Cavs Odds: Derrick Rose may Sign with Cleveland

derrick-rose-cavsThe Cleveland Cavaliers need more talent to contend with the Golden State Warriors. And point guard Derrick Rose needs somewhere to play as the offseason winds down. This makes both sides a good fit for each other.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Rose and Cleveland are “in serious talks” to agree on a 1-year contract.

Rose is one the top unrestricted free agents this summer. And if he signs a deal with Cleveland, he’d play backup point guard behind All-Star Kyrie Irving.

The Cavs have already signed Jose Calderon, who averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 assists for the LA Lakers and Atlanta Hawks last season. Calderon is presumed to be Cleveland’s backup, however, he’d play third-string if Rose signs.

But will Rose sign? If so, how does he change the Cavs 2018 championship odds?

We’ll answer these questions below and also discuss how Rose fits into this team.

How can Rose Help the Cavaliers?

rose-knicks-free-agent-2017Derrick Rose is a three-time All-Star who won the league MVP award in 2010. But multiple knee injuries have hampered Rose since the 2011 MVP campaign, when he averaged 25.0 points and 7.7 assists.

Nevertheless, he’s still a productive player who averaged 18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, and shot 47.1% for the New York Knicks last season.

Number aside, it’s hard to figure out how Rose fits into Cleveland’s plans. Starter LeBron James often plays with the bench unit and handles the ball. The backup point guard has usually been a good shooter who’s comfortable coming off screens.

Rose, on the other hand, is one of the league’s worst point guards at outside shooting. He hit just 21.7% of his three-point attempts last season and is a career 29.8% shooter from beyond the arc.

Obviously the Cavs’ past bench formula won’t work with Rose. But what he can do is run the offense by himself when James and Irving sit.

derrick-rose-clevelandOne of Cleveland’s biggest problems has been supplying offense whenever either Irving or James rest. And Rose could take care of this problem.

If he can score 18 points and get to the rim for the dysfunctional Knicks, he should have no trouble doing well against reserve point guards.

As for the way Cleveland normally likes to use their bench, Calderon could still have a role.

Again, he wouldn’t play many minutes with both Rose and Irving on the team. But he could be the off-the-ball point guard Cleveland needs when LeBron runs the bench offense. Calderon is a career 40.9% three-point shooter, which would help.

What does Rose have Left?

Derrick Rose may be 28 years old, but he’s an old 28.

After being selected No. 1 overall by the Chicago Bulls in 2008, he played extremely well from then until his MVP season in 2011. The Bulls were also great, finishing first in the Eastern Conference standings in 2011 and 2012.

derrick-rose-2017-knicks-resignBut Rose tore his ACL for the first time in the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Since then, he’s had other knee injuries that have robbed him of his signature explosiveness.

Rose did prove he has something left with the Knicks, though, playing 64 games and recording his best scoring average since 2012.

It was his most effective offensive season of the past five years. He also shot his highest field goal percentage since then too.

And Cleveland isn’t asking Rose to be their superstar. They just need somebody to help the offense when James, Irving, and/or Kevin Love are sitting.

Rose’s Impact on Cavs 2017/18 Odds

derrick-rose-carmeloCurrently, we have Cleveland’s odds of winning the 2018 NBA championship at +350. For comparison, we had them in the +200s throughout much of last offseason after they won the 2016 title.

But the Cavs looked outclassed by the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. And it’s clear that they need help because the Warriors (-220 odds) are bringing back their entire core.

Rose doesn’t suddenly swing the odds in Cleveland’s favor. But what he does do is give them a better chance. Assuming Rose signs, the Cavs’ true odds swing to the low +300s or high +200s.

Will Rose Take a Low Contract?

One big roadblock is that Cleveland doesn’t have any cap space. The highest contract they can offer Rose is the remaining $2.5 million of their taxpayer mid-level exception.

He made $21.5 million playing for the Knicks last year. Perhaps he’ll take far less money for the opportunity to compete for a championship.

According to ESPN, they’re only offering him a $2.1 million veteran minimum. As reported by Chris Haynes, Rose “just wants to play ball” and will be looking closely at the Cavs’ and other team’s culture.

Cleveland did have a good team culture, one that includes three straight NBA Finals trips. But a dark cloud hangs over the Cavs with all the reports on James eyeing the LA Lakers in 2019.

