Yes, baseball is now officially in full swing with Opening Day being a week ago from today (sorry Mariners and A’s, I refuse to acknowledge your series in Japan as opening day). The toughest thing to do as a fan is not overreact only a week into the season. However, is it time for Cub’s fans to start having doubts about this team?
A week ago from yesterday, the Cubs opened up in Arlington against the Rangers and couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. Javy hit 2 home runs, Kris Bryant had himself one, Jon Lester was business as usual going 6 innings of just 2 run ball. A 12-4 win to start the season and the Cubs looked to be off and running… Until you fast forward to now and the Cubs have dropped 5 in a row and are reeling early in the season.
Let’s start with the positives to begin with. The biggest positive is that Kris Bryant’s shoulder finally looks healthy and looks to be in a position to ascend back up into the top tier of third baseman again. He’s only hitting a mere .240 to start, but you can tell that he feels good and that average and power should start to heat up. The offense as a whole has been hitting well. They’re averaging 6 runs a game and considering they got shutout against the Braves on Monday, that number is even more impressive. Jon Lester has been a bright spot in the rotation pitching 2 identical games of 6 innings and 2 runs given up.
Now, we get to the parts that should concern Cubs fans. We know the obvious one, but can we start with the defensive play of the Cubs? The Cubs team that won the World Series a few years back prided themselves on being a great defensive team. Last year they were 14th in fielding percentage, but right now they find themselves bottom five in the league. Of course, it’s easy to point to the 6 error game when they got shutout by the Braves, but the defense hasn’t looked great yet.
They’ve had an error in 4 of their 6 games. This culminated yesterday with Jason Heyward, 5 time Gold Glove winner, letting a ball go through his legs in the first inning all the way to the wall for a leadoff triple for the Braves. The Cubs are going to have to be better defensively and help out their pitchers.
Besides Jon Lester, the other two starters Kyle Hendricks and Yu Darvish did not look great in their first starts. Jose Quintana has yet to start, but is in line to go this weekend in Milwaukee. I wrote an article almost a month back about Yu Darvish and if he could bounce back from his first year in Chicago. In his first start this year he finished with a very odd 75 pitch, only 2.2 innings, 3 earned runs and an astounding 7 (!) walks to start the year. In the article, I mentioned that he had to cut his walks down and his first start he did the complete opposite. Last nights start wasn’t any more encouraging, as he could only go 4 innings giving up 3 runs and another 4 walks on just 75 pitches. He is now up to 11 walks in just 6.2 innings to start the season. Kyle Hendrick’s first start wasn’t much better. You can say what you want about the errors, he gave up 7 runs with only 2 of them EARNED, but he did not look great. He would finish throwing 95 pitching, only getting through 4.1 innings and giving up a whopping 10 hits. He gave up 2 home runs and had 3 walks of his own. Even Cole Hamels, who the Cubs resigned this offseason, didn’t look great in his first start only going 5 innings and giving up 5 runs of his own. Again, it’s very early in the season, but the rotation outside of Lester is going to have to step up.
The biggest disappointment that most Cubs fans feared going into the offseason was the bullpen. To say it has been a frustrating start would not do it justice. The horrible first week was capped off on Wednesday when Steve Cishek entered in the 8th inning and proceeded to walk 3 straight batters without recording an out. Randy Rosario came out in relief only to give up a base-clearing double to his only batter. It would take the Cubs two more pitchers to get out of the inning giving up 4 runs in total and giving the Braves the comeback win.
Then last night it was much more of the same. Carl Edwards came into relief for Darvish and proceeded to not record an out and walked two batters to end his night. Tyler Chatwood then gave up a base-clearing double, eerie similar from the night before. Before it was all said and done, the Cubs had given up 5 runs in the 5th inning and couldn’t mount a late comeback to lose 9-4.
So far just 5 games into the season, the bullpen as a collective has a stat line of 21.1 innings, 21 earned runs and 15 walks. Carl Edwards had a blown save against the Rangers and the bullpen as a collective blew the games Wednesday and Thursday.
The Cubs fans were begging for relief help, but the front office ignored it and now it looks like it may be the Cubs downfall. The Cubs had Justin Wilson on the team last year, but choose not to resign him. Now he’s with the Mets and has had a good start to the season and could have possibly been the Cubs best reliever as of now. Instead, they couldn’t pony up the $5 million dollars the Mets did, but opted to resign 35-year-old Cole Hamels to a one-year, $20 million dollar deal. There were other relievers out there as well. Kelvin Herrera was someone the Cubs should have looked into. A proven reliever with a very solid track record was on the market, but now he resides on the other side of Chicago. The White Sox signed him to a two-year, $18 million dollar contract and it looks to be working so far. The lack of bullpen help was alarming to fans and now it’s coming into fruition.
The most attractive option is obviously Craig Kimbrel, but would the Cubs really go out and pay for him after they didn’t pull the trigger this offseason. The Cubs are going to explore their options, but bullpen moves have to be made. Brandon Morrow is on pace to join the team sometime in May and could be a big relief to this shaky bullpen.
It’s very early in the season, so right now I don’t think Cubs fans should be in full panic mode, but if it persists it could be a long season for the Cubs. They open up a crucial early series tonight in Milwaukee and they need to play better. The Brewers (6-1) are already 4.5 games up on the Cubs and a series win would push that number even further. I don’t like talking about must-wins in April, but for the Cubs, it almost seems like they need to take at least 2 of 3 this weekend.
F.Y.I- I fully expect the Cubs to show me up and win in dominating fashion tonight in Milwaukee.
Featured Image via Sporting News