Tell me if you have heard this one before: the Cubs starting pitcher pitched exceptionally well, and the offense looked lost at the dish. Kyle Hendricks made two mistakes in the first, giving up two home runs. After that, he kept the Pirate offense off-balance all night. But, as has been the case for most of the season, the Cubs offense couldn’t rise to the occasion. They dropped their second straight game to a really bad team.
Hendricks was his usual boring (in a good way) self. He gave up hits, but other than the two homers in the first, he had his way with the Pirates lineup. He put up an excellent line: 7.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO.
The Cubs are going to the postseason in 2020, and the starting pitching is the primary reason they made it in.
The Bad and the Ugly
What on earth has happened to the Chicago Cubs offense? This is the question that has haunted the 2020 season, and, barring a miraculous resurrection from the dead, it will be the question that Theo Epstein will be asked at his end-of-the-season press conference (which appears will follow a quick first-round exit). Cubs Twitter has been full of fans claiming that this team has been broken since 2017, but that is just not the case. For proof, look at the following from just last season:
- Willson Contreras – 24 HR, 64 RBI, .272/.355/.533, 3.1 WAR, 127 wRC+
- Anthony Rizzo: 27 HR, 94 RBI, .293/.405/.520, 3.8 WAR, 141 wRC+
- Javier Baez: 29 HR, 85 RBI, .281/.316/.531, 6.0 WAR, 114 wRC+
- Kris Bryant: 31 HR, 77 RBI, .282/.382/.521, 3.7 WAR, 135 wRC+
- Kyle Schwarber: 38 HR, 92 RBI, .250/.339/.531, 2.1 WAR, 120 wRC+
The offense in 2019 might have been frustrating at times, but it was not broken. This 2020 offense is barely a shadow of what we saw last season. In all my years of fandom, I have never seen a team-wide regression like this. Heck, I may have never seen a regression like this in any sport.
What has happened? Many analysts far more intelligent than I am have beat their heads against the proverbial wall trying to figure this out, but there doesn’t seem to be an answer. They’re frankly just bad.
Tonight, the Cubs managed just five hits. Their lone run came in the second at-bat of the night courtesy of a homer by Tony Two-Chains (i.e., Anthony Rizzo). They were not facing peak Clayton Kershaw. Trevor Williams has had a dreadful season for the Pirates. This is a Pirates team that logged only their seventeenth win of the season. Their only real accomplishment this season is that they clinched the first overall pick in the draft already. Yet, the Cubs offense made them look like the late-90’s Atlanta Braves pitching staff.
Will the Cubs figure things out and put together some October magic? It seems highly unlikely, but baseball is a strange game. Anything can happen.
The Cubs have work left to do. Though they punched their postseason ticket on Tuesday, the division is very much up for grabs. They have one more against the Pirates before heading to the Southside for a critical three-game set to finish the season against their crosstown rivals. Alec Mills takes the bump against Chad Kuhl. First pitch is at 12:35 CT on the Marquee Network.
Featured Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty Images
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