The Chicago Cubs are one of our nation’s favorite teams, especially after they finally won a World Series in 2016 after over 100 years of falling short. Last year, the Cubs lost during the Wild Card round to the Colorado Rockies, but this year, fans are hoping for more. A day spent eating Chicago-style hotdogs at Wrigley Field while the Cubs play is a bucket list experience, so you’ll want to snag tickets to a game this spring or summer. (Well, maybe wait a few weeks because there’s still snow in the forecast for Chicago!
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The Cubs just wrapped up a three-game series against the Texas Rangers and the Atlanta Braves to start the season, but they’ve had a hard time winning games since Opening Day. Needless to say, there are already a lot of fans who are overreacting about this rocky start by Chicago and even ESPN called it “weird and wacky.” The Cubs’ roster has 23 of its 25 players from last year returning, plus the addition of Brad Brach and Daniel Descalso… so what exactly makes anybody think they’ll outperform last year’s team? And is all this weirdness in the first few games just a fluke?
Keep in mind, of course, this is just a small sampling of the Cubs’ performance and ability so far, but here are a few (glaring) things fans are hoping that they work on up in Chicago.
The Cubs Bullpen
They’re not throwing a lot of strikes. In fact, they’re doing the opposite. Yes, it’s still early, but the Cubs are leading the MLB in BB% (aka, walks). Most of that can be blamed on Yu Darvish failing to perform on the mound. He walked a career-high seven batters in his season debut. Darvish’s fastball also failed to reach the 96 mph mark it hit during spring training, only reaching 92 mph. On Sunday, the Cubs blew the lead… twice! Reliever Mike Montgomery couldn’t pull off a win either.
The good news? Pitcher Jon Lester did help the Cubs score that 12-4 victory against the Rangers during their first game of the season. Lester pitched again when they played the Braves on Wednesday and got the team off to a strong start, but reliever Steve Cishek couldn’t finish them off. Cishek said, “I don’t know what happened. I was focused, ready to go. I was fighting myself mechanically.” He followed it up with, “I don’t think anyone’s panicking.” (Well, except maybe the fans.)
Cishek is typically reliable, but without other options, they might overuse him before the fall. TBD on Pedro Strop and Brandon Morrow. And Carl Edwards, Jr. just found out his toe tap move is illegal, per the MLB. Chicago just doesn’t have any guys who can throw 98 mph – as it seems the whole league is doing nowadays – and they don’t have the money to acquire a new guy who can.
It wasn’t all the bullpen’s fault though. On Monday, Cubs players committed six errors in that 0-8 loss to the Braves. That’s the most in one game for the Cubs since 2006. The Cubs looked sloppy all night, dropping ground balls and pop-ups. (Hey, it was April Fools’ Day. Maybe the joke’s on us?) Second baseman David Bote had a wild throw that led to an unearned run, shortstop Javy Baez bobbled an easy double play, and the outfielders missed an easy fly ball when they failed to call for it. Cubs manager Joe Maddon hopes it was just an anomaly. (The fans do too, we assume.)
Third baseman Kris Bryant is healthy, so that’s a silver lining. He sat out with shoulder inflammation for much of the 2018 season beginning last summer.
What About the Lineup?
Well, they were shut out by Braves on Monday, but before that they scored 28 runs in three games, which is great. Bryant said it was a better game on offense than they had all of last season. Then they managed to put four runs on the board on Wednesday, including an early home run by Willson Contreras, but it wasn’t enough. The problem here is that their offense is inconsistent… just like it was last season. Javy Baez can hit homers too, but he’ll need a supporting cast.
The Cubs are going to have to step it up and find their groove if they hope to win enough games to top the newly competitive NL Central Division. They aren’t the presumed cream of the crop anymore – the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals are coming for them. And now the Cubs are already down four losses in the division. Woof. Let’s see what they can do this weekend to redeem themselves…
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