Chicago Cubs: Is It Already "There's Always Next Year" Time?
Should the Chicago Cubs start looking to next year? Unfortunately, yes.
The Cubbies are sitting at a terrible 36-53, and they are currently 11.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals. Mike Quade has tried a variety of lineups. Nothing is working. The unfortunate truth is evident: the Cubs are simply not a good baseball team.
The Northsiders have more than 70 games left in 2011, but those might as well not happen. The Cubs need to start looking toward next year, and I have compiled five reasons as to why this season is over.
The Team's on-Base Percentage Is Terrible
The Chicago Cubs' offensive numbers may surprise some people. In fact, they have the eight highest team batting average in the MLB. Unfortunately, their on-base percentage ranks in the bottom third.
Hitting is a great thing. However, when players aren't getting on base consistently, runs are tough to come by, which is why the Cubs rank 20th in team RBI. They don't have enough runners on base to knock in, which becomes frustrating to a ballclub. Most of the lineup consists of free-swingers, which relieves a lot of pressure from opposing pitchers.
The Cubbies are a decent hitting team. Unfortunately, they are unable to turn those hits into runs consistently, which is why they have lost nearly 20 more games than they have won.
They Are Double Digit Games Back of a Team Without Its Star Player
Albert Pujols is slowly making the transition from "one of the greatest of this generation" to "one of the greatest of all-time." Unfortunately for the Cubs, he plays for their biggest rival.
Pujols has slowly racked up a monster resume against the Cubs (.301 BA, 51 HR and 132 RBI in 165 games). To be fair, "The Machine" dominates just about everyone. This year, however, he has missed significant time. Pujols went down nearly three weeks ago, and the Cubs (obviously) did not make a run at the Cardinals.
When the (arguably) best team in the division loses its star player, teams with a chance need to pick up ground. The Cubs did no such thing. That lack of a timely run is exactly why this has become just another lost season for the Northsiders.
The Record Has Progressively Gotten Worse
The Cubs started the season out fine. They did not get off to a blazing start. Yet, they looked like they would be respectable.
That has not been the case.
The last time the Cubs were above .500 was the afternoon of April 20th, but they promptly dropped back to even that night (double header against the San Diego Padres). Essentially, the Cubs couldn't even be above .500 for a full day.
Their record has worsened each month (12-14, then 11-16, then 11-18, now 2-5), which is not a good sign. Even if they turn this trend around in the slightest, they will still have a long way to go to reach 81 wins. I don't see that happening, which is why I am considering this season to be lost.
Not a Single Starter Has an ERA Under 4.00
This is one of the most embarrassing truths about the Cubs this year. Until tonight, Matt Garza was the only starter with a sub-4.00 ERA.
He got shelled by the Washington Nationals.
Garza's ERA ballooned to 4.26. That is still the best on the team (for pitchers with five or more starts)!!!
Are you serious?!?
Going into this year, everyone understood that the Cubs' pitching staff was sub-par. I don't think anyone realized it would be this bad. Luckily, it doesn't seem like it can get much worse. Then again, even if it gets a little better, the pitching staff would still be really bad.
Until the Cubs can start preventing runs, they will continue to start looking at next year by Independence Day.
Low Expectations Are Not Being Met
Realistically, no one expected much from the Chicago Cubs this year. I was ambitious (or foolish) enough to formulate some bold predictions, but that was clearly folly.
At best, the Cubs were going to hover around .500, and be in a position to make a run that they would inevitably never make. I'm sure most fans would have been fine with that.
That hasn't happened.
The Cubs have fallen far from the .500 mark, and they don't seem to be heading back any time soon. They had low expectations heading into the year, and they haven't even been able to reach those.
The Cubbies haven't been able to handle mediocre expectations for the first half of the year. Accordingly, there is no way they will make a serious playoff run after the All-Star Break.
But, hey! There is always next year!