Rose also Interested in LA Lakers and Chicago Bulls

Lakers Nation reports that Rose is intrigued with the prospect of signing with LA or Chicago. Of these two, he’s mostly interested in the Lakers:

“The Lakers and Cavs are the favorites to land Rose and each offers something completely different,” writes Lakers Nation’s Corey Hansford. “The Cavaliers would give Rose the opportunity to win a championship as they’ve made the NBA Finals three straight seasons and will again be the favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference this year.”

The big draw to either LA or Chicago is that they can both offer Rose more money. Chicago offers the added benefit of being Rose’s former team and hometown.

However, the drawback is that both teams are in rebuilding situations. And Rose would lose far more games with either team than with the Cavs.

Given that Rose is expected to make a decision this weekend, we should know very soon what he decides.

Cowboys 2017 Odds: Will Ezekiel Elliott be Suspended?

ezekiel-elliott-suspensionRunning back Ezekiel Elliott played a huge part in the Dallas Cowboys’ success last year. But he could very well be suspended for part of the 2017 season.

The organization is hoping that he avoids suspension stemming from a 2015 domestic violence incident with his former girlfriend.

After all, Elliott has played one full NFL season, participated in the Pro Bowl, and completed offseason conditioning. Plus, Columbus prosecutors aren’t even bringing charges against him.

Nevertheless, Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown that he’s more than capable of issuing a late suspension (see Deflate-Gate). And a recent report suggests that Elliott could face suspension.

Let’s discuss this report below along with how a potential Elliott suspension will impact the Cowboys’ 2017 odds.

Evidence Mounting for a Possible Elliott Suspension

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, “there’s a growing sense” that the Dallas running back will at least miss a few games.

ezekiel-elliott“This is the question that everybody has been waiting over a year to have answered, whether or not Ezekiel Elliott will wind up facing discipline,” said Schefter.

“I think there’s a growing sense that he could face some sort of short suspension here in the coming weeks. Once the NFL wraps up its investigation.”

He added, “It’s not over yet. But it is definitely far along into the process. Zeke Elliott still has to respond to the NFL’s recent findings. The NFL has given some report. And at some point in the coming weeks, Zeke Elliott will respond to the NFL’s report.”

Elliott is “Bracing” for Suspension

While nothing is given now, even Elliott must think that there’s some chance he’ll miss time this season.

“I think that Elliott is bracing for a short suspension here in the coming weeks,” said Schefter. “And we’ll see how that impacts the season. Keep in mind that the Dallas Cowboys open with the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos.”

Schefter continued, “There’s a chance he could miss maybe one, both of those games. But again, the NFL has not made any final determinations. It’s still going through its investigation … But again, I think there’s a growing sense that Zeke Elliott is going to face some sort of discipline. And it very well could include a short suspension.”

Elliott Unhappy about Pace of NFL’s Investigation

zeke-elliott-suspensionElliott spoke with the Forth Worth Star-Telegram about the possible suspension.

And he would like to see this matter wrapped up sooner than later.

“I do want closure,” he said. “I do. I would rather them not drag it on as long. I think if there was something to find, which there’s not, they would’ve found it by now. The police did a very thorough investigation.

“I will tell you this. It just seems like they’re dragging their feet right now. Who knows, man? I just want it to end.”

How would Elliott’s Suspension Compare to Josh Brown Last Year

Last year, New York Giants kicker Josh Brown served a 1-game suspension amid documented evidence that he abused his wife. And there was league and public outcry for the weak discipline.

Given that Elliott isn’t even being charged in his case, it’s hard to draw a parallel here. That said, will the NFL suspend him at all for an incident that occurred in college?

Or will they come down hard on Elliott to make up for the botched handling of Brown’s case?

Elliott’s Bar Altercation could Weigh In

ezekiel-elliott-salvation-army-potZeke Elliott hasn’t exactly laid low leading up to a possible suspension. According to Mike Fisher, from 105.3 The Fan, the Pro Bowler was involved in an incident at Dallas’ Clutch Bar.

Speaking on Facebook Life, Fisher said that somebody was punched, police were called, and an ambulance came to the bar. Fisher didn’t say if Elliott threw the punch(es).

Schefter said that police made a statement “regarding the Sunday night altercation that involved Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott.”

