Where do you go after a weekend series sweep like that, at a moment like this?
I think it would be very hard to have been paying attention this season and not seen this weekend’s series sweep in Arizona as an inflection point. That doesn’t mean the season is over, but it does mean that, having dropped from 4.0 games up in the SECOND Wild Card spot to ENTIRELY OUT of the playoffs in just 10 games, things are going to be different in some way starting tomorrow than they were a couple weeks ago.
The Cubs are now trying to get back into a Wild Card spot, and they are definitely not realistically even dreaming of the division. It’s just a really different place than the one they were in only a couple weeks ago.
Maybe the Cubs get on another heater against bad teams and force their way back into the playoffs. The last really major inflection point, of course, was another sweep out west: the one in Anaheim in June that felt like the beginning of the descent toward a sell-off. The Cubs got hot from there, and just wouldn’t stop. At least until the last couple weeks. It can happen. There’s still time. All that stuff.
But if it doesn’t happen, if this time, the descent continues, I think we’ll look back and know that the road trip to Colorado and Arizona, after losing three of four at home against the Diamondbacks, was the stretch that sunk it. All we’ve got left is hope that the story isn’t written quite yet, and the version we end up reading after the regular season is how the Cubs took a couple sweeps out west and used them to turn things around. I’d like to read that story. Heck, I’d like to write it.
At least the remaining schedule COULD be favorable. Consider that the Cubs host the Pirates and Rockies at home this week, which is about as friendly as it gets. Then the Cubs have the Braves in Atlanta and the Brewers in Milwaukee, which would normally be tough, but it’s POSSIBLE that each will be in the mode of resting players and setting guys up to optimize for the postseason. Wins may not be their priority.
“We weren’t very good,” David Ross said of the Diamondbacks series, per Cubs.com. “They were better than we were [in] all aspects of the game. They played better defense, pitched better, timed their hitting and ran the bases better. Just got beat all the way around. Bad road trip — trying to wash everything off with the off-day tomorrow and get back at it on Tuesday.” Hopefully the off-day and some home cooking does help, and then maybe you get some momentum back. I’m stretching a little bit because obviously I want to believe this can turn around.
Here’s how Cody Bellinger sees it (Cubs.com): “It definitely hasn’t been ideal. It’s been frustrating. I think overall, the past week there’s been a lot of unfortunate bounces, and as a whole, pretty disappointing. But looking at the future, still in a good spot. Good amount of games left to play, and just trust the group in here and myself to continue to roll and hopefully get on a hot little stretch. Looking forward, we all had to understand the amazing baseball we played to even put us in this position. Obviously, we didn’t have some stuff going our way the past week, but understanding we’re the same team that was balling for over a month and a half. So just continue rolling out there and trusting the guys around us.”
One thing that continues to stand out this month is the STARK contrast between the Cubs’ performance with runners on base, versus the bases being empty. In the latter situation, the Cubs are doing great! They’re hitting .270/.340/.485/124 wRC+ this month with the bases empty, top four in baseball. And then when runners get on base … they are hitting .252/.317/.349/82 wRC+, third worst in baseball. If you look just at this hellish 10-game stretch, it’s .205/.270/.256/45 wRC+, by faaaaaaaaar the worst mark in baseball. A lot has gone into this bad stretch, but really, it’s not much more complicated than that. The Cubs have not hit AT ALL with runners on base, and they’ve gone 2-8 because of it.
As Patrick Mooney correctly writes – fair or not – if things keep going south, the September collapse might be all most folks even remember about this season when it’s talked about in the years ahead:
Interesting data point about the Diamondbacks series:
Not sure if that was about the Cubs’ passivity and the Diamondbacks trying to steal strikes, or about trying to change eye-level. Of note, the Cubs did not strike out much in the series (under 20%), but did hit a TON of groundballs in the series (over 50%). In any case, seems an unlikely coincidence that all three righty starters would significantly up their four-seamer usage against more or less the same lineup each time.
thx i hate it:
Should be hearing more on the Brewers’ stadium funding situation soon: