“They are done,” an NL scout wrote in a text message to Patrick Mooney of NBC Sports Chicago. “You can see it in their faces.”
Through three games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, the Chicago Cubs have scored just 4 total runs, allowed 15, and lost 3 times.
You don’t have to do the math to see their average runs scored and allowed this postseason is a far cry from their regular season numbers, but I think you still need to see it:
Regular Season: 5.07 (4th best in MLB)
Regular Season: 4.29 (7th best in MLB)
The Cubs’ run scoring is way down, and while their runs allowed isn’t quite as elevated over their entire postseason, it does expand to 5.00 RA/G in the NLCS alone (which would be just outside the bottom ten during the regular season).
Needless to say: The Cubs are off.
As we know, the Cubs are seeing some of the best pitching in baseball this October, and that helps explain away some of their struggles. But is there something else going on? Could they be … tired? Kris Bryant suggests they could be.
After last night’s game, the 2016 NL MVP admitted to reporters that the NLDS against the Nationals was a particularly “draining” series (it sure felt that way to me), and that it could be affecting their performance against LA.
“It takes a lot of energy to get ready for these games, and at the end, you feel wiped out,” Bryant told NBC. To be fair, he later added that it’s all to be expected, but, yeah, it seems the third baseman is feeling the intensity of a long, intense postseason battle.
Not everyone agrees.
Anthony Rizzo responded to similar questioning by suggesting he could “go run laps around this place right now,” adding that he disagrees with the premise that anyone is drained. Before you get worried about some potential trouble in paradise, it sounds like these two weren’t aware of each other’s comments before making their own.
In any case, Addison Russell added that he doesn’t think the team is running out of gas and fully expects a positive, ready-to-battle attitude in the clubhouse tomorrow. Kyle Schwarber said something similar, but even more direct: “I’ll shut you down right there. We’re not running out of gas at all.” And Ben Zobrist even added that both mentally and physically, the team is in a fine place. So where does that leave us?
Eh. They’re probably all right, in a sense.
It’s difficult to not believe Bryant, given the way this offense and pitching staff has performed lately, but at the same time it could just be a series of extremely unfortunate slumps all happening at the same time (while they also happen to face some of the best hitters and pitchers on the planet). On the other hand, you rarely hear the full truth from players – sometimes they’re even lying to themselves in a sense – so Bryant’s comments could be closer to reality than his obviously competitive teammates are willing to let themselves believe.
It’s not like this is is something we can definitively get to the bottom of and it’s certainly not something anyone can fix – not with an elimination game tonight. But it sure is interesting to have at least one player of Bryant’s stature and another NL scout point out what we’re seeing with our eyes every night: the Cubs look tired and it seems to be affecting their ability to perform at the highest level. Hopefully, Joe Maddon will rediscover some bottled up magic he hid away from 2015 (the, um, regular season, not the NLCS), and find a way to energize this Cubs team to four straight wins against the best team in baseball.