The statement fails to mention Elliott, and it doesn’t say if any arrests have been made. But a 30-year-old man was assaulted and taken to a local hospital for non-life threatening injuries. The Dallas Police Department is currently investigating the matter.

Dallas 2017 Odds & Impact of Elliott Suspension

Currently, our GTBets book has Dallas’ odds as follows:

Cowboys Winning Super Bowl: +1000
Cowboys Winning NFC Championship: +500
Cowboys Winning NFC East: +140

Obviously these don’t take into account Elliott’s potential suspension because it hasn’t happened yet. But if Elliott were to be suspended – as reporters believe could happen – it would impact the Cowboys’ chances.

As Schefter reported, Dallas faces the Giants and @Broncos to open the regular season. These are already tough games, let alone when you don’t have your star running back.

The road doesn’t get any easier because Dallas also faces: Green Bay (Oct. 8), @Washington (Oct 29), Kansas City (Nov 5), @Atlanta (Nov 12), @NY Giants (Dec 10), @Oakland (Dec 17), and Seattle (Dec 24).

In all, Dallas faces playoff teams 8 times over the regular season. And this includes an away date with the defending NFC champion Falcons.

Things will already be difficult enough for the Cowboys. So if a suspension comes, they’ll be hoping for a one gamer.

A 1-game suspension would’t devastate Dallas’ odds. But a 2-game suspension could create the realistic chance that the Cowboys lose their first two games. And once this happens, it’s very difficult to make the playoffs.

Washington Fumbles Kirk Cousins’ Contract Talks – How does It Impact 2017 Odds?

kirk-cousins-redskinsKirk Cousins’ audition for a bigger contract was supposed to be the 2016/17 season. After all, the Washington Redskins put the franchise tag on him for $20 million in a wait-and-see situation.

This summer, Cousins said that he wants to wait on a contract and see what his offers are in 2019. Afterward, the Redskins released a derogatory statement that may have destroyed their chances at re-signing the Pro Bowl quarterback.

Let’s take a look at the statement and discuss how this dissension could affect the Redskins 2017/18 odds.

Washington Puts Blame on Cousins

Before we get into the statement, it must be reiterated that the Redskins – not Cousins – chose to wait the first time. They also complained about how Cousins wouldn’t sign a team-friendly long-term contract.

kirk-cousins-steelersSo how can they be angry when Cousins turns around and does the exact same thing to them? When they decided that the 2015 season – where Cousins threw for 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions – wasn’t enough to evaluate him?

The 28-year-old not only passed the test last year – he exceeded it with 4,917 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions.

His reward – the following statement from team president Bruce Allen:

“Despite our repeated attempts, we have not received any offer from Kirk’s agent this year. Kirk has made it clear that he prefers to play on a year-to-year basis. While we would have liked to work out a long-term contract before this season, we accept his decision.”

The key part is that the Redskins “accept his decision.” As if this isn’t rude enough, Allen apparently believes that the quarterback’s name is “Kurt” Cousins.

The Redskins Screwed Up Big Time

This statement is about as passive-aggressive as you can get. Allen is trying to tell fans that Cousins is the one who’s holding up the deal.

But the reality is that Washington screwed up not once, but twice.

redskins-bruce-allenWe can give them a pass on not giving Cousins a huge deal after one good season. But then he proved that he’s worth the money last year. This was supposed to result in a big long-term contract.

However, Washington lowballed him again in a rising quarterback market. They wanted him to take a team-friendly 6-year deal, with only two seasons guaranteed.

That’s mistake #1.

Then Washington not only undervalues Cousins with a weak deal, but tries making him out to be the bad guy.

Mistake #2.

Maybe Cousins will overlook these slights and come to an agreement with the Redskins in the 2019 offseason. Then again, maybe he’s pissed off and will take the first great deal he sees from another team.

And for comparison, let’s look at the Pittsburgh Steelers when they couldn’t get a deal done with Le’Veon Bell:

“Unfortunately, we were unable to agree to terms on a long-term contract with Le’Veon Bell prior to today’s deadline. Le’Veon is scheduled to play this year under the Exclusive Franchise Tag designation. We will resume our efforts to address his contract situation following the 2017 season.”

GM Kevin Colbert’s statement doesn’t blame Bell. It doesn’t try to rip him for not taking a team-friendly offer. Colbert just says that they’ll try again during the season.

