Cubs Lose Jake Arrieta’s Start

The Chicago Cubs finished their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 2nd. The Cubs won three out of the four games against the Dodgers, but failed to take advantage of a Jake Arietta start in their one loss. Arrieta went seven innings giving up no runs.

The Cubs lost the game in the last two innings. After seven innings, the game was scoreless, but two runs were scored off pitcher Clayton Richard in the eighth and three runs were scored off pitcher Adam Warren in the ninth.  The Cubs lost 5-0.

The last time the Cubs lost a game when Jake Arrieta started a game was in July of 2015. The game was officially a no-decision for Arrieta so it didn’t affect his win-loss record.

On June 5th, however, The Arizona Diamondbacks managed to put up three runs on Arrieta. The Cubs offense only managed to put up two runs in that game. The final score was 3-2, giving Arrieta his first loss in eleven months.

Best Rotation in the MLB?

As of June 4th, the five starters of the Cubs rotation all have an ERA under three. John Lackey has a 2.88 ERA, which is the best among starters. The average ERA of the five starters is 2.55, the best statistically in the MLB as of June 4th.

Hot Streak

The Cubs have won ten of their last twelve games as of June 5th. This comes after the Cubs had lost eight of twelve at one point in May. The Cubs are hitting especially well in their current stretch.

The home run ball has especially helped the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hit one out to right field on the on June 4th and Kris Bryant has hit 400-foot home runs on consecutive days this past week. Dexter Fowler recently hit his 3rd leadoff home run.

Fowler has been especially good against opposing fastballs. According to an infographic posted on Inside Edge’s twitter account, Fowler has a .405 batting average when a fastball is thrown to him. Five of his home runs have also come off fastballs.

Looking for Relievers?

According an article published by ESPN’s MLB Rumor Central, the Cubs are possibly looking for a lefty reliever on the trade market. The news come in the wake of Clayton Richard’s struggles. Richard has an 8.00 ERA in sixteen appearances as of June 3rd.

The article specifically mentions Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees as trade targets for the Cubs. The Cubs have recently done business with the Yankees, trading Starlin Castro this past winter. The Cubs got Adam Warren in return, who has a 2.75 ERA as of June 5th.

Will the Yankees will be willing to trade one of their relievers? It is not guaranteed. The Yankees are currently six games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but could improve their standing as the summer goes on. It is too early in the year for the Yankees to give up hope on the postseason.

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.

 

Schwarber Out For The Season

According to both Yahoo Sports and MLB.com, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber has torn his ACL and LCL in his left knee, ending his 2016 season.

The injury occurred during an outfield collision Thursday night between Schawrber and Dexter Fowler, as both were chasing down a deep fly ball hit to left/center by Arizona Diamondbacks short stop Jean Segura in the bottom of the second inning. Schwarber’s left leg became entangled with Fowler, while Segura sped around the bases and was credited with an inside-the-park home run.

Worried Cubs fans looked on as Schwarber laid stomach down out on the warning track, as skipper Joe Maddon, numerous teammates, and the medical staff rushed out to aid the young slugger. Per MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat, Schwarber was able to get to his feet with the help of athletic trainers PJ Mainville and Ed Halbur, and was taken out via stretcher shortly after.

It goes without saying but the loss of Schwarber is a significant blow for Chicago. The 23-year-old provided home run power at the plate and could also play behind it as well, with his primary position being catcher. The Cubs chose to start Schwarber in left this year to ensure his bat would be a part of an already potent lineup.

In just 69 games last season, Schwarber produced a respectable .246/.355/.487 slash line with 16 home runs and 43 RBI.

With Schwarber now indefinitely sidelined, Chicago will likely use a platoon in left consisting of Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur, and possibly rotate in third baseman Kris Bryant on occasion (Bryant had a short stint last season in the outfield, before locking down the hot corner).

The Cubs have also reportedly brought up Triple-A prospect Munenori Kawasaki to fill his slot on the 40 man roster.

 

 

 

 

 

The One Area the Chicago Cubs Need to Improve

(Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

Somehow, someway the Chicago Cubs have the third-best record in the National League. But if the team wants to hold on to the final playoff spot they will need to make improvements, especially with a four-game series against arch rival St. Louis starting Monday night.

Many experts say the team needs to add another solid arm to the pitching rotation. Experts also claim another bat is needed.

Both are more than likely true, but there is one glaring problem with the team — the lead-off spot.

Dexter Fowler was signed to a one year deal worth $9.5M in the off-season to be the catalyst of the offense. He was also signed for his defense from his center field position. The latter has been nearly flawless, while the former poses as the glaring problem.

Over the last 10 games, the Cubs lead-off man has just five base knocks in 35 at-bats. Simple math points to an atrocious .142 average. The decline in offensive production has dropped his season average to .228 for the season with an on-base percentage at .305. Neither of which are the type of numbers a team wants from its lead-off man, never mind a young team.

It’s no wonder the Cubs, as a team, have scored just 2.2 runs over their last 12 games with a collective average of .207 over that same stretch.

On the plus side, Fowler does have eight long balls on the season and has driven in 23 runs. His 51 runs scored are fifth best in the league. But most of those numbers were inflated earlier in the season.

