(Editor’s note: we’ve already done a couple articles on the Cubs’ weaknesses, most recently this one from Andy, but it’s always good to have more opinions.)
Trying to find weaknesses in the Chicago Cubs is baseball’s equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. With an inordinate amount of depth, manager Joe Maddon’s club raced out to a 17-5 record by the end of April and a 37-15 mark on June 2.
Despite recent struggles, Chicago currently maintains a substantial lead in the National League Central – meaning a postseason spot is a near certainty, a chance at a first World Series title in 108 years is not an unrealistic hope, at all near. However, we’ve discovered a few cracks in the invincible Cubs.
The offense averages around five runs per game – led by the power tandem of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. But Chicago still has a tendency to be feast-or-famine. That’s best explained by its 267 strikeouts during the month of June: the second-most among major league clubs. The Cubs also discover trouble when it comes to getting runners in from second and third base. Collectively, they are hitting .254 with men in scoring position (18th in MLB).
As strong as the lineup appears, an overpowering pitching staff can still thwart it – just as the New York Mets did in their sweep of the Cubs in last year’s National League Championship Series.
Also key to a long postseason run is a healthy and capable bullpen. The Cubs possess the ninth-best earned run average (ERA) among relievers. They’ve thrown 220 innings, but several of their arms are already taxed. Much of the work has been levied upon Trevor Cahill, Travis Wood, Pedro Strop, and Justin Grimm – all of whom have more than 31 appearances already. Maddon is astutely aware of this, and thanks to a large division lead, he has been able to delegate responsibilities to others. But It definitely didn’t help that the bullpen had to go more than 12 innings during a tough weekend series in New York.
As for their starting pitchers, defending NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta no longer looks like his invincible self. He was never better than an April evening against Cincinnati, in which he no-hit the Reds. He ran a 20-game regular season unbeaten streak, which ended on June 5 (his first loss in 11 months). Over his last three starts, Arrieta has lost twice, walked 11, and allowed 10 earned runs.
For a man who was so dominant during the second half of 2015 and then appeared to run out of gas during his final two postseason outings, one has to wonder if he’ll have the staying power to maintain dominance into October this time around.
The Chicago Cubs remain the team to beat in all of Major League Baseball. With a top-flight ace in Jake Arrieta, a potent lineup mixed with young stars and able veterans, along with depth that all other franchises envy; no team is better prepared to win the World Series.
However, over the past month, others are having their say. Take Cleveland, with its 14-game winning streak. The Texas Rangers, becoming the first AL club to 50 victories. Then, there are the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants remaining very consistent as NL powers.
All this says is that the Cubs, who can go into cruise control when it comes to their division, shouldn’t get too complacent.