Here’s how Much Cousins is Getting Paid

kirk-cousins-nflUnder the current franchise tag deal, Cousins will get $23.9 million this season, plus $28.7 million for the 2018 transition tag. That adds up to $52.6 million over the next two years.

Washington wanted to give him two seasons guaranteed at $53 million, plus four more years where they could decide to keep or cut him.

It’s easy to see why Cousins won’t take the same amount of money to let the bumbling Redskins control his fate over the next 6 seasons. Instead, why not take the next two seasons’ worth of money and see what you can get on the free agent market in 2019?

Cousins Figures to Get Big Money on the Free Agent Market

It’s likely that Cousins at least stays within the same range he’s been playing over the last two seasons. And if that’s the case, he’s due for a pay raise.

Assuming Cousins averages 4,500 yards and a 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio, some team will offer him top-5 quarterback money. We’re talking $25-$30 million, with $75-$90 million guaranteed.

2017/18 Redskins Odds & Season Outlook

kirk-cousins-2016Currently, we have the Washington Redskins odds of winning the Super Bowl at +5000. For comparison, our GTBets sportsbook puts the Tennessee Titans (+4000) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+3000) at better odds.

Normally I’d say that Washington is undervalued in this scenario.

But then again, the Redskins did just blow negotiations with their team leader. And this is never a good thing to do when you’re just over a month away from the regular season.

The team also lost their top two wide receivers in free agency. GM Scot McCloughan was fired after somebody anonymously decimated his character to the press. And they’ve failed to add the type of talent that can compete in a rising NFC East.

Based on the way things are going, we don’t see Washington staying with the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants at the top of the division. In fact, they’ll be lucky to beat Philadelphia out for third place in the division.

Baseball Odds: 4 Predictions for Second Half of 2017

aaron-judge-yankeesThe MLB season is halfway over, meaning many teams are gearing up for a second-half playoff push.

Some clubs like the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros are shoo-ins for division titles. Others like the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers must work to keep their leads. Can these teams hold on and win their divisions?

Then there’s the matter of MVP. Moreover, will rookie Aaron Judge take the AL MVP? Let’s answer these questions and more as we discuss second-half MLB predictions.

1. Tampa Bay will Top Boston in AL East

tampa-bay-rays-2017-champsThe Boston Red Sox are in good shape in the AL East right now. They’re 10 games above .500 (51-41) and hold a 2.5-game lead in their division. Nevertheless, we don’t see Boston taking home the crown.

Instead, we believe that the Tampa Bay Rays will chase down the Sox and win the East. Why can the 49-44 Rays win?

Going into the All-Star break, Kevin Cash’s team had won 14 of its last 17 series. They also seem to be playing better and better as the year goes along.

One reason for the Rays strong play is their offense. Even with Evan Longoria not having his greatest season ever (.267/13 HR), this team has the AL’s third-best slugging percentage. Corey Dickerson (.312/17 HR) and Logan Morrison (.257/26 HR) have had better seasons than anybody imagined.

The thing holding Tampa Bay back is their rotation, which has been average so far. But this could change since Brad Boxberger is healthy again, and Futures Game MVP Brent Honeywell is available for call-up any time. Bullpen help before the trade deadline could really push the Rays forward.

Of course, the Sox have the most talent and best chance to win. But will they venture further into luxury tax territory to upgrade at the deadline?

Then there’s the Yankees (47-42), who also have a chance to win. However, they’ve been hesitant to look for solutions in their farm system, and have only made low-cost moves.

Odds are that the AL East race stays tight until the end. In this scenario, we believe that Tampa Bay can win the division, or at least maintain their current Wild Card spot.

GTBets AL Pennant Odds:
Boston Red Sox +290
New York Yankees +850
Tampa Bay Rays +2500

2. Brewers will Hold onto NL Central Lead

As we’ve covered, the World Series champion Chicago Cubs (46-45) aren’t doing so hot right now. And everybody keeps waiting for them to turn the corner and overtake the Milwaukee Brewers (52-46).

After all, nobody could’ve envisioned Chicago – winner of 103 games last season – not making the postseason this year.

But here we are and in mid-July, and Milwaukee still has a comfortable 4.5-game lead in the Central. Leading the Cubs this late in the year has given the Brewers confidence. And this confidence can likely lead to a division title thanks a solid all-around team.

