Chicago Cubs Struggles
The Chicago Cubs came into the 2019 MLB season with high hopes, as you would expect from a team that has made the playoffs four seasons in a row. However, the team has struggled to live up to these huge expectations since their 2016 World Series win. Chicago is currently holding the last wild-card spot in the National League, and they have the worst odds among projected NL playoff teams to win the World Series. Here’s what’s went wrong for Chicago’s beloved Cubbies in 2019.
Unfortunately, the Cubs haven’t had the best of luck staying healthy this year. There’s been a long list of injuries that have caused key players to miss crucial time down the stretch. Most recently, Chicago has lost notable stars Javier Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, and Craig Kimbrel for various amounts of time due to injuries. All of this has come during an intense playoff race in the National League. But this isn’t the only reason the team hasn’t performed up to their potential this year. The New York Yankees have overcome a record-breaking amount of injuries and still hold the second-best record in the league with 94 wins. There’s more to the Cubs shortcomings than just misfortune in health.
The “North Siders” have been quite inconsistent for the majority of the season. If it weren’t for Nicholas Castellanos, the team might be on the outside of the playoff race looking in. He has batted a team-leading .338 with 11 home runs since joining the club on July 31st. Ironically, Chicago acquired him in the last possible seconds before the trade deadline and are very fortunate that they pulled the trigger on the deal. To put their struggles in perspective, in the last month, pitcher Jon Lester has a better batting average than Jason Heyward, Ian Happ, and Addison Russell. These hitting woes could pose a huge dilemma down the stretch, as the Cubs try to claw their way back in the NL Central. They currently are down 4.5 games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
While the pitching rotation is full of household names, the starting five is aging. Cole Hamels and Lester are both 35 years old and trying to evolve with the game to prolong their careers. As a result, they have had they’re ups and downs this year. In addition to an aging pitching staff, production out of the center field and second base positions has been problematic. The Cubs haven’t found an everyday second baseman, and have a struggling Heyward dictating production from center field. Nevertheless, the Cubs are hopeful that Heyward can get back to his early-season form. They will also likely look to veteran Ben Zobrist to take charge at second, as he gets back into the everyday lineup after a personal hiatus for most of the season.
The Road Ahead
With 20 games left, the Cubs will have to string some wins together to control their own playoff destiny. They start a four-game series on the road against the San Diego Padres, before heading back to Wrigley for a 10 game homestand. They then play the Cardinals, who currently lead the Central, seven more times to round out the season. If Chicago can somehow catch fire in the final weeks, they have a shot at reclaiming the division — something they fell one game short of in 2018. It should be an intense playoff race throughout the remainder of September and an exciting time for baseball fans.
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