Chicago Cubs 2019 Season

Geneseo, IL
The Cubs have really done nothing to make me think that they are going to catch fire down the stretch. Looks like about an 86-win team, hopefully that's enough to get into the playoffs. Same problems plaguing them, inconsistent offense and spotty bullpen. They're doing a great job of keeping the Brewers in the race the pat two weekends. Nats have cooled off but don't look now, Arizona is on fire and only a game and a half behind Cubs now. Javy with the broken thumb hurts too.
 
What is this teams real problem? It's hard for me to pin point it... Offensively a leadoff man would be great, but is that really killing us that much? Bullpen seems to be big issue, but with SP aging, can the rotation last another year?

Count me officially worried about the future of this team. No, I don't think the skys falling, but I think we're going into a window of needing to make the right move about 8/10 times.
 
What is this teams real problem? It's hard for me to pin point it... Offensively a leadoff man would be great, but is that really killing us that much? Bullpen seems to be big issue, but with SP aging, can the rotation last another year?

Count me officially worried about the future of this team. No, I don't think the skys falling, but I think we're going into a window of needing to make the right move about 8/10 times.
I'm alongside you in your feeling of non-panicked worry. I'll throw some personal opinions out there.
  • The leadoff role is critical, and I haven't the slightest clue who should hit there. Rizzo has almost ironically been their best leadoff hitter since Fowler left. The interesting part about the core is that the majority of them are middle of the lineup bats. I think they hoped Almora would develop into that, but his primary strength has been his glove.
  • Bullpen has been a revolving door of who's who type of arms since 2016. Some consistency would be nice. Wick looks promising, Chatwood has turned it around in the long-man role, Strop may not be the same lockdown reliever he used to be, and Kimbrel will be settled as the closer for the next few years.
  • I don't think Hamels comes back next year, so with Hendricks, Darvish, Quintana, and Lester, you have a formidable four. Do they go big in free agency? Development of starting pitchers has been poor since Wood, Prior, and Zambrano.
  • Russell needs to be cut.
  • Castellanos needs to be re-signed. Full stop.
 
I'm alongside you in your feeling of non-panicked worry. I'll throw some personal opinions out there.
  • The leadoff role is critical, and I haven't the slightest clue who should hit there. Rizzo has almost ironically been their best leadoff hitter since Fowler left. The interesting part about the core is that the majority of them are middle of the lineup bats. I think they hoped Almora would develop into that, but his primary strength has been his glove.
  • Bullpen has been a revolving door of who's who type of arms since 2016. Some consistency would be nice. Wick looks promising, Chatwood has turned it around in the long-man role, Strop may not be the same lockdown reliever he used to be, and Kimbrel will be settled as the closer for the next few years.
  • I don't think Hamels comes back next year, so with Hendricks, Darvish, Quintana, and Lester, you have a formidable four. Do they go big in free agency? Development of starting pitchers has been poor since Wood, Prior, and Zambrano.
  • Russell needs to be cut.
  • Castellanos needs to be re-signed. Full stop.
Can you afford to resign Castellanos? Especially after what he's done post trade deadline? The answer is yes, but do the Cubs want to? Indications point towards no.

I'm concerned Lester takes a step back. He's struggled plenty this season. We don't have an ace on this roster. We need that fifth starter spot to be taken by a young guy. Can't go out (at least not next year) and sign someone for 20m/yr+ again. Too much money tied in good-not-great pitchers.

There are too many pieces on this team to not continue optimism, but there are some holes too big to ignore.
 
Part of the problem is that the Cubs’ four best players have been taking turns being hurt all second half. Seriously, how many game have Contreras, Rizzo, Baez and Bryant all been in the lineup since the ASB? (The answer is 10.)

Some bad roster decisions, undoubtedly influenced by the luxury tax pinch, have led to this year’s roster being significantly thinner than in previous years.

Their inability to draft and develop any Major League pitching had led them to rely way too heavily on free agents in the pitching staff. If they’d have simply managed a 4/5 starter and a couple back end relief guys, the payroll would be $20-$25MM lighter.

I’m increasingly convinced that while Maddon is a great strategic manager over the long haul of the season, he’s really a subpar tactical manager at bat to at bat and even game to game. I think his even keel approach worked for a young team under immense psychological pressure to break the “curse,” but probably isn’t the right fit for a more veteran team that needs to be winning when the small sample sizes are magnified in significance.
 
Likes: ChiefIllini
Geneseo, IL
One recurring trend with this team is that their big hitters wear down as the season progresses. This year Baez, Bryant, and Rizzo combined for 58 homers before the All-Star break. They've hit 22 since.
 
Geneseo, IL
Part of the problem is that the Cubs’ four best players have been taking turns being hurt all second half. Seriously, how many game have Contreras, Rizzo, Baez and Bryant all been in the lineup since the ASB? (The answer is 10.)

Some bad roster decisions, undoubtedly influenced by the luxury tax pinch, have led to this year’s roster being significantly thinner than in previous years.

