The Chicago Cubs lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in agonizing fashion on Opening Day 2014. The 1-0 extra inning setback was certainly disappointing, and unfortunately introduces a probable theme for the Cubs’ 2014 season.
The current makeup of the Cubs roster will produce quite a few losses of this nature. Of course, they will not all be 1-0 games, but there should be plenty of low-scoring pitchers’ duels with the Cubs coming out on the wrong end the majority of the time.
The Cubs have all of the elements in place to produce such results. The pitching staff, both in the rotation and out of the bullpen, is the clear strength of the team. This has been the case for the past few seasons, particularly with the starting rotation. Of course, if Jeff Samardzija is dealt in July, the dynamic in the rotation changes significantly. The bullpen, in both depth and quality, should be vastly improved this season, on paper anyway.
Meanwhile, the offense is just not there. The gaping holes in this lineup are impossible to ignore, particularly when you absorb a shutout on Opening Day while going 0-for-11 with RISP. In a perfect world, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro would improve upon their respective 2013 outputs, especially Castro. Of course, if Castro has a solid first half, he could conceivably be traded away depending on the return. Mike Olt earned the starting third base spot in spring training, but will need to live up to that sizable potential in the middle of the order.
Simply put, the Cubs are going to struggle to score runs on a consistent basis. There will be the occasional outburst where everyone is hitting at the same time for a game or two, but for the most part these will be outliers. The good news is that help coming soon from the pipeline in the form of Javier Baez and others. Baez should be arriving at Wrigley Field sometime this summer, and promises to provide not only stimulation for a moribund fan base, but also much-needed offensive production.
In the meantime, the starters will keep the Cubs in most games, but their margin for error will be so razor-thin due to a dearth of run support that many tight games will be lost in the late innings. An improved bullpen will certainly help in this regard, but many quality starts will be wasted this season as they have been in years past. And so it goes.
Chicago may be building for the future but that doesn’t mean you can’t still go to games to support your favorite team, so get you Cubs Tickets today.