A 45-plus run differential tells us everything we need to know about how well this team is playing. Furthermore, it’s not like Milwaukee has just gotten lucky either. They’ve had seven extra-inning losses, making us think that they actually deserve better luck.

What’s impressive is that this has happened with Ryan Braun mostly out. If they get Braun healthy for a long stretch, then their already power-packed lineup will excel even more.

GTBets NL Pennant Odds:
Chicago Cubs +360
Milwaukee Brewers +1200

3. The Cleveland Indians will Dominate the AL Central

corey-kluber-indiansThis is the biggest prediction we’re making because the Cleveland Indians (47-43) are only 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins (46-45). The Kansas City Royals (45-45) are also in the thick of things.

But there’s reason to believe that the Tribe can accelerate in the second half and earn a short at World Series redemption.

Cleveland got off to a poor start, amid lineup struggles and a terrible home record. This combination has enabled the Twins and Royals to hang around – with the latter giving their 2015 championship roster one last chance.

We expect separation, though, because Indians’ staff aces Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber will eventually get things straightened out.

Danny Salazar is making adjustments in the minor leagues and will be back. Then there’s Trevor Bauer, who’s in the process of simplifying his pitches. Assuming the staff comes together, then we’ll see a much-different Indians squad moving forward.

We also think that the stats bear some mind here. Cleveland is the only AL Central team with a positive run differential. This is impressive considering that the Indians have yet to iron out their rotation. Long story short, expect Cleveland to win the Central by 8-10 games.

GTBets AL Pennant Odds:
Cleveland Indians +333
Kansas City Royals +1800
Minnesota Twins +2500

4. Aaron Judge won’t Win the AL MVP

Nobody has created more excitement this season than New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge.

The 6’7″, 282-pound outfielder has hit .313, slammed 30 home runs, and tallied 66 RBIs. It’s as impressive a rookie season as we’ve seen in over a decade. The only catch…it won’t result in an MVP award.

One problem is that only two rookies have won the award (Fred Lynn in 1975; Ichiro Suzuki in 2001). This alone shows that the odds are against Judge.

But what if he breaks the rookie home run record (Mark McGwire, 49 in 1987) as it looks like he’s going to do? And what if he adds the rookie walks record (Ted Williams, 107 in 1939)?

If so, then this could be the greatest rookie season ever. But the question is if he can maintain his pace as the season heads towards the 100-game mark. Judge has never played more than 131 baseball games in a season. This means he’ll likely be dealing with fatigue as we move forward.

Then there’s the Yankees themselves. With a 47-42 record, they currently hold a Wild Card slot. But they’re in a tight division race with the Boston Red Sox (51-41) and Tampa Bay Rays (49-44) and could easily relinquish their playoff position. If the Yankees don’t make it, then we don’t see Judge earning MVP honors.

What’s more is that the AL has a number of other MVP candidates, including the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, Anaheim’s Mike Trout, Baltimore’s Chris Sale, and one of several Houston Astros. Our bet is that Judge fades and one of the Astros separates from their teammates to win.

But we certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Judge continue his outstanding season and become the first rookie to win the award since Ichiro.

USA Soccer Wins Gold Cup Group B – What’s Next?

bruce-arena-us-soccerTeam USA didn’t have a great start to their Gold Cup group play. They began with an uninspiring draw against Panama and a surprisingly close 3-2 victory over Martinique.

Had the US struggled against Nicaragua, it would’ve been cause for upheaval. Lucky for America, they notched a 3-0 win over their lowly opponents and will move on after winning Group B.

What’s next for USA soccer in the knockout rounds?

Let’s cover their chances along with how coach Bruce Arena made wholesale changes after the disappointing Gold Cup start.

US Avoids Costa Rica in Quarterfinals

After Panama beat Martinique 3-0 in their final Group B match, the US knew they had to get a big victory to win their group on points. Going further, winning the group helps them avoid playing Costa Rica in the quarterfinals.

America needed to beat Nicaragua by at least 3 goals, and they did exactly that. Even in what’s been a down Gold Cup, USA did what needed to be done.

Rather than having to face a veteran Costa Rica squad, they’ll face the region’s third-place finisher in Philadelphia. And while the US has to face tough teams at some point if they want to reclaim the Gold Cup, they’d rather do it later.

