflicts most Colorado-based hitters, the home-away slash differential. His career away slash of .250/.306/.418 is troublesome namely because of that .306 OBP. That, coupled with a more than 3-to-1 K to BB ratio in road games, is tough to swallow.
But, in the admittedly small sample size of 13 games and 43 plate appearances, his slash of .200/.326/.343 with the Cubs has been nothing short of gruesome.
The team is underperforming all expectations at this point in the season. Sure, they went on a tear from mid-April to mid-May, but since then they’ve been, at best, mediocre. If the Brewers and Cardinals were not also treading water of late, the Cubs might be in third place – or worse.
Many want to place the blame on Joe Maddon and his lineup juggling and themed road trips. Perhaps there is some blame there. But Maddon didn’t put this roster together. He didn’t sign Descalso or Gonzalez. He didn’t trade Tommy La Stella for a handful of nothing.
No, this is almost entirely on the front office. Sorry, there it is. Theo and the gang have messed this up. They went out and signed washed up players in Decalso and Gonzalez, and traded the best bench player in all of baseball and counted on Russell to be something he’s never been.
There’s time yet to right the ship. But not much. Sooner or later the Brewers or Cardinals are going to get hot and then it will be too late. Can the team turn it around and get hot?