The magic carpet ride that Chicago Cubs fans have been on for most of the 2016 season has finally hit a bit of turbulence. Since a June 19 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago’s National League team is just 5-12. Four of those victories have come against the Cincinnati Reds, the basement dweller in the National League Central.
If one prefers to look at season-long trends rather than a two-week sample in a 162-game season, there are some statistics that should worry Cubs Nation. So far, in 2016 the Cubs are just 22-18 against teams with a record above .500. Furthermore, against the current five National League playoff teams, Joe Maddon’s men are just 9-9. Over this past weekend, the Mets, currently one of the Wild Card holders, swept the Cubs in a four- game series. These stats may suggest that the Cubs’ record could be a little inflated by beating up on some of the National League’s weakest teams.
The Cubs have been routinely blowing out teams this season. Through 84 games in 2016, the Northsiders have only played in 23 one-run games, with a record of 10-13. In order to succeed down the stretch of the regular season, and on into the postseason, Chicago needs to become much better in closer games. The starting pitching and bullpens of the other playoff contenders are just too good. Beating teams in slugfests in the playoffs is not going to happen.
General Manager Jed Hoyer and Team President Theo Epstein will undoubtedly try and help solidify the perceived weakness in close games as the August 1 trade deadline approaches. If Chicago gets one or two 7th or 8th inning relievers, Joe Maddon’s crew could once again be at the top of the NL food chain.