Complete Overhaul Against Nicaragua

Arena had seen enough of the previous unit that struggled against Martinique and Panama. He made a surprising move by replacing all 11 players in his starting lineup in hopes of avoiding a Gold Cup disaster. Some of these changes included goalkeeper Bill Hamid making his tournament debut, and midfielder Chris Pontius getting his first start after subbing against Martinique.

Aside from overhauling the roster in hopes of more success, Arena can also evaluate more players. After all, the 2018 World Cup is only one year away, and USA needs to do a lot of work if they’re to compete in Russia. Arena will now have a wider range of talent to look at.

Win over Nicaragua wasn’t Pretty

While the box score might’ve looked good against Nicaragua, the actual game wasn’t very impressive. For the third straight match, America played down to the level of their competition.

Specifically, they missed scoring chances, committed poor turnovers, and looked out of sync. The only thing they did right was hustle enough and get the three goals they needed to avoid a tougher quarterfinals opponent.

Nicaragua was the weakest team in Group B. So the US can’t rejoice too much over their 3-0 victory.

The Stars are Joining Team USA

Arena is definitely getting serious after bringing in the big names like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, and Tim Howard. The coach tired of seeing his team struggle against smaller, less-talented teams. So he brought in the big guns for the knockout rounds.

Arena tried sugar-coating his team’s performance after the first two matches.

tim-howard-usa-goalie“I thought the team played well in the last game, and we’re very close to having a very dominating performance,” Arena said last week.

“So I thought in game two of group play, that the team played well. Game one was not our best game, but give Panama credit as well, and the same to Martinique.”

But Arena’s actions show a different story after replacing much of the squad that struggled so badly against Panama and Martinique.

Maybe if the US showed better form against these teams, they could’ve left their best players at home and gotten the youth more experience. But the poor performances forced Team USA to bring their best replacement options in as the tournament gets serious.

Bright Spots for the Knockout Rounds

graham-zusi-usaWhile the US hasn’t played great, the Nicaragua win did allow some players to prove themselves.

Specifically, Graham Zusi and Jorge Villafana showed that they deserve starts in the knockout rounds. Kelyn Rowe and Dom Dwyer also showed that they deserve a longer look too.

Nevertheless, Arena would still like to see his team play a little tighter as they move on in the Gold Cup.

“When we have a lot of possession of the ball, we need to keep our concentration,” said the coach. “At times we got caught on the break a little bit. We’re a little bit sloppy on a couple of occasions, and it cost us. So we need better concentration and a better collective effort from our team.”

What about Mexico and Costa Rica?

javier-hernandez-mexico-world-cupNot long ago, many expected Mexico to be heavy Gold Cup favorites. But El Tri have looked just as shaky as the US, also bringing in knockout round replacements.

As mentioned before, nobody wants to play Costa Rica. But it’s not like they’re heavy favorites either. The Ticos played Canada to a draw and only beat Honduras 1-0. Costa Rica may be slight favorites over USA and Mexico, but we emphasize “slight.”

Gold Cup Odds & Betting

If you’re interested in betting on the Gold Cup knockout rounds, be sure to visit our GTBets Gold Cup page. With so much still unsettled among the favorites, you can find good value in the knockout rounds. That said, check out our lines as this tournament heads towards its biggest matches.

Cubs Odds: What’s Wrong with Chicago in 2017?

cubs-2017-strugglingThe Chicago Cubs were riding high on a World Series title and ending 107 years of disappointment. But those good feelings are largely gone, with Chicago sitting at 45-45 halfway through the season.

This is especially bad when considering that the Cubs came into the season as 4-to-1 championship favorites at GTBets. Moreover, it was considered a given that they’d win the NL Central.

But here we are in mid-July and they’re 5.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers. Forget the World Series – this team isn’t even in a Wild Card slot.

So what happened?

Let’s discuss this matter by looking at several aspects that are holding the 2017 Chicago Cubs back.

Bad Start to the Season

It’s not like this team lost everybody off last season’s squad. In fact, they returned their core that had previously gone 147-77 over the past season and a half.

But Chicago stumbled to a tough start and hasn’t recovered yet. They began the year with an okay 13-11 start in April. But the Cubs didn’t get any better in May, going 12-16.

