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.
Unfortunately, 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.
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?
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.
Sources: #Cubs continuing to show interest in Sonny Gray, even after Jose Quintana trade. One reason: Vacancy still remains in '18 rotation.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 14, 2017
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.