In today's game, the long ball is still incredibly important - even after MLB's rule changes opened up more possibilities offensively, banning the shift and driving stolen bases to new heights in 2023. If you're not hitting the ball out of the park, though, you'd better be coming up with clutch hits in key spots.
The problem halfway through the 2023 season for the Chicago Cubs is that they're doing neither of those things. David Ross' club ranks 19th in home runs (89) and sit near the middle of the pack both with runners in scoring position and with runners in scoring position and two outs.
Time and time again this year, we've seen this group fail to come up with the big knock - and you can see that in the end result: a major market team that needs to win at least 6 of their final 8 games heading into the break to start the second half at .500, despite playing in the worst division in the National League.
The fact the teams tied for first in the NL Central, the Reds and Brewers, are just 44-39 has kept the Cubs' hopes alive - but after a surge in June, a sweep at the hands of the Phillies and dropping Saturday's delayed game to Cleveland has Chicago losers in four of five - 5 games out in the division.
Cubs have little to show in terms of power, clutch at the plate this year
Power - of a lack thereof - is a major issue for this offense. The Cubs have one player with at least 100 at-bats and an OPS north of .800 in Christopher Morel. As The Athletic pointed out on Sunday morning, the power the team hoped for from guys like Ian Happ just hasn't been there - who's barely over the .400 mark in terms of slugging percentage on the year.
Early in the year, it looked like former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Cody Bellinger was starting to figure it all out again, but a knee injury took the wind out of his sails and, while he's been solid since returning, he hasn't been able to tap back into that power stroke just yet. First base has been an offensive black hole and Patrick Wisdom went from hero to zero real quick - to the point I'm not entirely confident there's a place for him on this roster when he returns from the IL.
Even with two likely All-Stars atop the rotation and a $300+ million spending spree in free agency last winter, if the offense doesn't figure out a way to start producing in the clutch, the Cubs will be watching postseason baseball from their couches with the rest of us come fall.