Last Game: Pirates 3, Cubs 2
Up Next: Cubs (32-23) @ Pirates (31-20) 6:05 CST
Rejoice! I guess?!?
The celebration will no doubt be muted following a walk off loss to the lowly Pirates last night, but thanks to the Phillies getting swept in a doubleheader by the Nationals the Cubs have clinched a postseason berth for the fifth time in six years. They are also well situated to win the NL Central for the third time in five years barring a final week collapse. I'm sure there will be greater jubilation once the division is secured, but until then, I think the Cubs and their fans are a bit trepidacious regarding recent performances and just how locked in the team is during the season's final week.
While my own comfort level with the pitching staff grows, despite the recent news Rowan Wick and Tyler Chatwood are unlikely to pitch again this year, my confidence in the offense continues to diminish. We all know the issues: the high K rates and lack of contact, the paltry power production even when they put the ball in play, etc., etc., etc.
The offense has been "broken" for years, but it is likely in a worse state right now than it has ever been. And that is with a breakout season from Ian Happ, a resurgent Jason Heyward, and a solid year by Jason Kipnis. This is on the core five. In year's past there were credible reasons to believe the offense could be fixed by increasing production from the depth pieces and by the maturation of the Cubs still young core into true veterans. That no longer flies this season. The buck stops with Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, Contreras and Schwarber. They talked the talk before the season began but they haven't backed it up. At all.
This team will only go as far as these five take them this postseason. Sure, the pitching could let them down too, but these hitters are supposed to be able to score enough to cover for occasional poor outings on the mound. They are supposed to slug and win shootouts.
They know this is their last chance to succeed as a group. At least one of them will be moved this offseason. That has gone from likely to almost guaranteed at this point. I hope they can go out on a high note. I really do. Until I see them start hitting the center cut 92 mph fastballs that they have missed the majority of this season, I will remain skeptical.
Injuries, Updates, and Trends
- Magic Number: 4
- To make room for Jose Quintana the Cubs optioned Rex Brothers. Quintana allowed one run over two innings, and fellow lefty Andrew Chafin gave up the winning homer in the 9th. These two figure to be a big part of the left side of the Cubs bullpen come playoff time, especially if they advance beyond the opening round. It is important to get at least one of the two pitching well over the next week.
- The Cubs seem optimistic Kris Bryant's latest injury is not serious. But given all of the various ailments which have affected him this season, even if the oblique doesn't hamper him much, I think it is clear he's suffering a death from a thousand cuts this season. As much as I talked about the core five needing to lift this team up, I just don't think Bryant is going to be healthy enough to be a part of that, regardless if he returns. He'll unfortunately take the brunt of the fan's wrath if the Cubs get eliminated, but of the core five, he has had the most reason to struggle this season. I'm not sure KB has played a single game at full health in 2o2o.
Once again, let me thank all of you who have stuck with us at Cubs Den through this trying season. It would have been difficult for me to keep up on all the news and game coverage under the best of circumstances, but besides all of the craziness of 2o2o, I've also ended up with a change in my work schedule which has me in meetings prior to 7 am most days. Unlike night owl John, I write better in the morning. And my change in work schedule has dramatically cut into my normal writing schedule. I'm doing what I can, but it has been difficult to keep pace.
Filed under: Morning Cubs Roundup