Cubs struggling to pinpoint source of inconsistent offense as season nears finish line

Tim Stebbins

If the Cubs could determine why their offense goes from scoring often in one series to struggling to scratch out more than a single run each game in the next, they would.

But the thing is, finding the answer to that problem is far easier said than done right now.

"It's just one of those things," Cubs outfielder Nick Castellanos said on Friday, a 2-1 loss to the Cardinals. "I don't think there's really a rhyme or reason for it. It's baseball."

After scoring a whopping 55 runs from last Friday to Monday, the Cubs offense has scuffled their last four games. Granted, 47 of those 55 runs game against the lowly Pirates, and the Cubs have faced better pitching this week (specifically Reds starter Sonny Gray on Tuesday and Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty on Thursday).

Still, it's hard to fathom how the Cubs have scored just nine times since Tuesday, a stretch where they've lost four straight home games for the first time since May 2018.

The up-and-down nature of this Cubs team has been a common sight in 2019, with the last 10 days being a microcosm of the season as a whole. Their current four-game losing streak comes on the heels of a five-game winning streak, one where the Cubs reached a season-high 14 games above .500 (82-68).

Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that while the offense has struggled as a unit, many Cubs hitters are having successful seasons individually. Six Cubs have hit at least 21 home runs this season – seven, if you include what Castellanos has done before and after the North Siders acquired him from the Tigers.

Six Cubs also hold an OPS above .800 (minimum 220 at-bats), so it's not that they're getting less production than needed from their core guys. For some reason, the Cubs tend to struggle as a unit offensively.

"Statistically, you look at a lot of the numbers [and] it just doesn't correspond to where we're at," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said on Saturday. "We've had a lot of really good individual years offensively."

Maddon expanded on the up-and-down nature of the 2019 Cubs, mentioning the infamous home/road splits and that while his bullpen is maligned, their overall numbers are solid.

"These are some really crazy, hard to wrap your mind around things," he said. "Just to have your mind try to extrapolate what is going on, it's hard to pinpoint anything.

"A lot of guys are having really good seasons and we've lost a lot of one-run games. Is that the lack of a hit, or is that a lack of a pitch? I don't know. A lot of close games – is it the other teams have gotten better?"

Whether it's the lack of a big hit or making the right pitch, the fact of the matter is that the Cubs are 19-25 in one-run games this season. Their last three losses have come in such a fashion, with the latter two coming in their biggest series of the season.

The Cubs entered Thursday three games back of the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central. They now sit five back, with time running out on them to secure even a Wild Card spot. Whatever is plaguing the offense, it has to go away, and fast.

"It's so hard to really cull it down to one particular event or moment or thought," Maddon said. "It's difficult, but we still have this strong opportunity in front of us that we have to focus on."

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Cubs struggling to pinpoint source of inconsistent offense as season nears finish line originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago