"They are not very good"
A long time friend of mine in San Diego sent me a text last night after the shocking loss to the Phillies that said in part, "I figured out what is wrong with the Cubs...they are not very good." Truer words have never been spoken.
Many of you have expressed to me your confusion as to how this team can be so damn good at home and so freakin' inept on the road. I have pointed out in a previous column that they need to score at least five runs to have a chance to win on the road, and last night was one of those that showed sometimes even that isn't enough.
I have also written about how they need to burn those blue uniforms, and this week just continues to make my case for me, as they are now 1-4 wearing them on this trip so far. As superstitious as ballplayers are, you would think that the constant losing wearing them would get them to change, but apparently this is one stubborn bunch.
Digging deeper into the facts tells you what you really need to know about the reasons for why they suck on the road. They jump out at you like a roadrunner in sagebrush in the desert.
On this trip so far the Cubs have seven players hitting at or below .200. They have only two position players with an OPS of over 1.000 and only four regulars with at least 10 AB's hitting at or over .250. That is not going to win you many games. Their best catcher is Jonathan Lucroy and he is hitting .143. David Bote is your best hitter right now at .500 and he can't get in a game other than as a defensive replacement.
Kemp is hitting .200, Almora .154, Happ .150, Lucroy .143, Schwarber .143, Caratini .133, and Baez, the MVP of the fans, .067. A combined 14 for 101 for a stellar .138 average. Who could break into that line-up? Here is the spoiler alert....this is the good news.
The pitching has been just awful on this trip, and therein lies the problem. Happily, the starters and relievers have been equally ineffective, so plenty of blame to go around. Starters have allowed 24 runs in 28.2 innings and relievers have matched them with 16 runs in 20.2 innings of work. There are six pitchers with double digit ERA's on this trip and one guy trying to break into that club at 9.00.
When you give up 40 runs and only score 17 bad things are going to happen, and, when your pitchers have a higher WHIP than hitters have OPS its time to think about a new plan. Throw in some dubious defense, and head scratching baserunning, and that my friends is how you end up at 2-5 in seven games.
Nobody loves the Cubs more than me. I'm not quite to the level of my uncles who have their hearts ripped out with each base hit, but, I care and I want them to be successful and have a nice run of world series trophies just like everyone else. However, I am also a realist. If you look at this team with a open mind, can you really see them beating the Dodgers to take the NL? I can't. In fact I believe they will be hard pressed to beat the Braves right now.
Another thing my friend said last night, and he has mentioned this several times this year, is that the Cubs remind him of the Super Bowl winning Bears team, one win and then years of underachieving. Pretty astute observation but then as he reminds me, he did go to NIU, the 149th rated college in the US.