The Chicago Cubs are showing all the symptoms of a World Series hangover. They sit at 17-17 after splitting a doubleheader with Colorado Wednesday, a far cry from last year’s 26-8 start.
“I sense sleep deprivation more than anything,” he said. “Sleep deprivation has a lot to do with it. Right from the beginning of the year our schedule has been awkward. No one has had a chance to settle in.”
The Cubs have good reason to be fatigued. After playing an 18-inning game on Sunday night, they had to travel to Denver. The Cubs always have a slightly different schedule than other teams due to a day-game-heavy home slate. And they have played three Sunday night games in the season’s first month-plus.
Maddon isn’t pressing the panic button nor putting all the blame on the schedule.
“I don’t think anyone is taking anything for granted, he said. “I love the word expectations, I do, but on the flip side of that it’s going to be a different path this year. It is. It just has to be. To this point we haven’t pitched nearly as well, as starters. The biggest thing for me is defense. We haven’t caught the ball with the regularity that we normally do. Those were our bedrocks of our performance.”
Despite a deep and proven lineup, the Cubs have yet to capture offensive consistency. They are 20th in the majors in runs scored and batting average. Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber are all hitting .227 or lower. To be fair, the Cubs have drawn the second-most walks in baseball and are finding ways to score without putting the bat on the ball. Conventional wisdom suggests the bats, especially those of Rizzo, Zobrist and Schwarber will heat up.
The pitching, however, looks like a more serious problem.
Cubs starters sport a 4.56 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .271 and the staff is 27th in WHIP. Jon Lester has been a steady ace and Kyle Hendricks is performing capably, but nowhere near the high bar he set last year. John Lackey (4.30 ERA) and Jake Arrieta (5.35) have been average, if not disappointing. Brett Anderson (8.18) has been lackluster. Again, it’s likely this unit rebounds.
Lester and Arrieta have long track records. Hendricks has great potential and Lackey is battle-tested. Anderson has no place to go but up.
Maddon is correct when he says the Cubs have a different path this year. Repeating is no easy task and expectations can hang around the neck like a bag of bricks. Still, it’s obvious this team has the talent and capability to find the same success come October, even if the regular season isn’t as impressive.
The good news for Cubs fans who may want to ring the alarm bells is that Maddon’s club is playing .500 ball while sleepwalking. Holding serve while playing through an apparent hangover bodes well for when their eyes fully open.