This Sucks--Atlanta 4 Cubs 0

This isn't fun. The Cubs started 6-7 in 2017 and they have matched that this year. Of course in 2017, that was after facing the St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers for 13 games. This year that 13 game period includes games against the Marlins, Reds, Pirates, Brewers, and Pirates. The difficulty of those first 13 games was certainly higher in 2017 and they had the added difficulty of just playing in the World Series. It isn't pretty right now.

Here was the Cubs offense for the afternoon. Kris Bryant had a solid single with two outs in the first inning. Jason Heyward walked to lead off the second inning. That was followed by a one out Ian Happ single, and the bases were loaded with two outs after Kris Bryant was hit with a pitch. Tommy La Stella singled to start the sixth inning. Ian Happ had a two out double in the eighth inning. That is every single Cubs base runner in the game.

Yu Darvish started off strong retiring the first two Braves hitters, but the pitch count drifted up early with a Freddie Freeeman single and Nick Markasis walk. Darvish wouldn't have a 1-2-3 inning until the third inning, and that would be his only clean inning of the afternoon. The Braves threatened to score again in the fourth inning. Dansby Swanson had a one out double. Ryan Flaherty was struck out looking for Darvish's second of four strikeouts. Anibal Sanchez attempted a two out bunt, and Willson Contreras's throw was well wide of first baseman Kris Bryant. Sanchez was ruled to be out of the base line and was called out to keep the score level.

The fifth inning was the decisive inning in the game. Ozzie Albies hit a double with one out, and he moved to third when Yu Darvish peaked back in the middle of a hesitation in his windup. The balk did not seem to rattle Darvish as Freddie Freeman struck out swinging for the second out of the inning, but a wild pitch allowed Albies to score the winning run of the game. Nick Markasis singled, and Kurt Suzuki doubled to give the Braves a chance to break the game open. That is exactly what happened as Darvish hung a 2-1 slider to Preston Tucker. Darvish loaded the bases with a walk, single and walk to Swanson, Flaherty, and pitcher Anibal Sanchez respectively. That ended the Darvish's outing, and the inning was brought to a merciful end by Brian Duensing.

The four runs were more than enough as the Cubs bats remained cold. Duensing, Pedro Strop, Mike Montgomery, Carl Edwards Jr, and Brandon Morrow combined for a scoreless 4.1 innings, but the Cubs have dropped below .500 yet again in 2018.

WPA CHART

Source: FanGraphs

Feast of Famine
Mike Moody wrote about this earlier, but the 2017 Cubs total offensive performance hid the fact that it was very inconsistent. It seems like 2018 is going to be more of the same. It is tempting to refer to this season as the Hobbit since it seems like it is either feast of famine. The team has pounded opposing pitchers four times. It has failed to make a dent against them four times. The total numbers look good, but the record is going to be lower than expected if this trend continues. I am not sure what the solution is since there is an Anthony Rizzo size hole in the lineup. Tommy La Stella might be one of those solutions, but he actually failed to put the ball in play twice today. It was just an ugly day all around outside of the very good Cubs bullpen.

Spurned Twice
I have to admit that I had forgotten about Anibal Sanchez. He has been pretty bad as a pitcher for 3 straight years. But when he baffled Cubs hitters for 6 innings of three hit shutout ball, it brought back memories of the 2012-2013 offseason flooding back. Edwin Jackson was the big free agent prize for the Cubs that year, but only after Sanchez leveraged the Cubs offer to extract more money from the Detroit Tigers. Edwin Jackson was terrible immediately, but Sanchez was very good in 2013. He was solid in 2014, and then wasn't effective. Still he looked pretty good this afternoon. The 69 mph changeup he dropped was particularly impressive. The names of the guys that have baffled Cubs hitters is perhaps the most frustrating part of the 2018 campaign so far.

Random Reference
Bob: How has the Cubs season been?

Comments

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  • If a baseball season was divided into nine innings each inning would be 18 games. So we’re still in the first inning. Still, the NL has been interesting, with the Pirates, Dbacks, and Mets off to fast starts, and Dodgers, Cubs, and Nationals all mediocre.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Would still put big money on the Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers winning their division.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    All three: I’d take that bet. I think the Dodgers have their hands full in the NL West.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    3 separate bets. I take the Nationals in the East and you get the field. I take the Cubs in the Central and you get the field. I take the Dodgers in the West (I admit, likely my riskiest bet) and you get the field. Do you take the bet?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    I’m not clear on the bet. If it is straight up that the Dodgers, Nationals, and Cubs each have to win their divisions, and if all three don’t I win, I take that bet.

  • The main frustrating thing to me so far is the cubs offense still struggling with risp also the defense has been kind of shaky. The bullpen outside a couple bad outings from wilson and montgomery has been great for the most part. hendricks has been the most consistent starter but teams crush his mistakes every time, the other starters have had a good start then meh or bad starts. hopefully the cubs can start stringing together better overall baseball

  • I think the problem the Cubs have is pretty obvious.

    If you look at the opening day lineup, seven of eight hitters could hit 20 or more homeruns except possibly Heyward.

    If you look at the opening day lineup, seven of eight hitters are high strikeout guys excluding Rizzo and possibly Bryant.

    Solutions:

    Insert Almora Into the every day lineup might help a little.

    Beyond that I think we’re screwed, unless we can unload one of our young guys at the deadline, But something has to change in the outfield.

  • In reply to JohnCHI:

    Rizzo and Bryant will also strikeout a lot.
    I agree it is a lineup that will rely on power and strikeout a lot.

