It’s a long season. It always has been, but that rings especially true coming off a 60-game sprint during last year’s strange pandemic-impacted season. Every player has his share of ups and downs and Chicago Cubs do-it-all star Kris Bryant is no exception.
Bryant has undoubtedly been the most integral piece to the puzzle for the Cubs this season, not just for what he’s done at the dish, but for his unprecedented defensive versatility while putting up those numbers. But as the offense has started to revert back to its feast-or-famine production, living and dying by the long ball, the struggles of the 2016 NL MVP are looming large.
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After tearing out of the gates over the first two months of the campaign, Bryant has cratered in a big way over the last 15 days, batting just .162/.244/.243 with only three walks to 14 strikeouts. His average has fallen 30 points since the calendar flipped over to June, and he’s been unable to force pitchers back into the heart of the zone – where he was doing most of his damage early on.
"“When you’re not getting good pitches to hit, it’s easy to chase out of the zone to try and force it,” assistant hitting coach Chris Valaika told The Athletic (subscription required). “In situations like that, you want to take your walks, stick to what you do well and when you do get those pitches to hit, don’t miss them.”"
The problem of late is that Bryant isn’t taking his walks. That’s always been a huge part of his successful stretches and this year has been no exception. This month, he’s been chasing – pushing, you might say – because he’s not getting the pitches he wants. He’s trying to make do with what pitchers are giving him and, so far, they’re winning the battle.
Chicago Cubs need Kris Bryant to anchor this lineup if they want to keep winning
The North Siders began Friday’s series opener against Miami in first place in the division, looking to make it two-straight postseason appearances under second-year skipper David Ross.
But given the injuries they’re weathering, both in the staff and around the diamond, their hold on that top spot is tenuous. Without Bryant, Joc Pederson and Patrick Wisdom have carried the weight – as pretty much the entire lineup has gone cold.
There’s a lot of baseball left to play this year and Bryant will get back to form. The Chicago Cubs will either sink or swim with their superstar, and right now, it’s been more treading water than making any sort of real headway.