Lack Of Timely Hitting Dooms Cubs

The Cubs lost their series opener in Miami against the Marlins. The Cubs had the bases loaded in the top of the ninth after Addison Russell, Albert Almora, and David Ross had managed to get on with one out. After Ross, Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist came up to the plate.

Coghlan struck out swinging and Zobrist popped up to end the inning. The loss marked the first four game losing streak for the Cubs this season. Had Coghlan or Zobrist gotten on base with a single, the Cubs could have scored one or even two runners. The Cubs would have to fend off the Marlins again in that inning to win the anyway, but it is possible the Cubs could have won in they could have gotten a few more hits in the ninth.

Prior to losing to the Marlins, the Cubs had been swept by their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. This cut the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central by three games. The Cubs still have a large lead on the second place Cardinals, but had a 12.5 game lead prior to being swept.

The Cubs lost their games against the Marlins and the Cardinals for a number of reasons, but mainly it has been their hitting, or lack thereof holding them back. In the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs averaged 2.33 runs per game. In their opener versus the Marlins, the Cubs only scored two runs. Nine runs over four games is abnormal for one of the MLB’s best offenses.

In addition to the Cubs struggling offense, several young prospects have taken the place of established stars in recent games. Albert Almora took the place a Dexter Fowler, and Willson Contreras took the place of Anthony Rizzo. There will be growing pains as Joe Maddon tries to get his prospects some playing time, but hopefully they will pass as the Cubs starters return to play.

Those prospects will become valuable in the near future, however, as they are considered for potential trades. For the past several weeks, multiple sources have said that the Cubs are looking to make a trade in order to bring in a big time reliever. Whether Albert Almora or Willson Contreras will be moved is speculation at this point but nothing should be ruled out at this point as the Cubs try to take improve their team for a long postseason run and try to take home some hardware.

Moving Forward

The Cubs have three more games to play the against the Marlins after losing the series opener and will round out the month of June against the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio. The Cubs will then finish their current road trip in New York against the Mets and then come home to play the Reds again in July.

The Cubs will look to get back on track going forward with two series against a last place NL Central rival. The Cincinnati Reds are 28-45 as of June 23rd, have a 17-20 home record, and are 20 games back of the 1st place Cubs. While it is still early in the season, the Cubs need to end their losing streak.

Chicago Cubs Redefining the Term Slump

Recent Results

After coming out with one of the best starts in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs have slowed down in the past week and a half. After losing a double header to the Padres, the Cubs lost their series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The team has lost 5 of its last 8 games against considerably weaker opponents and now will travel to San Francisco to the Giants and Saint Louis to play the division rival Cardinals. The level of competition is rising this week and the Cubs will have to adapt.

In their 5 loses, the Cubs have posted 4 runs or less. In their 3 wins, the Cubs scored a total of 19 runs, 17 of which came against the Pittsburg Pirates, a team the Chicago Cubs have dominated this season.

While individual players, such as Ben Zobrist, are hitting their stride, the Cubs offense is faltering. The Cubs have left a number of runners on base in scoring position. According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs went 1-for-24 with men in scoring position against the Brewers. They left 24 runners on base in the series, 14 coming of Wednesday.

In the grand scheme of it all the Cubs still lead the NL Central by 6.5 games and still have baseball’s best record. Even the best teams have their slumps. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Cubs.

Facing the Champs

On May 20th, the Cubs will begin their series against the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs also played the Giants last year and swept the would be champions.

This will be a good test for the Cubs. If they can rebound from their recent slump and beat the Giants in the series, they will be a good place going forward. The Giants are the real deal and still are a very good team.

Adding A Reliever

The Cubs recently signed Joe Nathan to a contract. Nathan is on the wrong side of 40 and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He could be a good pickup if he still has something left in the tank. He is currently on the disabled list rehabbing his throwing arm.

