With 6 games left in the season, the Chicago Cubs are lifeless. While not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, there is no chance this team can sweep their last two series and backdoor their way into a wild card spot. Watching this team play baseball has been nothing short of despicable this entire year and it frustrates me beyond belief that they don’t have 100 wins and the NL Central locked up.
Where to begin…
Ben Zobrist was away from the Cubs for 4 months to deal with his family issues. For someone that was key to the Cubs’ last three successful seasons, this was a brutal hit. Willson Contreras was out for over a month due to a hamstring issue. Javier Baez missed over two weeks with a hairline fracture in his hand. Anthony Rizzo has been nursing a bad back and a sprained ankle. This trio of injuries all came in the final couple months of the season where the Cubs needed wins. On top of those, Kris Bryant just rolled over his right ankle trying to beat out a double play in the loss to the Cardinals today. Though there haven’t been any season-ending injuries, I can’t help but feel like the Cubs ran into a decent amount of nagging injuries that hurt the team all year.
Joe Maddon is also notorious for rallying his team in August and September when all the other teams are tired from the grueling 162 game season. So how have they fared? 16-12 in August and 9-12 so far in September. For a team that got off to a slow start, they should have been aiming to win two thirds of their games in the final two months. Now, there’s no heartbeat in the team and it doesn’t even look like they want to be on the field.
This team is so frustrating because it’s loaded with talent and they can’t put it together like years past. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Nick Castellanos, and Willson Contreras is a murderer’s row of bats, but the back half of the lineup might as well step in the batter’s box without a bat. With the exception of Kyle Schwarber’s power, any combination of Heyward, Almora, Russell, Happ, Bote, or Caritini can’t seem to get the job done. The Cubs were desperate for a guy like Zobrist who gets on base at a high clip and no one seemed to step up to the plate and take his spot.
The starting pitching has been very average this year so I don’t have a whole lot to say about their performance. Yu Darvish really turned a corner after the All-Star break so we have that to look forward to next season. In terms of pitching, the Cubs seem to be allergic to holding onto leads late in the game. The signing of Craig Kimbrel hopefully pays off the next two seasons because he has looked terrible so far in a Cubs uniform. His ERA is nearing 7 and his 1.60 WHIP has led to blown saves and an inability to keep games tied. Pedro Strop has also looked awfully pedestrian this year sporting a 4.99 ERA. Guys like Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan, Brandon Kintzler, and Steve Cishek have all looked decent this year, but these aren’t the guys the Cubs want to call on in the 8th or 9th inning when they need an out.
(I don’t know where Brandon Morrow is, but he was a lockdown closer for three years which could have been pretty useful this season.)
Chicago is a top-tier market and the Cubs have paid stars to be there to win. Why they can’t seem to do so is unbelievably frustrating. They have all the talent to be a strong World Series contender but it feels like the Jenga tower has fallen over and the Cubs are going to be picking up the pieces next year. I really hope they use this season as motivation to come back with a vengeance next year. However, I think it’s time to hang up the cleats on 2019 because it feels like they already have in their heads.