The Chicago Cubs have officially wrapped up the NL Central Division and will be heading to the playoffs. They should finish with the best record in all of baseball, as they are the only team to clinch a post-season spot at this point in the season. With just under a week and a half left, the Cubs will more than likely end the season with 100-plus wins. With that said, they have been having some issues as of late. The Chicago Cubs stars are struggling.
The Chicago Cubs Stars Are Struggling
The Cold Streak
The Cubs have noticeably not been themselves as of late. In their last 15 games, they have just eight wins and seven losses. This includes losses to the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals, who are still making pushes toward the playoffs. The other five losses, however, came against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers are 15 games under .500 and will miss the playoffs for the fifth-consecutive year. While this isn’t necessarily something to panic over, it does bring up a bigger picture. The Cubs, as players, are slumping as well.
The Cubs seven losses in their previous 15 games reflect how poorly they have been hitting the ball lately. If each player in the team’s normal, everyday starting lineup is looked at individually, the decline in numbers becomes obvious.
One Through Three Hitters
Dexter Fowler is their projected playoff lead-off hitter. At the beginning of the year, Fowler was crushing the ball. He could have been talked about as an MVP candidate, if the season hadn’t just been getting underway. He was hitting well over .300, while leading the league in OBP for some time. Dex has since come back down to earth, hitting .272, and reaching base at a .386 clip. While these are no MVP numbers, they are still very reliable as a leadoff hitter on a playoff team.
Lately, the center fielder has played slightly worse. In his last 15 games, Fowler is hitting .228/.362/.386. He’s struck out 20 times in 57 at-bats during this stretch. Dexter has always been the “you go, we go” guy, meaning that when he performs well the team will follow. He is a vital part of this lineup. When he gets on, the Cubs immediately jump into their sluggers that can drive him in.
Kris Bryant has been an MVP-caliber player all year, and should still be the front-runner at this point. Even the best players in the league have their ups and downs throughout the season. This is one of the down times for Bryant. In his last 15 games, Bryant has a .227/.271/.379 slash line. This slump has dropped Bryant’s season batting average to below .300 again, down to .296. He is just one home run away from Nolan Arenado for the NL lead, but has only hit one during this time. Bryant, who has done better at taking walks this year, only has two base-on-balls in this 15 game period.
As an MVP-caliber player, Bryant needs to be better. He is a big part of the Cubs offense and they wouldn’t be the front runners for winning the World Series without him. He should be able to turn his poor play around in the next week-and-a-half and start playing better while the Cubs make their post-season run.
Anthony Rizzo Playing Well
Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs three hitter. He has been among the top players in the NL in WAR, meaning he has been one of the best in the league. He, along with Bryant, plays a major role on this team. As the three hitter, it’s Rizzo’s responsibility to drive runs in. He is one of the few players that is performing at a high level. Rizzo is hitting .298 over his last 15 games and has raised his season average to .293. He’s also hit 31 home runs, just six behind the NL lead.
The Rest of the Lineup
There has also been some struggles among the other starters. Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward are among the players that will see playoff at-bats that are struggling as well. In the Cubs last 15 games, Zobrist is hitting .122 and Heyward is hitting .212. The Cubs are very deep at most positions and can feel confident in starting a player on the bench for a game. Of course, the Cubs would much rather see their studs improve.
The playoffs are right around the corner and the Cubs will need to step their play up if they want to be successful. Based on their record, they are the best team in baseball. These struggles shouldn’t alarm Cubs; the team will pick up its performance when the games start to matter again. They have the best record for a reason. This team is talented and should perform well when it counts.