After 108 years of misery, one would think the Cubs would be able to handle a little adversity to start the season.
However, last year's World Series run heightened expectations from fans to the point where a 6-7 start — while riding a four-game losing streak — has become unacceptable.
It's been a rough first month for the defending champs, who are currently tied for third in the National League Central. Chicago doesn't have a regular starter batting over .290 currently, and the Cubs have outscored their opponents by just one run through 13 games.
Last year's NL MVP,Kris Bryant,is batting .212 with two home runs and seven RBIs. His power numbers are actually on a solid pace, but he already has 14 strikeouts in 52 at-bats. His swing-and-miss numbers will have to decrease if he's going to challenge for another MVP title.
Pitching hasn't been much better for the Cubs. Jon Lester (two quality starts, 1.00 ERA) and Jake Arrieta (2-0, 2.89 ERA) have been great, but John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks have yet to showtheir best stuff.
“People are going to come in here gunning for us, for sure,” Lackey said after the Cubs’6-3 lossto theBrewerson Monday, via ESPN.com. “We’re the world champs and people are going to come in here and play well. We’ll have to match that intensity and play better.”
Despite the sluggish start, it's way too early to hit the doomsday button on a team that showed its resiliency in a valiant comeback to beat the Indians in the World Series.
Most people close to baseball understand it's a game of peaks and valleys. The Cubs hope they are currently in their deepest valley of the season.
“It happened to us last year right before the All-Star break,” Kyle Schwarber said. “We hit the skids. Hopefully, maybe we’re hitting it early. We’re super early in the season still. Like I said, no panic.”
Schwarber is right, it is way too early to panic. But, the Cubs' bullpen is concerning. After allowing two more runs last night, Chicago's bullpen is 1-4 with a 4.10 ERA. Joe Maddon mentioned it as the unit he needs to get going the most.
“That last inning could have played so differently had we just kept it 4-3,” Maddon said. “More than anything, we have to get the bullpen guys, get their confidence back. That’s going to make the difference in the latter part of the game. Even if it’s a deficit, to keep it a small deficit.”
It's been a while since we've heard "Go, Cubs Go," blaring through the Wrigley Field PA system, but that doesn't mean this talented team won't make another World Series run this season. This slow start is just a bump in the road.