Cubs in trouble? Maybe, but not yet

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The Cubs have lost six of seven, a little cause for concern, albeit still just 75 games into a 162 game season. What’s been the issue? Where’s the offense gone? 9-11 through the last 20 games, isn’t exactly stunning. Coming off an all-important sweep of the Pirates, a sweep at the hands of the Cardinals, and losing three of four to the Marlins (the Marlins?) puts the Cubs at 48-26, still an impressive 22 games above .500, but what’s missing?

ESPN put it best, even with losing 11 of 20 the Cubs still have the best record in baseball and are nine games ahead of the Cardinals in the Central. What’s to worry? The issue only sits with the bullpen for me, not having that reliability is killing games down the stretch. When the offense isn’t exactly stellar (can Dexter Fowler come back already?), it’s on guys like Travis Wood, Clayton Richard (sad I know) and Pedro Strop to finish off games, not blow them.

The offense itself didn’t show up multiple times over the week, scoring two or fewer runs on four occasions, including all three games against St. Louis having only one game with 2+ runs.

It helps a slump to have fun, and with a series against the Reds twice in the next two weeks, the Cubs should bust out quickly. Don’t look for the team to struggle for long, and it’s best for the team to struggle and still maintain a huge lead in the standings.

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Arrieta’s on the mound tonight, coming back from his second loss of the season, and we all remember his last game against the Reds.

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Connor Ulrey @ConnorUlrey

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Northside Mailbag

Northside Mailbag

  1. Coghlan is back! How do you feel about this?

I love Chris Coghlan. I remember sitting one afternoon and seeing how solid he was that day for Oakland and thinking “I miss that man”. He’s baaaaaaack. Am I sad to see Alcantra go? A little bit, not seeing his full potential whatsoever, but to have a solid production type guy like Coghlan back in the lineup is crucial.

 

  1. What are your thoughts on the Cubs’ draft picks?

Pitching! That was the focus this draft for the Cubbies, and I think it’s a great move. After filling needs position wise over the past few years, it’s back to fielding arms for the mound. Thomas Hatch from Oklahoma State (who’re BLOWING up in the NCAA postseason currently) was a great move, and a guy that the Cubs have been watching. After sitting out the first two rounds, it was finally time for the Cubs to get the arms that could reinforce future rotations. Not just Hatch, I’m excited to see Tyson Miller, Bailey Clark and solid Cal State Fullerton arm Chad Hockin.

 

  1. Do you think Javy Baez can be another “Ben Zobrist” as in a super utility guy?

Javy has been so solid in his time this season. That’s refreshing to see, honestly. Coming in hot last season, Baez showed power first and consistency second. It’s evident now that Baez has really worked more on his consistency to go with his power, especially on a team where the lineup could be almost as powerful without him. He’s been that Zobrist type, getting hits when he’s needed most and showing that he’s grown in the offseason.

 

  1. With the summer part of the season starting, what are the Cubs’ needs and who do you think can fill those needs?

Man, that’s tough. What needs do they have? Ring sizes? Only kidding. There’s a long way to go, but sitting where they do, the Cubs are more confident than ever. Jon Lester is dominating, in a year where it’s been all about Arrieta, and Jason Heyward is lighting it up, finally taking that offensive spark to go with his defensive prowess. Reliever wise, the Cubs are somewhat set, but another arm wouldn’t hurt. Adding someone who can get through a 6th and 7th inning if a starter is off would be great. Adding Coghlan added depth, which will be needed as we dive deeper into the season. I think hitting the summer portion, what’s needed most is steadiness. Being steady in your game, focusing on you and what’s in front, not what anyone is saying. This team looks ready, we’ll see where we are come the All-Star break.

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Connor Ulrey @ConnorUlrey

Cubs hit 40 wins; Arrieta Blemished? (Sort of), Heyward offensively awake

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It’s all fun isn’t it? The Cubs get another stellar performance from Jon Lester and sit at 40-16, ten games above the Pirates and seem to be picking up steam again. I said not to worry when a couple games fell here and there, knowing that the offense could turn up (metaphorically) at any moment.

Finishing an 8-2 home stand, the Cubs headed out on their “track suit road trip”, starting in the city of Brotherly Love. The best part to start the trip? Dexter Fowler making fun of Charles Barkley trying to take batting practice? Could Chuck be even worse at swinging a bat than a golf club? I digress.

The Cubs hit the 40 mark after a sloppy end to the first game against the Phillies, but feel even more confident than ever. In the closing game of the home stand against Arizona, Jake Arrieta finally suffered a loss, his first since July of 2015, and I guess you could say it’s a blemish? I think it’s great timing for the Cubs.

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 The rotation overall has been extremely solid, and there’s been more nights than not that the offense doesn’t exactly have to be star-quality to get a win. The 3-2 loss on Sunday is important in that it shows when even your star pitcher is off, even slightly, it’s important to back up those guys.

With a +143 run differential through 56 games, the Cubs can put runs on you in a hurry (cue the 16-0 no-hit game in April). Games like Sunday’s mean the offense has to find ways, just scoring runs to put every pitcher, not just Arrieta, in the best spot to get the W.

Jason Heyward! That guy. Someone asked a few weeks ago if his lack of offense worried me, and I said no. Heyward is a defensive wizard, and an offensive spark plug. He’s never been the 40 homer type of guy, but he gets his.

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Heyward’s offense, like I thought, seems to be picking up at the right time. His third homer of the season started the party against Philadelphia, his 100th of his career, and it seems like that spark is finally more evident. Spaced where he is in the lineup, Heyward is going to be crucial down the stretch for the North Side.

The Cubs continue to make all people either smile or grimace based on your following, but it’s more fun than ever on the North Side. We’re only 56 games into a long season, but does this team look like a team that would peak? Never. I think they’re just getting started.

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Connor Ulrey  @ConnorUlrey