The one area that the Chicago Cubs must improve upon

It's crazy to say, but even after Nico Hoerner's speed won the game against the Diamondbacks on Monday night, the Cubs are the slowest team in baseball.
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Before the season started, it looked like the Chicago Cubs may be able to utilize their team speed as a secret weapon on the basepaths.

In 2023, they had the 8th most stolen bases in the majors thanks to five guys having double-digit steals and Nico Hoerner racking up an impressive 43 stolen bases.

This season, however, the Cubs are dead last in the majors in stolen bases with just two stolen bases.

You might be thinking, “It’s so early in the season; surely the difference between the Cubs in last place and whoever is leading the league will be negligible.”

You’d be wrong.

The Cincinnati Reds have 32 stolen bases so far this year. Even the three teams ahead of the Cubs (St. Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, and Colorado Rockies) in a tie for 27th place have twice as many stolen bases as the Cubs have.

This lack of stealing can’t be placed on Craig Counsell’s managerial style either. Last season with the Milwaukee Brewers his team finished 11th in stolen bases, so it doesn’t appear to be a philosophical shift.

There are a couple of things that stand out as possible causes.

First, all of the players who were stealing bases last season are a year older and, therefore, a year slower. Beyond that, the team has opened in relatively cold conditions, which makes the idea of utilizing straight-line sprint speed in short bursts less attractive, as they can lead to hamstring injuries (which the Cubs are already dealing with to very important players).

Second, the two stolen base leaders from the 2023 team have gotten hit safely at a significantly lower clip.

Hoerner had a .283 batting average last season, batting predominantly at the top of the order, so not only was he getting on-base, he was incentivized to steal to get into scoring position for the bigger bats behind him. This season, his batting average is just .208, and he’s hitting toward the bottom of the order, so his opportunities to steal are less prevalent.

Cody Bellinger had 20 stolen bases last season while hitting .307. This season he has zero stolen bases while hitting .180. It’s not in the Cubs’ best interest to have him running on the basepaths this early in the season considering his shortened Spring Training, but you’ve got to hope to see those numbers improve as we get into June and July.

Can the Cubs still capitalize on their incredible team speed? Absolutely, especially with Pete Crow-Armstrong and Matt Shaw knocking on the door. However, something is going to have to change soon if they don’t want to see that strength atrophy into a weakness.