Chicago’s north-side is underwhelmed.
After a lackluster start to the 2017 season, the once dominantly perceived Chicago Cubs are stuck in a .500 limbo.
Even an ounce of consistency has been hard to come by for the Cubs as they have experienced issues on all sides of the ball, with a slumping offense, average defense and turbulent pitching performances. While it is still early in the season and the National League Central is anyone’s for the taking, Chicago can’t help but miss having the best record in baseball.
There were a number of key contributors that helped that 2016 team flourish and, even though many of those players can still be seen at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field, some have taken their talent’s elsewhere. With a number of issues currently standing in the Cubs way, let’s take a look at who the team might be missing the most from last year’s roster
Believe it or not, the loss of Aroldis Chapman has not come to haunt the Cubs quite yet. The high quality replacement in the closer position of Wade Davis has proven to be the Cubs best offseason signing so far. Davis has an impressive 0.89 ERA and has recorded 12 saves on the season. While Davis has been the diamond in a rough bullpen, he hasn’t had to take the mound an excessive amount. Only appearing in 21 games so far this season, the Cubs have not been in as many save situation as they might like. It’s possible the Cubs may come to miss Chapman as the season goes on, and as their save total increases, but as of now the closer position has not been of dire need.
TREVOR CAHILL & TRAVIS WOOD
Despite the energy and recent dancing ways of the Chicago Cubs bullpen, finding a strong presence on the mound has been rather complicated. Carl Edwards Jr. is tied with Pedro Strop for the most game appearances in the Chicago bullpen and has proven to be the most reliable option with a .082 ERA with 28 strikeouts on the season. On the other hand, familiar faces and new additions alike have found difficulty in producing effective relief outings.
Trevor Cahill flew a little bit under the radar last season, but he was a large part of the team’s regular season success. He pitched well with a 2.24 ERA and was a consistent presence on the mound. In a time where guys like Koji Uehara, Brian Duensing and Justin Grimm deliver differing outings depending on the day, the Cubs wouldn’t mind having more arms like Cahill at their expense.
Travis Wood is a similar figure and a more beloved name in the Chicagoland area. Cubs fan’s always had trust in Wood once he entered a ball game. Whether he was coming into a bases loaded jam or to pitch several innings, Wood was as reliable of a relief pitcher as a team could get. Not to mention, he had a significant presence at the plate and even saw playing time in left field for a game last season. Wood is a true athlete, and his added veteran presence gave the Cubs bullpen a true all-around weapon that is a rare find.
There is no surprise here. Also known as Grandpa Rossy, David Ross, the former-backup catcher, became a household name in Chicago. The now retired and Dancing With the Stars runner-up helped bring a veteran presence to the entire team that has been painfully absent this season.
The Cubs have built up what seems like an endless amount of young talent that has paved the way for a bright future; however, this comes a tad bitter sweet. With all these young players on the Cubs depth chart, they don’t have that one veteran player to keep their head’s on straight. Many young players have gone through offensive slumps this season, and without a Ross-like presence it may take them more time to get out of certain funks.
Ross may not have been dominate at the plate himself, but he was a big part of the Cubs’ optimism and power.
One of the harder blows to the Chicago Cubs team was the departure of center fielder Dexter Fowler. Without Fowler, the Cubs organization may still have the longest running championship drought in all of sports. His contact ability and leadoff role at the plate helped the Cubs dominate many games all throughout the 2016 season. Currently, the Cubs are having a hard time finding their next leadoff man. The Kyle Schwarber experiment has not panned out the way that Joe Maddon has hoped, and the top of the order has looked a lot less effective than it did this time last season. Fowler was an offense creator and he knew how get things rolling.
While the current Cubs team has an impressive amount of talent, they have yet to find their next Fowler. The longer the team goes without somebody filling that void, the longer the Cubs offensive struggles will continue.