Given how unimpressively the Cubs have played all year, it’s fair to wonder whether the seven-game winning streak is more accurately characterized as a seven-game losing streak by the Cubs’ opponents.
Yesterday, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost their 10th game in a row. To the San Diego Padres. A team 13 games under .500, last in the NL West.
The Pirates have been swept in three straight series, the middle of which was a four-game set that likewise fell in the middle of the Cubs’ seven-game winning streak.
That streak saw the Cubs play some of their best baseball of the year, to be sure. The team, one of the worst pitching and fielding teams in baseball, had a 3.13 ERA during the stretch, and committed just one error. The offense, swinging and singles happy all year, hit homers and took walks with impunity.
But, still, there are the Pirates. How would we describe their losing streak, were we viewing it in a neutral light? A four-game sweep at the hands of the second worst team in baseball, bookended by sweeps by a team among the best (the Phillies) and a team among the worst (the Padres). Were we being impartial, would we not say that is the mark of a bad team?
Worse, the Pirates were absolutely shellacked in those 10 games, being outscored 37 to 82. And it’s not like the losing streak was the first sign of cracks in the foundation: before it, they’d lost five of eight, and their once celestial pitching staff had long since returned to Earth.
Why am I belaboring the struggles of the Pirates?
Because, just as the coin has two sides, and each game has a winner and a loser, each streak has a two-sided explanation.
One could view the Cubs’ seven-game winning streak as the product of health, a wise trade deadline strategy, and players finally performing at their ability.
But one could just as easily view it as the Cubs losing a series in St. Louis (but taking the final game), then beating a suddenly-terrible Pittsburgh team that is rolling over for everyone, and then taking two of three at home from a struggling, sub-.500 Cincinnati team.
Did the Cubs suddenly “put it together,” or did they happen to meet a couple teams that were “falling apart”?
All I know is that it’s hard to look at the Pirates’ current 10-game losing streak and remain impressed with the Cubs’ former seven-game winning streak.
(And it’s even harder to use the winning streak as a way to justify the status quo in the Cubs’ front office.)