Can the Chicago Cubs Overcome Themselves to Repeat as Champions

The Chicago Cubs had one of the best seasons in recent memory last year with an astounding 103 wins and the team’s first World Series title in 111 years. With much of the same lineup returning for the 2017 season, many had the Cubs pegged as a favorite to win it all once again. That hasn’t been the case so far, though. Chicago has struggled out of the gate and currently sits fourth place in the Central Division of the National League. There are plenty of reasons why the Cubs are in this position, but they’ll need to find solutions fast if they hope to make the postseason.

The entire batting lineup is hitting significantly worse this year with Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, and Ben Zobrist all hitting below .250. While the entire top of the lineup seems to be going through a cold spell, few think that this kind of performance could last all season. But if Chicago wants any hope of reaching the World Series again, it’ll need to find some hits—quickly. Worse than the batting slumps is that the team’s on-base percentage has also worsened, and they aren’t getting players in a position to score even if they were getting hits.

There are also problems with the pitching. Despite Jake Arrieta being a favorite to win last year’s Cy Young Player Award, he’s now playing like a shell of his former self. He’s struggling on the mound, and is giving up way too many runs for the Cubs to hope to make the playoffs. His velocity is down of around 93 mph compared to last year’s 95, and his ERA is up to 5.44, the highest it’s been since he joined Chicago back in 2013. He’s played a lot of innings, and it could be that he just needs some rest and some time to think about his game. The big question is whether the Cubs can afford to wait that long.

And it isn’t just the pitching that’s hurting the club, because the defense as a whole has regressed. Some of this can be laid at the feet of Kyle Schwarber. The former catcher was slapped into left field in order to secure his place in the batting lineup and while expectations weren’t high, he has failed to impress. Given that he’s also batting well below the Mendoza line, it’s getting harder to justify Schwarber’s presence on the field for Chicago. The general consensus is that Schwarber should stop leading off the lineup, especially after he went 0 for his last 14 at-bats. So far the team is continuing to put its faith in Schwarber at the top of the order, but you have to wonder how long the fans will support it.

It’s hard to believe that a team that began the season with so much going for it could be so disappointing, but here we are. There’s still time for the them to turn it around, but with Murphy’s law on display in the Cubs’ clubhouse, they’ll need a lot of things to start going right if it’s going to happen. Last year, Joe Maddon showed that he’s one of the best managers in baseball. He’ll have to work his magic once again by making some serious changes if Chicago wants a prayer of another World Series.