By Ed Morgans @writered21 on August 23, 2014
It's not like the Chicago Cubs were expected to be any good this season. Most wise Major League Baseball followers, and even smart Cubs fans, knew this was going to be another year of dismay in Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer's revolution, one that if successful will eventually lead the north-siders to heights not seen since airplane travel was a dream. But for 2014 in particular, here are five reasons why the Cubs' season has gone wrong.
The Cubs won a game over the San Francisco Giants, 2-0 in 4.5 innings, after a nearly five-hour rain delay mostly sparked by an inability of the grounds crew to get the tarp over the field correctly. This flooded part of the infield and the approach was so poor that the Giants protested and it was granted, something not seen in nearly 30 years. The game was restarted Thursday and the Cubs won, 2-1, but it made the club a laughingstock again.
Any baseball observer with a brain can see how smart the Cubs were to trade their top two starting pitchers, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, to Oakland for that organization's top two prospects and possible 8-10-game winner down the road in Dan Straily. That, combined with a deal that sent versatile Emilio Bonifacio and reliever James Russell to Atlanta for a minor-league catcher, have thinned an already dim Major League roster for 2014.
Led by the disaster that was Jose Veras as a closer, the Cubs bullpen early in the season hurt the club on the not-so-frequent occasions that it had a chance to win games late. Veras was the most visible failure, making 12 appearances in April and May to an 8.10 ERA. Veras blew two saves and in his first six appearances with a 15.88 ERA. He walked 11 and fanned 13 in 13.1 innings, pitching to an ugly 1.73 WHIP. Veras was released June 10.
For much of the season, if you asked anyone to name three hitters in the Cubs' everyday lineup, they'd name first baseman Anthony RIzzo, shortstop Starlin Castro, and that's it. Chicago's lineup was two solid hitters and several journeymen, some would have been more suited for Class-AAA Iowa, for much of the season. Some, like Chris Coghlan, have caught on, others, like Nate Schierholtz, didn't. It was mostly a AAA lineup for an MLB team.
Chicago's hitters strikeout 8.88 times per game. Or, to put that in perspective, you could go through the entire batting order once, give everyone a strikeout, and it'd be statistically accurate. You can't win like that. The Cubs are on pace for 1,439 whiffs in 2014, which would be 90 short of Arizona's NL record, set in 2010. Junior Lake & Mike Olt, both since sent to Iowa, combined to strikeout 186 times in 517 plate appearances, nearly 36%.
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