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Thursday

11

May 2017

33

COMMENTS

Don’t Panic, It’s Only May

Written by , Posted in General

Are we panicking yet, Cubs fans? Good. Because we shouldn’t be. It’s still very early in the season, and no one is running away with the NL Central, and no one is out of contention yet. That means, all things considered, that there is still tons of baseball left and lots of time to sort out what is ailing the Cubs.

That’s the good news, and for what it’s worth, the Cubs are still projected to win 92 games this and take the division.  The bad news is that the Cubs, who are a far superior team that their record shows, are a .500 team, in fourth place and are playing in a division that looks like, at this point, could be a three or four team race to the crown. But it’s a long season, and that could all change.

At the moment, the Cubs are playing very bad baseball, but they’re not alone. In fact, if you look across baseball, most teams are hovering around the equator at the moment. I tell you this to tell you that the Cubs, who just dropped two of three this week from a very talented Colorado Rockies team, have only lost one series to a team that maybe they shouldn’t have — that being the three-game sweep at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Chicago isn’t clicking on all cylinders right now and catcher Miguel Montero this week told reporters that the Cubs “can’t take anything for granted, and right now I feel like we do.” Whether he meant in the standings, or whether he was referring to the team feeling entitled, or even a sense of internal pressure, by being defending champions, the fact is that wins won’t be handed to them and they’ll have to grind it out just like everyone else.

Pitching Woes

The most glaring issue with the team is within the starting rotation. There are velocity and command issues across the board and it’s been a rarity to this point for a Cubs starter to go more than five innings in a game, leading to a heavily taxed bullpen. Cubs starters have only delivered 12 quality starts this season, far below league average, and only two, Jon Lester and John Lackey, have pitched into the seventh. So, yeah, that’s not great. But Cubs manager Joe Maddon has stressed that he’s not concerned about his starters, so long as they aren’t injured. I love Joe; he’s arguably one of the best managers in the entire game, so I trust his insight on this.

We did get some pretty excellent starts this week in Denver, from Lackey and Kyle Hendricks, but there is a more looming concern with Jake Arrieta, who has a 5.35 ERA, worst among Chicago’s starters not named Brett Anderson, and got clobbered in Game One of Tuesday’s doubleheader. I’m not sure what’s going on with him, but here’s to hoping he gets it figured out.

Montero has also alluded to the lack of inning depth from the rotation and the pressure it puts on hitters. The Cubs are hitting, and scoring with some regularity, however, save for Wednesday’s matchup — They got blanked at Coors Field! How is that even allowed to happen? — but the pitching staff has a propensity for yielding runs early, which puts their offense in a bind.

Let’s Get Some Runs!

Speaking of the offense, it’s also quite troublesome that Cubs hitters can’t seem to get runners home. That trend persisted in Colorado, as the Cubs left eight on base Tuesday afternoon, 14 in the nightcap (a game they won 8-1), and another eight on Wednesday. Yep. Just imagine when they get that worked out, how much of a difference it will make.

Aside from that, the defense, save for some miscues in the Rockies series, has straightened itself out, and the overworked bullpen has consistently been lights out. But the team just isn’t playing consistent baseball right now — but you have to believe that they will. They’re far too talented a group to have this slump prolonged. I’m just thankful it’s mid-May and not August or September when it’s time to make a playoff push.

Up Next

Life won’t get much easier for the Cubs, as they’ll head to St. Louis for a real test this weekend for a three-game set against the suddenly red hot Cardinals.

Eddie Butler will start on Friday in St. Louis, in his Cubs debut, in place of the injured and ineffective Anderson. Butler was acquired from Colorado and has an ERA of just above 1.00 at Triple-A Iowa this season. Good luck, sir. He’ll be followed by Lester and presumably Arrieta.

The Cubs will then return home to face the Reds and the Brewers, both of whom are playing good baseball.

Buckle up, folks. It could be a long week.


AA – Tennessee Smokies (20-13) Lost 2 to 0

SP – Preston Morrison – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K

CF – Jacob Hannemann – 1 for 4, 2B

A-Adv – Myrtle Beach Pelicans (18-15) Split a DH

SP – Adbert Alzolay – 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

SP – Casey Bloomquist – 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

DH – Tyler Alamo – 1 for 3, HR

A – South Bend Cubs (20-12) Lost 4 to 3

SP – Bryan Hudson – 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K

RF – Brandon Cummins – 3 for 4, R, SB

  • Dork

    Yep could be a good week to make up some ground in the division. #Just make the playoffs

  • Dork

    The starts by lackey and Hendricks and Lester were encouraging – I’m excited to see what butler can do

  • I don’t remember the Cubs ever getting the runners left on base thing “worked out”. At least not in the past ten years, including last year. The only saving grace on that is that somehow they won the World Series without rectifying it. So there’s that!!

  • Eddie Von White

    I’m not so sure Joe Maddon is that much of a genius.

    • Bryzzo1744

      Agreed.

