Chicago Cubs: Five reasons the Cubs haven’t returned to the World Series
Chicago Cubs: It is hard to have a consistent lineup when key positions are not solidified like they were in 2016.
It is fair to say the Cubs are missing Dexter Fowler more than they thought…or at least a guy like him. In other words, a solidified leadoff hitter. Fowler’s “You go, we go!” set up the Cubs offense for so many big days. His ability to have good plate appearances and get on base immediately put pressure on the opposing pitcher, who had to face the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant next.
Fowler deservedly got his big payday in St. Louis and there should be no ill-feelings toward his decision. The problem was the Cubs not filling that hole. How many experiments have there been over the past three years? Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, Jon Jay, Ian Happ, Albert Almora, etc. Rizzo obviously worked incredibly well when he was put there from time to time but he was being taken out of spots where he could be driving in runs. None of these experiments stuck around long.
The Cubs heavily relied on finding the leadoff solution in-house. They had a chance to pursue a guy like Lorenzo Cain in free agency but they did not go that direction. One could say hindsight is 20/20, that there was legit reason to believe they had players in the organization who could fill that role a few years ago, the fact is it just did not end up working.
It felt easy to trust the personnel of an organization that just won a title to be able to develop within, though one could also say they got to the point where expectations were so high they needed to put less stock in faith and pursue established talent.
Overall this offense has been all-or-nothing the past several years, and lack of leadoff is just one of the reasons why. This hurt them badly in the final stretch of 2018 when the offense “broke”.