The Cubs have most of their relievers returning from last season. Guys like Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Travis Wood are still effective, but this move could further bolster their bull pen if Nathan pans out.

The Future Of Cubs Catching

This is David Ross’ last season in the major leagues. He has made it known for a while now that he won’t be coming back. How much of a priority will it be for the Cubs to replace Ross?

The Cubs still have Miguel Montero and Tim Federowicz who are currently listed as catchers. They also have Kyle Schwarber, who is naturally a catcher, but is versatile enough to play outfield. While it may seem like a rather obvious answer, there is more to it than what is listed on paper.

The Cubs will have a number of young studs to pay in the near future. Should salaries become an issue, the Cubs could consider trading Montero and his large contract. Montero is currently making $12 million this year according to mlb.com and that number will rise to $14 million next year.

Should it come down to it, and the Cubs do trade Montero, Schwarber could move back to catcher in order to keep Jorge Soler in the lineup who is currently filling in for Schwarber.

 

 

 

 

Chicago Cubs Early Season Recap

The Cubs are now 25 games into their regular season and with their most recent win, a 7-1 win over the Pittsburg Pirates, have improved their overall record to 19-6 which is still good enough for best in the Major League.

Once again showing his magic on the mound was Jake Arrieta. Pitching seven shutout innings and allowing only two hits against the Pirates, Arrieta once again dominated. This has become the norm for Arrieta even against superb competition like the Pirates who are the 5th best team in ESPN’s most recent power rankings.

It’s not just Arrieta that’s having a great season so far. Several Cubs players have contributed to the team’s success.

 

Pitching

The Cubs rotation is among the best in the league. Lead by Cy Young Winning Pitcher Jake Arrieta, Cubs starters have a combined 16-4 record. After their win against the Pirates on May 3rd, Arrieta now leads the league in wins for a starting pitcher along with Chicago White Sox’s Pitcher Chris Sale.

In addition to Arrieta, starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel have an era below 2.00. Only John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks have ERAs above that mark, 4.32 and 3.52 respectively. Hendricks is the only Cubs’s starter with a losing record at 1-2.

The relievers are also performing at high level. Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Travis Wood, and Adam Warren have ERAs below 2.00. Trevor Cahill, who helped seal the victory against the Pirates has a 3.86 ERA.

The only Cubs pitcher with an ERA above 5.00 is Clayton Richard at 6.75.

 

Offense

The Cubs are loaded with offensive talent. Dexter Fowler is currently leading the regular starters with a .352 average, 31 hits, and a .473 on base percentage. Given a one-year deal in the offseason after searching for a long term deal in the open market, Fowler is proving his worth.

Anthony Rizzo normally has a higher average than his current .242, but he now has sole possession of 1st place in the RBI standings with 26. Rizzo also leads the team in home runs with 8.

Former Rookie of the year Kris Bryant is hitting above .300 again after Tuesday’s game. He also has 17 RBIs and I second on the team in hits at 29.

Free agent acquisitions Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist are hitting .211 and .253 respectively. While Heyward is not performing poorly, his number are down from last season’s career highs with the Cardinals.

 

Coaching

Not much needs to be said here. Joe Maddon is one of the best coaches in baseball and was the National League Coach of the year in 2015.

 

Fielding

Out of 27 qualifying players, 18 Cubs’ fielders have a 1.000 fielding percentage, and another 5 have at least a .900 average. Only Adam Warren hasa fielding average below .700.

 

Injuries

In the third game of the year, the Cubs lost outfielder and catcher Kyle Schwarber to a season ending leg injury. Since then the Cubs have not missed a beat and continue to be a powerhouse without the young phenom.

More recently, Jason Heyward is dealing with a wrist injury. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs are hopeful that Heyward can be back in the lineup Wednesday May 4th in the series finale against the Pirates.

Matt Szczur is also injuried. Gonzles is reporting that Szczur has a right hamstring injury and has been put on the 15-day disabled list. His temporary replacement on the Cubs roster is Ryan Kalish.

