The Cubs head to St. Louis this weekend firmly in second place in the National League Central after dropping 2 of 3 to the Brewers in Milwaukee where they didn’t score a run for the final 18 innings. What’s going on with the offense? Is it time to start panicking about the lack of power? What more does Mike Montgomery need to do to stick in the rotation?
Kelly Crull, Jon Graff and Tony Andracki discuss these topics on the latest CubsTalk Podcast plus a couple under-the-radar reasons why the series may have turned after the Cubs’ big win Monday night.
Listen to the entire CubsTalk Podcast here and check out more on the lack of longballs below:
The lack of power has been particularly troubling.
After hitting 1 homer less than the National League leaders (Mets, Brewers) last year, the Cubs currently rank 10th in the league in longballs. They're on pace for only 169 homers after hitting 223 in 2017. Every player on the team besides Javy Baez is on pace for a surprisingly low homer total based on track record and potential.
Kris Bryant hasn't homered in a month and is on pace for only 20 longballs, which would be well under his career norm. Anthony Rizzo is on track for 27 dingers and he hasn't hit fewer than 31 in a season since 2013 (though, he did get off to a slow start for the first 5 weeks of the season). Jason Heyward has turned things around at the plate this year, but is still on pace for 7 homers, which would tie his career low of 2016.
Addison Russell and Willson Contreras have both flashed their 20-homer power in the past yet are on pace to combine for only 15 dingers in 2018 (5 for Russell, 10 for Contreras).
Even Kyle Schwarber is on track for only 27 bombs after hitting 30 last year in a season where he struggled to hit over .200 for much of the year and spent three weeks in the minor leagues. Ian Happ clubbed 24 homers as a rookie in 364 at-bats but is on track for only 20 in 384 at-bats this year.
Only Baez (on pace for 35 homers) has lived up to his power potential so far this year, but he also has only 4 longballs in the last 5 weeks of action (dating back to May 7).
The Cubs altered their offensive approach under new hitting coach Chili Davis, looking for more contact and aiming to use the whole field rather than pulling the ball with power and striking out a bunch.
Has that mindset messed with the Cubs' power? Is it just randomness of the early going this year?
Weather has been a factor, but the cold, wintry weather is gone (probably). It's mid-June now and the halfway point in the season is coming up. Yes, there are still more than 90 games remaining on the Cubs' schedule and homers do tend to come in bunches, but the "small sample size" excuse can't be used anymore.
The Cubs insist they haven't sacrificed any power for contact, so maybe it just is a bad stretch in the power department. Before being shut out on back-to-back days, the Cubs had won 13 of 17, so however they approached their at-bats was working to some extent.
Last season, their offense got too reliant on homers for stretches and wasn't able to manufacture runs against tougher pitching. They worked to rectify that for this year and while it's largely worked out (the Cubs are near the top of the NL in runs/game, on-base percentage and OPS even after these last two losses), the offensive woes are not fully in the rearview mirror.