Look. The Chicago Cubs were nowhere near 100 percent strength during this week’s brief two-game set against the Indians in Cleveland. Still, a 2-for-27 showing with runners in scoring position is completely unacceptable no matter how you try to spin it.
"“I don’t want to make excuses,” Cubs skipper David Ross told MLB.com. “But we’ve done a really nice job of having good at-bats up and down the lineup, and then it just gets to a spot that we just haven’t been able to come through, right? We are banged up.”"
The sweep at the hands of the Tribe dropped the Cubs to 17-19 on the year, heading into a must-win series against a rebuilding Detroit Tigers club this weekend in the Motor City. There has been no shortage of issues with Chicago through the first 25 percent of the season – but one looks awfully familiar, and that’s the team’s seeming inability to produce under pressure.
Ross’ club ranks 22nd in MLB with a .682 OPS with runners in scoring position this season. Here’s where Chicago has ranked since 2018 in terms of this statistic. As you can see, with the outlier of 2019 (when the offense cratered in September and the team missed the postseason altogether), this isn’t anything new.
- 2018: .722 – 21st in MLB
- 2019: .835 – 7th in MLB
- 2020: .742 – 22nd in MLB
Cubs have a lot of offensive problems to try and figure out
More from Cubbies Crib
- Cubs should keep close eye on non-tender candidate Cody Bellinger
- Cubs starting pitching has been thriving on the North Side
- Make no mistake: the Cubs are very much about power hitters
- Cubs are giving pitcher Javier Assad a deserved shot
- Cubs: It’s time to start thinking about potential September call-ups
The Cubs have the 12th-highest strikeout rate in the league with men in scoring position and their 85 wRC+ in such scenarios checks in as the fourth-worst mark in MLB. Key guys have really struggled though with runners in scoring position and two outs – and it’s killed the team’s chances of getting into any kind of groove offensively.
Kris Bryant is 2-for-17 (.118), Willson Contreras is 1-for-10 (.100), Anthony Rizzo is 1-for-10 (.100) and David Bote is 0-for-13 (.000) in those two-out instances. The only guy who’s had any real success is Javier Baez, who is 6-for-16 (.375) with three home runs and a double.
As a whole, the Cubs haven’t figured it out offensively. Yes, the team ran off five consecutive wins last week – including a sweep of the reigning World Series champion Dodgers. But let’s look at the bigger picture here.
Chicago has scored 160 runs on the year in its 36 games (4.44 runs per game). But a whopping 41 percent of those runs came in five games. All this to say, Chicago has put up a meager 3.83 runs per game outside of those five contests. That’s not enough to get the job done – especially with this pitching staff, which carries a 4.39 ERA on the year – including a 5.18 mark from the starting rotation.
I’d like to say this team will heat up as temperatures in the Windy City start their climb into more summery ranges in the weeks to come. But the Cubs hitting with runners on isn’t some never-before-seen problem. It’s been here for awhile and will continue to be until the front office takes meaningful action to remedy it.