      • ScottyAirMLB

        real clever name allstar ????

      • Bryzzo1744

        Thanks, Sherm!

      • Sherm

        Was not me. Kind of wish it had been.

    • Yeah, but name someone zanier.

  • Brad Lyerla

    Nice post, Justin. I agree that there is no reason for “general” panic, but here are a few specifics that might warrant just a little concern:
    1. Schwarber is killing us at lead off. I don’t blame Kyle. I blame Maddon. This is yet another example of Maddon’s stubborn streak. Read Tom Verducci’s CUBS WAY if you want to get a closer look at this part of Maddon’s colorful personality.
    2. Some of our hitters may not self-correct any time soon, or even this season. Heyward is the poster child for this. We were told for much of last season to be patient and he would return to form. He did not.
    3. Hendricks, Lester and Lackey will be alright in the rotation. I don’t know about Arrieta. Lost velocity. Control issues. Not good. Of course, Anderson is a disaster. We have to move on. I am interested in seeing what Butler can do. But I am also looking for a trade.

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs are playing like the weather, cold and gloomy.

  • Jerry in Wisconsin

    We got an Adbert Update! Great!

    • Are you okay Jerry?

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        I am doing Great!

      • What in the hell is an ‘adbert?’

      • cap’n John Voight’s Car

        Adbert Alzolay is Carl Edwards Jr.’s hispanic cousin. 165 lbs. of mound dominance. Only Alzolay dominates at class A.

      • Sherm

        Carl’s Jr. Hispanic cousin? Pretty sure that’s Green Burrito…so – guess who just got a new nickname?

      • Yeah he came to be our new favorite minor leaguer sometime while you were in Iowa I believe.

      • Eddie Von White

        Sherm started it. We get Swanson back and Sherm goes AWOL.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Are we sure they are not the same person?

      • Positive. I don’t text myself fourteen billion times per Cubs game.

      • Swanson’s Mom

        Plus my Joey is WAY funnier.

      • Sherm

        I wasn’t AWOL. I took a little break. Got tired of arguing stupid stuff and nitpicking – I’m married. I get plenty of that away from here. For the record, I did make a few anonymous posts – you might have already guessed that, though.

        I am a HUGE Adbert Alzolay fan. Primarily because of his name but it turns out that he’s a decent baseball player, too.

        #justmaketheplayoffs

      • Bryzzo1744
      • Sherm

        The Cubs have a site? Wow. Who knew? What a great place to read information about my favorite baseball team. Thanks!

      • I missed you guys.

  • cap’n Costanza

    What I’m seeing is what I guess I’ve known all along. A lot has to go right for a big league club to win at a 65% clip and take the World Series. Players have to be motivated to show up, give their all every day, and make baseball their top priority, not marketing opportunities. Coaches need to be fantastic, and know when to meddle, when to step back, and when to kick guys in the ass. Winning baseball games needs to be the top focus of the front office, not stadium upgrades and adjacent construction projects. The organization seems complacent to me….they’re selling out every game, so what do they care? It might be time to admit that the Schwarber and Contreras we are seeing at the plate are exactly who they are…200 hitters. The only guy at his offensive potential right now is Montero, and a lefty bat that ONLY sees righty pitching quite frankly SHOULD hit .350. Baez is probably right where he should be…can anyone really say they think he’s better than a .250 hitter? Russell and Rizzo don’t seem to want to be bothered with anything other than their Madison Avenue appointments. Bryant is doing Bryant things, but shouldn’t we expect that from an MVP?

    As far as the pitching goes, something is not right with Arrieta. Something has changed, and I can’t imagine Bosio is smart enough to figure it out. Lester is who he is, a solid #2 that can’t field his position and doesn’t seem to want to. How has this continued to be OK? Someone explain to me how Hendricks can’t throw more than 90 pitches every 6th day. He has the least violent delivery I’ve seen in 10 years. What am I missing? Edwards, Uehara and Davis are nice bullpen pieces. Strop and Rondon have turned into Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol. They both just suck. Oh, and Duensing is Scott Eyre. Complete garbage. I don’t believe it’s time to panic…it’s time for me to stop paying so much attention and just come to the realization that THIS year’s version of the Chicago Cubs just might not be that good.

    • ScottyAirMLB

      I’d like to see you say that to my face Costanza. Asshole.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      You did call it correctly on Addy, he has a sore shoulder.

    • Doc Raker

      Arrieta’s $200M is diving fast

      • Sherm

        He’ll get it together. Right after a midnight visit from one of Scott Boras’ goons…

  • I’m panicking and forgetting about Corey Black.

    Remember this time of the year, two years ago, when Rizzo claimed that they could take the NL ‘this year.’ They were bold and backing it up.. all we have now is Miggy playing out of his ass.

    • Doc Raker

      Funny, ironically funny not ha ha funny, how one of the few guys playing above or at his potential is a guy with a chip on his shoulder who has something to prove. Miggy is focused trying to prove his point on deserving more playing time. The others not so much.