Baseball is back and back with a vengeance. We already have our first canceled games for the week due to COVID and the Miami Marlins. But they are not the concern of this article. I want to break down these first five games and usually, I would be bombarded with “iT iS OnLy FivE GaMEs in”. Well, SpongeBob meme, that is nearly 10 percent of our season this time around. The Chicago Cubs are off to a 4-1 start and atop the NL Central. Although 4-1 is a great start, there is always something to improve on and with this Cubs team, there certainly is.
Good, Bad, Ugly: The Cubs Hot Start
The bats are “woke”; as the children like to say. Even though they are only hitting .250 as a team, good for third in the National League, the ball still jumps off of the bat. They are first in the NL with 10 home runs as a team. Chicago’s 31 runs scored is also good for first among NL opponents.
Another good thing about this Cubs team is the starting pitching. National League Player of the Week Kyle Hendricks takes the bump Wednesday against the Reds after going the distance against the Milwaukee Brewers in the opener. In 29 innings of work, the starting rotation has given up six runs. Half of those were by Yu Darvish who will be in the latter portion of this reading.
Right now, the Cubs offense is just putting up runs. If you can’t hang with six runs a game then you will not be beating them on a consistent basis.
Free-agent acquisitions Jason Kipnis and Steven Souza Jr have stepped into their roles nicely and have been playing well above expectations so far. Kipnis is hitting .375 and has brought a nice presence to the plate with that left-handed swing. Souza has gotten limited playing time but hit a very nice double down the line the other night to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in Cincinnati.
There really isn’t a lot of holes to poke in a 4-1 start but there is always something extra you would like to see happening. For the Cubs, that is Kris Bryant who has been placed in the leadoff spot and has a measly slash line of .059/.158/.059; not good by any means. The bright spot for Bryant in this spot is the number of pitches he sees in each at-bat. He really sets the table for Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, and Willson Contreras to drive in the runs.
Darvish is supposed to be one of our go-to starters. Unfortunately for Darvish, his style of pitching does not cater to efficiency. His stuff is downright filthy but very erratic and he could only get through four innings in his debut and gave up three earned runs. This is the Cubs only loss of the season so far and it comes from one their least likely suspects.
Usually, throughout a 162-game season, I would be patient with these slow starts. But October is right around the corner and the Cubs need these two in prime form if they want a chance to win another title because this is the Cubs “Last Dance”.
Let’s be frank, we all know what this section is all about. The bullpen is a joke. Craig Kimbrel nearly blew the save the other night and put his teammate Jeremy Jeffress in quite the predicament. Thankfully, Jeffress shut the door. A former Brewer, Jeffress is coming off of his worst season ever in Milwaukee and is looking to bounce back. Being put in a bases-loaded situation with only one out and nursing a one-run lead is not a recipe for success.
The bullpen has pitched 16 innings (out of 45) and given up 15 runs; all earned. Kimbrel looks like a shell of his former self and can’t locate a pitch. He looked flustered on the mound and had no answers to get himself out of that situation. The Cubs have a lot of work to do for a 4-1 team. This ugly portion will rear its ugly head in October because the Cubs will not be averaging six runs a game all season.
The Cubs First Five Games
There is “a lot” of baseball to be played and I am beyond excited. I will touch back with you guys in between the 15 to 20-game mark to see where this team is and if their October chances improve or not. When I say chances in October, I am talking about how the team could do in the postseason in terms of winning a title, not just making it to the postseason.