What’s Wrong With The Chicago Cubs?

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Boston experienced it in ’05. Perhaps the Cubs are experiencing it in ’17. It’s life after “The Curse.”


With one month of the MLB season in the books, things are starting to shape up. But at least one division race is clearly in doubt: the NL Central.

And that’s shocking!

Joe Maddon (photo, CBS Sports)

The Cubs were supposed to dominate the NLC this year. In fact, Bleacher Report projected Joe Maddon’s club to finish a staggering 101-61–with a 4:1 chance to repeat and win the World Series.

So much for predictions.

On Tuesday morning the upstart Reds have the division lead at 17-14 with the Cubs in third place. Although only a game out of first, the Cubs were just swept by the Yankees at Wrigley.

Ugh!

What’s the explanation for the Cubs’ lackluster performance?

The pitching has underachieved. When the season began no other team had a more stacked pitching staff than Chicago. With a star-studded starting rotation–Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, & Kyle Hendricks–the Cubs were primed to overpower and shut down opponents, much like they did last season when they had a MLB-best 2.96 team ERA.

Jake has underachieved. (photo, FoxSports.com)

But 2017 has been different. The Cubs currently rank 15th with a 4.05 team ERA. Lester, who has the best ERA, is just 3.51. Arietta is off to one of his worst starts since being traded from Baltimore in 2013. The 31-year-old owns a 4.63 ERA.

While the starting pitching has been spotty, the bullpen has thrived. Wade Davis has filled Chapman’s shoes … and then some. Acquired from Kansas City for outfielder Jorge Soler, Davis has recorded seven saves thus far and–more impressively–hasn’t given up a run in 13.1 innings.

The problem isn’t the bullpen. It’s the starters. While it’s still early, the rotation needs to start playing to its potential.

The hitting is proficient, but it’s not what was expected. On paper no team should come close to the Cubs offensively. That’s because Chicago has players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward, and Javier Baez. Those guys  can put up runs.

But the Cubs are the 7th-best offensive team in MLB currently. They’ve plated only 150 runners so far—39 runs behind the MLB-leading and red-hot Washington Nationals.

Bryant can smile: he’s hitting. (photo, Epoch Times)

Kris Bryant is the only player doing well at the plate. He leads the team with a .311 BA and .411 OBP. Bryant has recorded 37 hits already, and 17 are extra-base hits (10 doubles, one triple, and six HR’s).

The team has underachieved offensively outside of Bryant.

Baez and Heyward are the only other starters batting above .250 (at .263 and .253, respectively). That means Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber are ice cold.

That’s very bad news. Chicago will need multiple contributors to repeat as champs.

The motivation levels aren’t nearly as high. When the Cubs defeated the Cleveland Indians to win the World Series last November, one of the most embarrassing championship droughts came to an end. After a long 108 years, “The Curse of the Billy Goat” was broken. Cubs’ fans rejoiced.

Courtesy: Billy Goat Tavern

Now that The Curse is over, how determined are these Cubs? Last year you could tell that the players were highly motivated.

This year? That’s the question.

When Boston won in 2004 it didn’t take long for the buzz to die down. “The Curse of the Bambino” was broken after all, and it didn’t take long for an historic achievement to become old news.

Is the honeymoon over for Chicago? We’ll see. Or is it lack of motivation? Complacency? Miscues? Strategy? The competition?

Perhaps it’s “The Curse of the Billy Goat,” Part Two. And, for a Cards’ fan, that has a really nice ring to it.

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About Cameron Brown

Cameron Brown is sports columnist with The Journal-Enterprise, Providence, Kentucky and winner of the Kentucky Press Association “Best Sports Column of the Year” award. Cameron has a passion for basketball–like so many others in his home state of Kentucky. He played basketball for his high school in rural western Kentucky and enjoys other sports, including college football and Major League Baseball. His dream is to have a job in sports.



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