World Series Champion Chicago Cubs Struggling to Score Runs

Chicago Cubs players gathered around

Kevin Stott

Monday, June 5, 2017 1:34 PM GMT

Right now, it seems fortunate for the Cubs that they play their baseball in the NL Central Division, where a .500 Record will have you just a game out of first place in a funky season. So what has happened to this record-setting and World Series-winning team to make them so average? Join expert capper as he explains the simplest of thoughts.

Cubs Suffering Identity Crisis One Season After Breaking 108-Year-Old Curse

Great teams in sports have a number of unique things in common: They usually play phenomenal Defense, perform pretty well on the Road, can rally from deficits late if needed through prolific scoring abilities and, maybe most importantly, feel good about themselves and get addicted to Winning Streaks. Two great current working examples of this are the NBA’s Golden State Warriors—who have an impeccable 14-0 record this NBA Postseason heading into Game 3 on Wednesday—and Soccer’s Real Madrid from Spain’s La Liga, which just won the UEFA Champions League for a second straight year on Saturday.

MLB’s Chicago Cubs (27-27 into Sunday) looked to be a team on the precipice of that potential greatness during and after last season. Kris Bryant and the Cubs (-11.5 Units), got some of the best pitching and defense in MLB history, ran the bases like rabbits (and better than anyone else in the game), won on the road, and scored runs in bunches. Heading into play Sunday, Chicago (248 RF-245 RA, +3 RD)—which was happy to be back at home after a road trip—where coming from their first winless road trip in California under gurulike Manager Joe Maddon. That’s not good for one’s collective confidence.

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World Series odds entering season (@Westgate_LV)

Cubs: 7-2 (best odds)
Padres: 500-1 (tied for longest odds)

Padres just swept the Cubs.

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 31, 2017
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All Starts At The Top? No. Nothing Complicated is Simple

It would be easy to try to peg one thing as the reason why the Cubs have been scuffling but it’s really a lot of everything, which could be bad for Chicago which hasn’t really suffered any major Injuries. Many are quick to point to the leadoff spot, where Dexter Fowler—now with the rival Redbirds—did an A+ job last season for the World Series winners, getting on base, advancing when needed and scoring runs like a good No. 1 hitter should. This season, Maddon seems to have overthought things by putting (and leaving too long), the 6-0, 235-pound, OLB-built Kyle Schwarber (.166 BA, .284 OBP) in the leadoff spot, leading to too many easy outs at the top of the batting order and no one for Bryant or No. 3 hitter Anthony Rizzo to try to drive in.

On Sunday, Maddon had the 24-year-old Schwarber (9 HRs, 23 RBI) batting 9th in his lineup. Linebackers are best put 2nd or 5th or even 7th, 8th or 9th in a lineup when they are hitting like Schwarber has been this spring, but blaming the loss of Fowler for this mess is like blaming Yoko Ono for the breakup of The Beatles. People always looks for easy answers when the answers are usually never easy.

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Dexter Fowler hit his 2nd leadoff HR of 2017 for the @Cardinals.

It was vs his former team, the Cubs, who have one leadoff HR this year.

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 2, 2017
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Chicago—who are now up to as high as +645 to win the 2017 World Series—also saw beloved backstop and Jon Lester-caddy David Ross retire and try his hand (feet) at Dancing With The Stars. A great clubhouse presence and a clutch hitter last Fall, Ross’s absence matters, but in the bigger context of run production. Winning on the road and trying to get and sustain momentum like the Warriors and Real Madrid, Ross is not the reason. Blaming a backup Catcher for this current mediocrity would be like blaming the Sun for the lack of Rain.

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The Astros enter June with the best record in baseball.

Last year, the best team in baseball entering June went on to win the World Series. pic.twitter.com/bIB94icCYz

— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 1, 2017
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Probably the biggest reason Chicago isn't struggling so far this season is that it isn’t scoring runs as frequently or as easily as last season when they took a 35-15 Record and snazzy +128 run differential into the month of June. Talk about Momentum. In an MLB Regular Season which has seen an increase in average runs per game (from 4.49 Runs per team per Game in 2016 to 4.56, highest since 2009), and one which has seen the second-most Home Runs (1,060) in any month (May) in MLB history—and there were 7 Grand Slams bashed on Saturday!—the Baby Bears simply aren’t hitting well at all as a collective, even as that sacred ivy grows back onto the walls at the corner of Clark and Addison.

And a look at the current Batting Averages of the Chicago starting lineup (for SNB) speaks volumes: CF Ian Happ (.217), 3B Kris Bryant (.277), 1B Anthony Rizzo (.231), RF Jason Heyward (.259), C Miguel Montero (.313), SS Addison Russell (.213) P Kyle Hendricks and LF Kyle Schwarber (.163). Not good. No productive. Not flattering.

Including the two Wins which had them at 27-27, the Cubs scored 5, 3, 1, 2, 2, 4, 0, 0 and 1 Runs in their L9 games, or an average of 2.0 rpg. The way the Cubbies are scoring of late, playing “two” would mean 4 Runs a game and seven players including the much-maligned Schwarber (pictured below)—provided four Runs themselves with one swift swing of the bat on Saturday.

So will Time and the Summer months heal this lineup? Chicago NL and GM Theo Epstein could really use a younger, speedier OF leadoff batter and sparkplug like Padres’ Panamanian Rookie Allen Córdoba (.310 BA, .346 OBP) or Dominican Republic product Franchy Cordero (.313, .353 OBP)—whose stocks are rising by the day in San Diego—and an older, backup Pinch-Hitter veteran in the clubhouse like Marlins’ 43-year-old Ichiro Suzuki

 

Is Cubs Run Production Also Responsible For Global Warming, Smaller Candy Bars?

So maybe the Astros are this season’s Cubs? After reeling off their 10th straight win on Sunday, sweeping the Rangers, it certainly looks like it is separating itself from the proverbial MLB pack as we head into Summer. But playing in the NL Central, all’s not lost for Chicago.

Last year, Cubs Pitchers benefitted from a nuanced thing that happens when your Offense is scoring Runs—you pitch looser and don’t have to be so “fine” with every pitch and stupid situation. Last season, Chicago pitchers recorded the lowest opponents’ batting average with runners in scoring position in the L40 years of MLB (.171)—a feat impossible to replicate even if Kershaw and Bob Gibson were to join this very capable and talented Staff which could use a solid fifth Starter. This year, Cubs pitchers rank 9th in ERA (4.09), 10th in batting average (.243), 13th in WHIP (1.32) and are tied for 20th in Quality Starts (22).

So the Hitting seems much more to blame than the Pitching does with players like Ben Zobrist (.236), Willson Contreras (.248), John Jay (.289) and Ian Happ (.222) also all needing to pick it up at the plate. And one thing few every talk about: When you are the champions, everyone knows it and comes at you with their best, every day, even in a grueling 162-game schedule. Period.