  • In reply to JohnCHI:

    We're going to sign Bryce Harper and unload Heyward. Schwarber will combine with Happ and Almora Jr. to create the best offensive OF in baseball, by far. To hell with them damned Yankees.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I forgot to mention, to go along with the best offensive/defensive IN in baseball. I love being a Cubs fan right about now.

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    The cardinals OF will beat out the cubs OF in every offensive category. Sorry just being honest.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    The Cubs top four outfielders OPS:
    Schwarber .863
    Happ .734
    Almora .718
    Heyward .601

    Cards top four outfielders OPS:
    Pham .840
    Ozuma .724
    Fowler .546
    Bader .408

    Greg maybe you should reconsider your statement

  • In reply to John57:

    John, I have to side with the troll. The Cubs may have the worst offensive outfield in baseball today.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Well right now they are not the worst offensive outfield in baseball because they are better than the St Louis outfield. I guess we will have to wait and see where they are at the end of the year.

  • In reply to Greg Simmons:

    I don't believe I've ever dedicated a song to you, Mr. Simmons. Here's to you, my friend, from my team to yours:

    "Doo, Doo, Doo,
    Looking out my back door."

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Here's a Springsteen song that accurately describes the Cubs start of the 2018 season: "We're the same sad story that's a fact
    One step up and two steps back."

  • In reply to Terry Rosdail:

    "Hokey Pokey" under Maddon? Let's hope the talent Theo assembled can overcome Joe's ineptness.

  • Its amazing watching Javy Baez swinging at balls one foot over
    his head . Does he want to lead the league in pop ups ?

  • The Cubs will win,,,,,,,,,,,,tomorrow, but your bottom dollar that tomorrow...............the Cubs will win. Just thinking about... tomorrow.

  • At what point should we except the fact that Addi, javy and Jason are not gonna be as good as hitters as people thought?

    Cubs have had 2 offseason to figure out what to do in the leadoff spot and we are still playing musical chairs.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    . . . as good as people thought? Depends what people thought. For me, Javy is right on pace. He's hit over .270 two years in a row and he'll continue to get better, especially if he's not buried in the 8th hole by Stubborn Joe. Russell, however, is a disappointment and his future (can he hit over .240?) is worrisome. Heyward is done, headcase and hopeless as a hitter -- I've seen enough.

    The answer is simple (and obvious): Contreras lead off. Javy clean up. Boom!

    Bat our four best hitters 1 thru 4.

    Contreras
    Bryant
    Rizzo
    Baez
    Schwarber/Happ/Zobrist
    Almora/Happ/
    Russell
    Heyward.

    Maybe Almora 5th. Unlike everyone else in below Baez in my order, AA has demonstrated he can hit over .270.

  • In reply to TTP:

    What you mean people thought??? Those 3 had super high expectations placed on them and haven’t consistently lived up to that. I am not gonna be satisfied cause a top prospect hit low .270s.
    Not sure jason is a head case just a bad contract.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Pretty sure, if you go back to 2014, 2015, people thought Javy would be about a .275--.290 hitter. I don't know what you thought, but I recall that people like John Arguello thought that, except that he'd more homers than he's hit so far and have a higher SLG%. I would be very happy if Javy hits .275 and 35 to 40 homers a year and 40 doubles. I think he'll get closer that, especially if they hit him 4th or 5th. So I'm just saying it depends on what your expectations were.

    Yes, people definitely expected more from Russell and Heyward . Most were willing to give Russell a Mulligan for last season based on injury but mostly his personal, domestic situation. But so far this year, he's disappointed and I am wondering/worrying whether he'll get back to what was expected of him. I suspect he will, but far from certain.

    I think we've all seen enough from Heyward. And, yes, I think he's something of a head case when it comes to his hitting. He has all the physical tools, so at this point it's seem more mental than anything else.

  • In reply to TTP:

    I would be thrilled if javy can be a .275 hitter. I don’t see it for the longevity of his career. I expect him to be .250 when all said and done with tons of whiffs.
    Jason is not a headcase. Head case means you don’t listen. He is bad. Had 1 good year before cubs saw greatness.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    That is why they will explore signing Bryce Harper next year... He is a bonifide MLB HoF hitter & defender. No questions about it.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    That would be great. Will have to move around a lot of parts to make that piece fit.

  • Too much is made of lineup construction, IMO. The problem is the type of hitters and failure of improvement in those hitters.

    I am going to hold back until end of May before making some additional commentary. I would say Happ, Russell, and Heyward are on my radar. I have no qualms with Schwarber and Baez today. I like the approaches and quality at bats. I think end of May we have a better feel for how their seasons will turn out.

    It’s a disappointment, for sure. But it is still only 13 games.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Schwarbs I see but Baez????

  • Well, I'm a little worried. I know it's early and this is a short sample size, but we seem to have some missing ingredients in our offense. Something about this roster feels out of sinc. The inconsistancy is frustrating.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    No need to........Cubs, Nationals, Dodgers.......blah

  • Feast OR famine. Not of.

  • I’m happy for pirates fans seeing their team start well in spite of their management’s decision to rebuild/retool/whatever. They were too close to blow it up for another 20 year wait. It’s one thing to sell guys like Cole when you’re obviously on the treadmill of mediocrity, but if they just spent a little in the right places, that team could’ve been something.

    In related news, I will forever boo Sean Rodriguez as a player.

  • In reply to Stubbs:

    They really weren’t going for a full rebuild. They have a nice farm system, particularly in the lower levels, and a nice MLB core with Marte, Bell, Polanco and Harrison. Taillon is becoming a hell of a pitcher and Mitch Keller is coming soon. They’ll be back in the playoffs in a year or so. What they don’t ever do is take that last leap to be a true WS contender

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