 

Expectations

The Cubs are considered the best team in Major League Baseball. Going forward they have to keep winning in order to keep steady in the rankings. After finishing their series with the Pirates, the Cubs will travel back to Wrigley Field and face the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are currently 18-7 and are the number 2 team in the ESPN power rankings. The Nationals should be a good test for the Cubs and a means to test expectations going forward.

 

Cueto and Zobrist Make Royals AL Favorites

The trade deadline is finally upon us. Today is the last day a team can trade a player without securing waivers. There have been a few teams that have been active in the past week. The New York Mets acquired Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson from the Atlanta Braves a week ago and then traded for relief pitcher Tyler Clippard three days later. The Houston Astros improved their rotation by acquiring lefty Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics and then acquired Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from the Astros yesterday. The Milwaukee Brewers traded third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the red-hot Pittsburgh Pirates. Yesterday, David Price was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for some prospects. However, there’s been one team that’s really put themselves over-the-top by making a couple of trades. That team is the Kansas City Royals.

The defending AL Champions are increasing their chances to get back to the World Series. This past Sunday, the Royals acquired Johnny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for  young pitcher Brandon Finnegan and minor league pitchers John Lamb and Cody Reed. Cueto is in the final year of a five-year deal and will be a free agent at the end of the year. The Reds knew they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him, so it made sense to trade him and get something back. From the Royals’ perspective, adding Cueto to their rotation means adding a legitimate ace. In an eight-year career with the Reds, Cueto was 92-63 with a 3.21 ERA. He had the best year of his career last year when he went 20-9 with an ERA of 2.25. He led the league in strikeouts with 242 and finished second in the NL Cy Young Award voting. The Royals have lacked a solid ace all year long. Yordano Ventura, who was the team’s Opening Day starter, has had a rough season. He’s 5-7 with a 4.86 ERA in 15 starts. Edinson Volquez, Cueto’s former teammate in Cincinnati, has been the Royals’ best pitcher this year. He’s won 10 games and has a 3.21 ERA. By adding Cueto, the Royals definitely strengthened their rotation.

Two days later, the Royals added another piece to help strengthen the team. They acquired utility player Ben Zobrist from the Oakland Athletics, sending pitchers Aaron Brooks and Sean Manaea to the Athletics. Like Cueto, Zobrist is in the final year of his contract and will be a free agent at the end of the year. In 67 games with the Athletics this year, Zobrist batted .268 with six home runs and 33 RBIS. He can play multiple positions, usually second base, left field, right field, third base, and shortstop. Because there’s really no place for him in the Royals’ infield, Zobrist will probably mostly play left field. He’ll join a talented outfield with Lorenzo Cain in center field and Alex Rios in right field. He’ll play the infield when someone needs a day off. As a utility player who can play five positions and who’s also a switch-hitter, Zobrist can be a very productive player for the Royals. The team already has a prolific offense. Adding Zobrist into the mix will only make it even better.

The Royals were once a small market team who never had any success. In the past few years though, they’ve turned into a good team that’s not afraid to make big trades. They may still be a small market team, but they’re making smart moves to put themselves over-the-top. Cueto and Zobrist will be free agents at the end of the year, so the Royals won’t have to pay either of them past this year if they don’t want to. They had to give up some good prospects to get both of them, but when you’re trying to win a World Series that’s what you have to do.

After adding Cueto and Zobrist, the Royals are now clearly the favorites in the American League. They currently hold an eight game lead over the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central. They own the AL’s best record at 61-40. Compared to the other division leaders in the AL, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, the Royals have improved the most as we hit the deadline. Even before making the trades that they did, one could argue that the Royals were already better than the Yankees and Astros. Now it’s not even a question.