It’s no secret a team’s offense can be boosted by an effective leadoff hitter. With power guys such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant following in the order, lots of good things could come with the leadoff hitter being on base.

I am sure the Cubs could live with Fowler’s average being less than stellar if he continued to take walks and had a respectable on base percentage. Neither has happened over the last month or so.

Sure others such as Rizzo and “cleanup” hitter Miguel Montero have recently struggled as well. But with a lead-off man who gets on base can ease the pressure from the RBI guys’ shoulders. Runners on base adds pressure to pitchers to make the perfect pitch to the guys in the lineup who can do damage. Trying to make the perfect pitch to guys like Rizzo and Bryant can lead to mistake pitches, which ultimately lead to more hard hit balls.

This current Cubs offense has more than just one weakness, at the moment, but a more effective Fowler could help solve some of those issues.

And if Fowler cannot right the ship soon, Cubs manager Joe Maddon needs to make a change at the top. Or perhaps the “bat” experts are calling for should be one who can also fill the void at the top of the order.

 

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Soler’s Big Game Signals Cubs’ Offensive Growth

(Photo Courtesy of CBS Chicago)

Two homeruns and four RBI against the Reds

Chicago Cubs’ right fielder Jorge Soler was able to jump start his 2015 production in a huge game for him on Monday night against Mike Leake and the Cincinnati Reds.  With Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo being the most noteworthy offensive players on the Cubs to start the 2015 season, Jorge Soler’s performance establishes that the Cubs have more than just two offensive threats on their team early on.  While the team waits for the upcoming debut of rookie phenom Kris Bryant, Cubs fans have wondered where the offensive production would come from on nights where Castro and Rizzo did not register extra base hits.  Jorge Soler’s performance against the Reds where he had three hits in five at bats, including two homeruns was a big answer to the questions about the Cubs’ offense .  Role player Chris Coghlan has also done a nice job for the team early on this season, but the expectations of star level production for this team is placed largely on a group of young position players for the Cubs this season.  A further look at what the Cubs’ offense has been able to produce so far on the young season, along with expectations for Kris Bryant, will help to determine if this Cubs’ offense has enough to announce their arrive to Major League Baseball this season.

Three position players on the roster working to meet high expectations

The Cubs have enough quality role players to field a good offensive team this season, but none of their three best hitters on the team currently occupy the leadoff spot in the lineup.  Monday’s lineup featured Anthony Rizzo batting second, with Jorge Soler batting third and Starlin Castro batting fifth behind Chris Coghlan in the lineup.  While Dexter Fowler is one of the Cubs’ better hitters, the three players with the highest expectations were all batting behind him in the lineup.  Having Fowler as a legitimate leadoff man with a .365 career on base percentage, allows the Cubs to put the middle of a competitive batting lineup in place behind their best role player in the leadoff spot in their lineup .  Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Starlin Castro are all expected to hit for power this season as members of the middle of the Cubs’ order.  Having these type of hitters in the middle of their lineup should produce the extra base hit totals needed to drive in a significant number of runs.  So far this season through six games played the Cubs have produced 25 runs to put them just over four runs per game.  With Kris Bryant soon to join the middle of the Cubs’ order as their cleanup hitter, this offense could be in position to continue what they have started in the early going of the 2015 season.

A rookie batting cleanup for the Cubs

Having a rookie hitter batting cleanup may not be the ideal situation for the Cubs in 2015 as they look to contend for a playoff berth throughout the season.  Kris Bryant is not the typical rookie hitter however, and at age 23 he has displayed the maturity necessary to take over this significant role for the Cubs.  Of course the Cubs could change their lineup to feature Jorge Soler or Anthony Rizzo in the cleanup spot early on after Bryant’s promotion to the MLB level, but Jorge Soler is the same age as Kris Bryant with only a couple more months of MLB experience.  Either way, Bryant’s presence in the Cubs’ lineup helps to complete the middle of their order with the bats necessary to produce a sufficient run total this season.  Since Bryant has the most power on the Cubs’ 40 man roster, with the possible exception of Anthony Rizzo, it makes sense for him to earn the role of being the team’s cleanup hitter after his promotion.  With Bryant likely to spend most of the 2015 season at the MLB level, it is not unreasonable to expect him to produce 30 or more homeruns as the Cubs’ cleanup hitter throughout the rest of this season.

Have the Cubs arrived offensively?

The Cubs have arrived offensively this season, even though they are not guaranteed to be great against some of the fantastic pitching staffs in the National League Central this season.  With Bryant being one of the better right handed power hitters in the game of baseball right now, the Cubs now have the bats necessary to drive in a significant amount of runs this season.  Being able to push quality role players such as Miguel Montero and Chris Coghlan, into the sixth and seventh spots in the lineup, allows the Cubs to have the lineup depth in place that is necessary for meeting their ultimate offensive goals.  The power hitters on the Cubs are going to experience some struggles this season because of their tendency to strike out at a significant rate.  Some games may be rough as the power hitters for Chicago experience growing pains, but it appears that they ultimately have the talent it takes to get the job done offensively throughout the run producing spots in the lineup.