Their inability to draft and develop any Major League pitching had led them to rely way too heavily on free agents in the pitching staff. If they’d have simply managed a 4/5 starter and a couple back end relief guys, the payroll would be $20-$25MM lighter.

I’m increasingly convinced that while Maddon is a great strategic manager over the long haul of the season, he’s really a subpar tactical manager at bat to at bat and even game to game. I think his even keel approach worked for a young team under immense psychological pressure to break the “curse,” but probably isn’t the right fit for a more veteran team that needs to be winning when the small sample sizes are magnified in significance.
Their inability to draft period has hurt. It was easy when they were drafting number one or two overall every year. They develop very little position-player talent year after year. And as champaignchris points out they have not developed pitching talent either. They now have a bottom-four minor league system which gives them little in the way of players to develop or use in trades. Theo's free agent signings have been bad. I think Maddon is managing his last twenty regular season games as Cubs' manager. I'm sure Hamels will not be resigned for next year and Lester looks like he is about done. So you're coming back next season with three "reliable" starters. Darvish has had one good half a season in two years. Quintana is a number three or four. Hendricks has been decent but has declined every year since 2016. I think Epstein would like to make major changes in the roster for next season but he is hamstrung by his own poor decisions. Outside of trading Bryant, Contreras, or Baez I don't see any other position players that would bring much back in a trade. I don't think the Cubs are in a very favorable position moving forward.
 
They may want to give a look to the Cubs medical staff, too. Javy out until October with a fractured thumb. Just the other day he was added to the lineup and became a late scratch.
 
They may want to give a look to the Cubs medical staff, too. Javy out until October with a fractured thumb. Just the other day he was added to the lineup and became a late scratch.
There’s been stuff like that the last few years. A guy gets held out for a couple days, comes back, and it turns out he’s hurt worse than they thought. Mysterious lingering injuries that never seem to go away. They’re really slow to put people on the IL.
 
Likes: IanKEvans2
Their inability to draft period has hurt. It was easy when they were drafting number one or two overall every year. They develop very little position-player talent year after year. And as champaignchris points out they have not developed pitching talent either. They now have a bottom-four minor league system which gives them little in the way of players to develop or use in trades. Theo's free agent signings have been bad. I think Maddon is managing his last twenty regular season games as Cubs' manager. I'm sure Hamels will not be resigned for next year and Lester looks like he is about done. So you're coming back next season with three "reliable" starters. Darvish has had one good half a season in two years. Quintana is a number three or four. Hendricks has been decent but has declined every year since 2016. I think Epstein would like to make major changes in the roster for next season but he is hamstrung by his own poor decisions. Outside of trading Bryant, Contreras, or Baez I don't see any other position players that would bring much back in a trade. I don't think the Cubs are in a very favorable position moving forward.
2020 MVP Nico Hoerner begs to differ. :)
 
A Legend in My Own Mind
Montgomery, IL
How many players get their name chanted by the crowd on their debut in an away game? Crazy...
 
Likes: IanKEvans2
Maddon is far from the biggest problem, and honestly I'm not really sure what his overall effect on this team is--positive or negative. But, I think it might be time for a biggish shakeup. Theo/Jed are probably safe, but I think Maddon is the new scapegoat.

The Red Sox are an interesting example of a team that wins a WS, cleans house, and continues to win. Not saying its a great approach, but sometimes change is necessary.
 
The problem with the Cubs isn’t how they’re playing now, really. It’s how they floundered around as a .500 team for two months in June and July. They’ve played pretty well since then, but really blew their chance earlier to put some distance between them and the Cards and Brewers.

The weird thing is that the NL has so many teams playing at a 98+ win pace since the ASB - Cards (109), Braves (108), Mets (101), Dodgers (101), and Nats (98) - that it makes the Cubs 92-win pace since the ASB look a lot worse than it really is, and means that even if they’d played up to expectations, they’d still be in a dogfight for a playoff spot.

You have to look at the Cubs record against the Reds (7-9), White Sox (2-2) and Rockies (3-3) as where they’ve blown their chance to be better. Change that 12-14 to 17-9 and they’re sitting in first place.
 
Likes: Ramrod2010
This "easy" stretch against the Padres, Pirates, and Reds is absolutely crucial if we're going to make a late run for the division. We need to win more than the Cardinals during this stretch. If we can get within a game or two of them by the time we play them, we'll have a shot. Would love to see Nico continue to be the spark plug that we need.
 
Captain 'Paign
Phoenix, AZ
This "easy" stretch against the Padres, Pirates, and Reds is absolutely crucial if we're going to make a late run for the division. We need to win more than the Cardinals during this stretch. If we can get within a game or two of them by the time we play them, we'll have a shot. Would love to see Nico continue to be the spark plug that we need.
Says the guy with the Cardinal as his avatar (I kid, I kid).
 
Likes: IanKEvans2
Per fangraphs, the Cubs' playoff odds have dropped below 50% for the first time since May 20th.

They had peak playoff odds of 90.8% on August 8 and have dropped 40.9 points since then, going 14-15 during that time.