Some expected Chicago to get hot in June and shake off their World Series hangover. But they followed up with a 15-13 record in June. Add in a 5-5 start to July, and Chicago is currently several games out of both the NL Central lead and a Wild Card spot.

This kind of deficit isn’t impossible to overcome. After all, other teams have overcome far worse. But the season is also 55 percent finished. Few expected Chicago to wait this long to turn on the fire. Now, many are wondering if they still have any fire.

Cubs’ Bats are Struggling Mightily

The Chicago Cubs problems definitely don’t start with Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant. Both sluggers have combined for 38 home runs and are keeping the Cubs from plunging further into the abyss.

addison-russell-cubsUnfortunately, Kyle Schwarber, who’s supposed to be the third member of this bomb squad, is having a terrible season. While his power has been there (14 HR), his batting average is a dismal .180. Things have been so bad that Schwarber was even demoted to Triple-A.

Shortstop Addison Russell has been another disappointment so far. He’s hit just .230 and has an on-base percentage of .301.

Pitching has been Bad Too

Perhaps Chicago could overcome their hitting woes if their pitching returned to where it was last year. But we can safely say that this hasn’t been the case.

jon-lester-vs-indiansJon Lester, who boasted a 2.44 ERA last year, current has a 4.25 ERA and 5-6 record.

Last season, we were singing Kyle Hendricks’ praises as he held a league-leading 2.13 ERA. This year, Hendricks has returned to earth with a 4.09 ERA. John Lackey is performing even worse with a 5.20 ERA, possibly signaling the end for the 38-year-old.

But the biggest letdown of all has been Jake Arrieta. After playing outstanding for 3 straight years – including a Cy Young award in 2015 – Arrieta looks like a 31-year-old in decline. His ERA currently sits at 4.17 and he has a mediocre 9-7 record.

This isn’t just a case of a guy in bad year either. Arrieta has lost velocity and batters are no longer struggling against him. He’ll be a free agent after this season, but don’t expect Arrieta to get paid star money.

Leadership has Taken a Hit

Another reason why Chicago is struggling is because they don’t have the same clubhouse leadership. Dexter Fowler and David Ross – two guys who were great in this department – are now gone. Fowler signed with the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals, while Ross retired after last year’s championship.

Having these two around could’ve given the team a lift through their dark times. Maybe Ross and/or Fowler could’ve prevented catcher Miguel Montero from blaming Arrieta for stolen bases – an incident got the former cut.

Is the World Series Hangover Real?

The World Series hangover is often discussed, but sometimes dismissed. However, looking at this year’s Cubs, we have to wonder if it’s real.

Relieving a 107-year curse is a recipe for the ultimate hangover. Given that five consecutive World Series champions have failed to make the playoffs the following year, Chicago wouldn’t be in exclusive company by bombing out in 2017.

They say that baseball is the hardest sport to repeat in. And recent results show that former champs haven’t even come close to contending the following year:

  • 2016 Kansas City Royals: 81-81 record – 14 fewer wins than previous season.
  • 2014 Boston Red Sox: 71-91 – 16 fewer wins than the previous season.
  • 2013 San Francisco Giants: 78-86 – 16 fewer wins than previous season.

Given that Chicago is almost as close to the last-place Cincinnati Reds (39-52) as they are the first-place Brewers (52-45), they could very well wind up on this list. After all, 103 wins is a lofty total to reach.

The lone solace is that this team faces less pressure than most other champions. The 2016 Cubs ended the curse, and this has still left some good feelings behind.

Help on the Way

Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer fully realizes that the team needs some help. So he recently traded prospects for former Chicago White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana.

This doesn’t look like a huge move on paper because Quintana is having his worst season as a pro. His 4.49 ERA and 5-8 record made him expendable.

But at 28 years old and with a career 3.51 ERA, Quintana is still highly regarded. And perhaps the cross-town move will energize a pitcher who boasted a 3.20 ERA last season.

According to Yahoo Sports, the Cubs are also very interested in Oakland A’s pitcher Sonny Gray. The right-hander currently has a 5-4 record and 3.74 ERA.

2018 Cubs Odds

As mentioned before, we had the Cubs as big favorites to open the season. But now, their World Series odds are +650 in our GTBets sportsbook. Their odds of winning National League Pennant are +360.

If you believe in Chicago’s ability to turn things around, then you should consider betting on them while their odds are still low.