One-Hit Wonders? Cubs Still Trying to Escape Offensive Rut
The thing about offering a quote like “our offense broke somewhere along the lines” is that bloggers with limited capacity for original thought are going to hold it against you for years. Theo Epstein might be gone, but many of the same regulars are present in an lineup that hasn’t looked very dynamic through
four years five games. Even their three homers in Monday’s win masked what was otherwise a fairly pedestrian 5-for-27 (.185) line with three walks and six strikeouts.
On the season, the Cubs are last in MLB with a mere .132 average, though their .265 wOBA, .581 OPS, and 65 wRC+ are all ranked significantly higher. Well, it’s really just three spots higher, but 10% can be construed as significant if we remove all context. Only five Cubs have recorded multiple hits on the season and only five more have collected a hit at all.
Kris Bryant leads the team in nearly every offensive category, provided you discount what Eric Sogard has done in six plate appearances. With his double Tuesday, Bryant notched the Cubs’ only hit of the game against a Brewers staff that was hardly even tested across 32 plate appearances.
The Cubs sent the minimum to the plate in five separate innings and only took as many as five turns once in what looked like the kind of desultory effort you’d see in late September from a team that’s 20 games out. All that said, this was only the fifth game of the season and even the most anemic stats can become positively robust over the course of another game or two.
“This is, for guys, 10-15 at-bats out of 600, 700,” Ian Happ told reporters. “So, you just have to really be patient.”
If there’s good news here, it’s that the Cubs have still found ways to score runs even when they’re not hitting well. They’ve been aggressive on the bases and have gotten runners home from third with an MLB-leading four sac flies. They had only 13 such productive outs across 60 games last season and 39 in a full 2019 campaign, right in the middle of the pack both times, so these early results are promising.
While I’m not alone in hoping I never see Joc Pederson attempt to bunt for a hit again, at least not like he did Tuesday night, you can’t say the Cubs aren’t trying to force the issue. Maybe that’s part of the problem, though, pressing a bit with fans back in the stands and players feeling they’ve got something to prove either to themselves or the rest of the world.
“If this happened in the middle of the season, you wouldn’t blink,” Happ said. “But when it happens early on, it just magnifies it. That’s part of sticking with the process.”
Wednesday will go a long way toward directing the narrative, as a win will wash out the bad taste from the shutout and a loss will have the sky falling on a collective Chicken Little. Whatever happens, getting away from home for a week might be the best remedy for some of the players who are scuffling early. It certainly can’t hurt that their first road series is in Pittsburgh.
This isn’t a perfect team by any means, but the Cubs still have a great deal of talent in spite of any obvious flaws. So while an offensive skid is to be expected from time to time, there will eventually be natural corrections as well. Wait, isn’t that how baseball works every year? Yeah, I think it is.