Ryan Says: The Cold Streak, Overall Inconsistency, and Playing With Fire

The Miami Marlins are in town, which would normally be cause for celebration in Wrigleyville. But with the way the Cubs’ offense has worked the last two weeks, it doesn’t really matter who the opponent is. It could be the Marlins, the Reds, or the Batavia Muckdogs. There are no easy victories right now. Let’s take a look at why.

• The number of the day is 54. That’s the Cubs’ team wRC+ in their last 10 games. When you look at it that way, it’s actually somewhat amazing that they’ve won four of those, and very nearly could’ve won six of 10 if not for Luke Farrell’s unfortunate performances in St. Louis. That’s all hypothetical, of course, but you get the point. The Cubs are lucky they didn’t go 1-9 or 2-8 over this stretch.

For more fun (read: torture) with numbers, the Cubs have a .251 OBP and .318 slugging percentage over the same stretch. They haven’t been shut out, but they’ve averaged just 2.7 runs per game. They went 14 consecutive games (45 percent of their season so far) between home runs with a runner on base, and that says everything doesn’t it?

Over the last two weeks, only Kyle Schwarber (123), Javier Baez (105), and Ian Happ (100) have a wRC+ at league average or better. Among the biggest offenders are Jason Heyward (33), Albert Almora Jr. (37), and Willson Contreras (49).

• That was the micro view, so now a macro view. The Cubs are averaging 4.7 runs per game, but it’s really not as good as it looks. Take out the six highest-scoring games and the six lowest-scoring games, and what you’re left with (19 games) is an average of 3.7 runs per game. Sure, they’ve scored eight or more runs 10 times in total, but the Cubs have also been shut out or scored one run eight times. This would be the definition of “inconsistent offense.”

The problem is truly greater than any one stretch of time, but it’s also easy to point a finger at the fix. The good hitters need to hit like good hitters. Check out the OPS by spot in the lineup, if you want a clearer picture.






















I didn’t thoroughly check, but I would bet there aren’t too many teams that can boast a higher OPS from their No. 9 hitter than from their cleanup hitter. The lack of production from Anthony Rizzo, the recent slump of Kris Bryant following his scary HBP, and the complete absence of a leadoff man are three things that need to be sorted out soon.

• There is a dangerously thin line between being confident in the talent on this roster and overlooking the danger of another slow start. The Cubs got away with their poor first half last season thanks to a red-hot run in the second half and divisional competition that was extremely underwhelming. Their 92 wins wouldn’t have been good enough to win any division but the NL Central last year.

This season, it appears that things have changed slightly. The Cardinals are 20-13 entering play on Tuesday and their starting pitching has been excellent. Don’t forget that St. Louis added Marcell Ozuna in place of the duo of Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. They also have Alex Reyes coming back in a few weeks, likely to work out of the ‘pen to start.

Then there are the Milwaukee Brewers, who the Cubs have dominated in head-to-head competition. But outside of those games, the Brewers have also been formidable. That’s not even to mention the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are off to a surprisingly good start.

I have no doubt that, eventually, the Cubs will put it all together. But if they’re two games under .500 at the All-Star break this year, for example, I struggle to see them being only 5.5 games back as they were last year. The NL Central has improved too much. And while the most talented team still resides in Chicago, the Cardinals and Brewers don’t appear willing to wait around. Point being, the Cubs and their ice-cold offense are playing with fire.

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