The Chicago Cubs came into 2017 as huge favorites, but have come out of the gates slow. High ERAs and early exits from big name starting pitchers have resulted in a disappointing start, but will it last?
If you’ve lived under a rock for the last 12 months, you’ll be shocked to hear the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016. Yes, that’s right the Chicago Cubs. Shocking right?
If you have a weak stomach take a seat, grab a glass of water and take some yoga breaths because the surprises don’t end there. Chicago is heavily favored to win it all again this year.
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Now if you don’t live underground, you know the Cubs are a perennial contender. They are a likely World Series threat for the next 10+ years. The Cubs boast one of the best young lineups in baseball and a starting rotation that instills fear in opposing lineups. The talent in all phases of the game is truly incredible to watch.
So why shouldn’t they be favored? The talent is there. The earlier success is there. The experience is there for their veterans who have won elsewhere and their young core who joined in on the winning last year.
Let’s review some of their most recent losses. They haven’t simply been dropping games. They’ve got their brakes beat off. An 11-6 loss to the Yankees last night, losing 10-2 to the Phillies a week ago and a 6-2 loss to the Red Sox prior to that. Their pitching is underperforming this year.
The Cubs strength has long been their lineup, but their pitching isn’t a weakness. They’ve had one of the best rotations in baseball for the better part of the last 3 years.
Jake Arrieta posted a 4.63 ERA and Jon Lester a 3.67 ERA in just their first 6 starts of the season. The Cubs 1-2 punch, is giving up a full run more than they did last year. On top of that John Lackey is beginning to show his age. At 38 years of age, Lackey has a 5.14 ERA, 8 home runs given up, and 40 hits in 35 innings pitched this season.
So what’s the problem? Why is their pitching giving up so many runs?
The Mission impossible theme of doing the unthinkable that no Cubs team could do for the last century is gone. The Cubs came out of the gate slow. They are just a measly 3 games above .500. While it’s still early, the Cubs mediocrity is going to prove difficult to overcome. This isn’t a talent problem. This is a mental issue for the entire clubhouse, even management.
Similar to the Super Bowl hangover, the Cubs feel like they accomplished the greatest task last year and seem disinterested this year. This feeling will pass but most believe it will end far sooner than I do. In the summer months, they’ll get hot, prove they are who we said they were, go deep into the playoffs and contend for a world title. But will they? I’m not convinced, not this season anyway. 2018 is their year.
Hold the Phone! What are you saying? The Champs aren’t going to make the playoffs? They aren’t going to win their division? No. They will make the playoffs. They will likely win their division. 100 wins is off the table. The October Classic won’t finish with a Cubs team holding up the trophy and they very well might not make it to the National League Championship Series. The Cubs will look like a human version of last year’s team. Their weaknesses will show throughout the year. Proving human will be the Cubs demise.
The separation between the Chicago Cubs and the next great team is not insurmountable. The Nationals, Indians, even the Mets if they can get their injury situation resolved can present a serious threat to the throne the Cubs sit on.