All the Cubs had to do to break out of their collective slump was face the guy who led the majors in ERA, apparently. 

That’s an amusing narrative to peddle after the Cubs roughed up Miami Marlins starter Jarlin Garcia (who'd only allowed four runs in 33 innings) for seven runs in four innings en route to a 14-2 win at Wrigley Field. More accurate, though: A team this good was bound to emerge from a barren offensive wasteland at some point. 

“I think every reasonable look at it will — you remind yourself these guys are going to come out of it,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. “Rizz is going to become Anthony Rizzo again and Willson Contreras is going to become Willson Contreras. We’re due for some positive regression at some point. The guys are grinding away and trying to get there. 

“It’s natural you press, especially when everyone else is struggling around you. There’s a lot of pressing. I think that’s what you’re seeing with our at-bats right now. But we’ll come out of it.” 

Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Ian Happ socked home runs off Garcia, and Happ added another to become the first Cubs player since 2013 (Dioner Navarro) to hit a home run from both sides of the plate. Every Cubs position player got a hit, and everyone but Contreras and Tommy La Stella (who only had one plate appearance) got on base at least twice. 

 

"I think we had a good approach the whole day," Happ said. "A lot of good at-bats from a lot of different guys, and for everybody who was in the game to get a hit, that was kind of the collective effort that we needed."

The 14 runs the Cubs scored on Monday were as many as they had scored during their newly-ended five-game losing streak, too. From a larger standpoint, this slump-busting game was due, but there still is more of that positive regression to the mean that seems bound to happen. 

Just look at how ridiculously far off Rizzo’s 2018 numbers are from his career averages:

Stat Career Current
Plate appearances 4,003 108
AVG/OBP/SLG .265/.365/.482 .177/.259/.302
Walk % 11.1 3.7
Strikeout % 16.7 14.8
HR/fly ball % 15.4 11.4
Hard hit % 33.0 30.9
Soft hit % 16.8 14.8

As for Contreras, he doesn’t have the thousands of plate appearances accumulated by Rizzo, but his statistical dropoff is still significant (these numbers are prior to Monday's game):

Stat Career Current
Plate appearances 833 122
AVG/OBP/SLG .271/.351/.475 .231/.320/.361
Walk % 9.6 7.4
Strikeout % 22.6 18.9
HR/fly ball % 20.9 3.2
Hard hit % 32.9 25.9
Soft hit % 23.5 18.3

If you’re tabbing two players to come out of their slumps with a vengeance, those are probably your two guys. Russell’s early-season stats aren’t all that far off from his career averages, for what it’s worth:

Stat Career Current
Plate appearances 1,617 111
AVG/OBP/SLG .240/.311/.402 .240/.306/.320
Walk % 8.3 8.1
Strikeout % 24.4 17.1
HR/fly ball % 11.4 0.0
Hard hit % 32.9 30.5
Soft hit % 23.5 24.4

And Happ notched his 500th career plate appearance Monday night, not affording him much of a sample size:

Stat Career Current
Plate appearances 499 86
AVG/OBP/SLG .248/.322/.490 .228/.291/.380
Walk % 9.2 8.1
Strikeout % 33.7 45.3
HR/fly ball % 23.7 15.8
Hard hit % 33.8 40.0
Soft hit % 20.3 30.0

From an overall standpoint, it always was unlikely the Cubs’ offense would keep struggling. That’s just baseball, and the success enjoyed by this lineup in the last few seasons meant a positive regression is more likely than not to happen. Monday night was a good start. 

“We’re last in the league in walks, that’s not going to last,” Epstein said. “We’re not going to lead the league in soft contact. We’re not going to be standard deviations worse than other teams with runners in scoring position. That’s not going to last.”

Epstein spoke with the kind of confidence you’d expect from an executive who built rosters that’ve sandwiched National League Championship Series appearances around a World Series title in the last three years. It’s worth noting the Cubs were in a similar position a year ago at this time, coming off a frustrating extra-inning marathon loss on Sunday Night Baseball (to the New York Yankees) and owning a 16-15 record. Eventually, the season turned around — a little later than those on Clark and Addison might’ve liked — in part by trusting the guys that had performed in the past would continue to do so in the immediate future. 

So that’s the same approach taken by those on and around the team in 2018: It’s too early to panic and make a rash decision that goes against all the scouting and evaluation put into constructing this roster and coaching staff in the past months and years.  

“It was easy to look at the World Series hangover thing last year,” Epstein said. “There’s no cute name for this one. It’s just struggling. 

“… It’s not pretty. We know our fans are probably really frustrated and dying and our guys care a lot. They’re pressing. We know it’s not going to last forever, and you just gotta keep grinding your way through it. There’s no easy answer, there’s nothing you can — there’s no fire and brimstone speech that’s going to turn this thing around. Just continue to work hard and one good swing for each player involved usually is the key to having them feel good and go on a tear.”