After a brief glimpse of hope with three consecutive series wins in mid-May, the Cubs have hit the skids again. They have dropped five out of six games and have not captured a series since wrapping up a three-game set with Pittsburgh on May 18.
While there have been bright spots, it’s been a fairly ugly stretch that has underscored the team’s inability to win close games. Of the Cubs’ eight losses since that Pittsburgh series, six have been by two runs or less. Poor performance as a team often signals poor collective individual performances, but it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Let’s dig in and see how the players that make up the Cubs have been doing over the last week.
Marcus Stroman: You can forgive Cubs fans for panicking just a bit after the first three games of Stroman’s career in blue pinstripes. Stroman walked six, gave up three home runs, and surrendered 14 runs in total over 13.1 innings pitched in those starts, resulting in an ugly 8.76 ERA.
While his 5.31 FIP suggests that he was a bit snake-bitten, luck does not account for his struggles over that first month.
In five starts since, things have turned around in a major way. Stroman has allowed just six earned runs while striking out 7.20 and walking 1.50 per nine innings with just two homers given up over 30.0 magnificent innings. His 1.80 ERA in that stretch reflects just how stellar he has been.
Stroman may not be able to drag the Cubs to contention in 2022, but his turnaround is a big reason for optimism that the Cubs will have a top of the rotation starter ready to lead their next contender.
Willson Contreras’s power numbers: Contreras sure has been good lately, hasn’t he? In what might be his final season as a Cub, he is slashing .264/.387/.486 with a 148 wRC+ that is second among all catchers with at least 50 plate appearances. The only backstop with better run production is his brother, William Contreras, who has a 186 wRC+ on the season.
The longtime Cub’s last seven days have given those numbers a boost, as he’s hit .318/.423/.636 with three home runs, including this shot in a losing effort against Milwaukee on Monday night. Contreras continues to be the Cubs’ biggest offensive force and, if they head down the road we all think they’re likely to go, he’s sure to fetch a haul from a contender within the next few months.
Willson visits Waveland! pic.twitter.com/1oe8APQJ8E
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 31, 2022
Jed Hoyer’s spirits: Wade Miley and Drew Smyly were two of the Cubs players most likely to be on Hoyer’s radar as trade chips this summer. In the mold of Jason Hammel and Paul Maholm before them, it seems both pitchers were acquired primarily so that they could be flipped. Things had sort of been going according to plan for a while.
Miley has put up strong results since coming back from a stint on the injured list to start the year, and Smyly has been solid all season. Hoyer and the Cubs front office could have justifiably believed they might be able to net a number of useful assets for the veterans.
This week has put at least a bit of a damper on that idea, as Miley was placed on the injured list with a shoulder strain on Sunday. Smyly joined him on Monday night, leaving his start after only three innings with Cubs trainer PJ Mainville alongside him.
While there is still plenty of time for both pitchers to re-establish themselves as valuable trade pieces, these injuries are likely to have at least some effect on the return the organization can expect.