5 Teams To Keep an Eye On This Trade Deadline

 (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

 

There is no more exciting trade deadline in all of sports than July 31st at 4 pm. Baseball is the only sport where a trade midseason can instantly impact a team the next day. In comparison to football where the player might need time to adjust, learn the system/playbook, and practice with the team, baseball players can be inserted the next day without practice and just play. A team can change the fate of their season by making one or two moves at this deadline both for good and for bad. The 2003 then Florida Marlins made a huge move to acquire closer Ugueth Urbina by trading top prospect Adrian Gonzalez.

Despite departing with a future all star, Urbina was huge for the Marlins winning the 2003 World Series. The 2014 A’s showed us last season that you can also affect chances by making the wrong moves, the Lester/Cespedes deal with Boston was awful for both teams considering neither retained their players and Oakland lost their strangle hold of the AL West by trading their best offensive piece to try and bolster pitching which was their biggest strength. With the new 10 team playoff, it is harder to tell if a team will buy or sell which makes most deals now a days happen closer to the July 31st deadline. Here are the 5 teams I expect to be the most active.

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have the most likely piece this year to be moved in SP Johnny Cueto, who in turn will likely get many solid offers with the market for SP this year being so high. This is also a Reds team who is looking to rebuild seeing that they are highly unlikely to make any noise in the playoff picture and a core who has been together for a solid 6 years. I expect a high value placed on SP Mike Leake, veteran OF Marlon Byrd, and relievers JJ Hoover, Burke Badenhop and Logan Ondrusek will also be interesting to watch.

My darkhorse player would be OF Jay Bruce, a power hitting left-hander with a cannon in the outfield will be sought after by many teams in baseball and he seems like a more reasonable piece to move than the lucritive contracts of Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips. I expect a ton of change in Cincinnati with an influx of young talent coming their way.

 

New York Yankees

The Pinstripes have been quiet the last couple of years not having the elite teams that we grew up watching in the 90’s. The AL East is completely up for grabs and it is quite unlikely that more than one team from that divison will make the postseason. The Yankees will likely be very aggresive in trade talks this deadline. Troy Tulowitzki is the dream scenario I have doubts about the Yankees having enough to acquire him, Ben Zobrist is the realistic name I can see the Yankees target.

A super utility man who will likely take the starting 2nd base job from Stephen Drew can play all over the diamond, and with the type of tactical changes Joe Girardi likes to endulge in he is a glove fit. Mike Leake also would be a nice fit to the teams rotation, however I see him as more of an NL type pitcher.

 

San Diego Padres

A team who made a ton of moves in the offseason is falling flat on their face with the Dodgers and Giants running away with the NL West. Justin Upton I can see being moved to a top contender to be moved and still a very high value player I expect to be persued by the Mets, Red Sox, Royals, and Astros. Andrew Cashner is one of those players teams will also show interest in, however I think at a much lower value than some of these big name pitchers on the market.

The Padres are usually incredibly active at the deadline and I expect no less this year.

 

New York Mets

The Mets need a bat……..BAD luckily for them a surplus of young pitching is waiting at their disposal. Jon Niese will likely be the man to be moved in order to try and bring some much needed offense. Harvey, Syndergaard, Matz, deGrom, and Colon are dynamite arms in a divison where the Mets still have a good chance. I expect the Mets to push hard for OF Carlos Gomez and they definetly have the pitching talent to make this move.

Do not sleep on this team, if they are able to acquire offensive talent while somehow keeping the young core of pitchers, they could be dangerous, however relying on such young pitchers is risky as well. Proceed with Caution.

 

Houston Astros

The wonderful story that has been the Astros has been exciting to watch. History tells us however that the AL West always comes down to the last day of the season and it seems like one team in that divison gets scalding hot at the right time. It looks like for the second year in a row the Angels will be that team which puts pressure on the Astros to make a move.

There is a ton of young talent with the team and in the system so they fit in the Cueto sweepstakes, I expect the Stros to add a high quality arm while getting rid of some youthful talent in the minor leagues.

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