It’s safe to say that the Chicago Cubs are playing well below their potential. After Joe Maddon’s tenure in Chicago opened with seasons of 97 and 103 wins in 2015 and 2016, the Cubs sit at 32-32 in 2017.
“I think the bats are here, I honestly do,” Maddon said, per Wittenmyer, “We have not performed at our level yet offensively, but I believe our bats are here. With good health and everybody being able to participate, there’s enough offense out there.”
Maddon was also asked about the pitching and had a similar tone, saying “I’m not hoping for anything.”
Logically, Maddon is right.
While not identical, the group that the Cubs have in 2017 is quite similar to the one that won the World Series in 2016. Certainly, some players get old or simply have bad years. But Chicago’s roster is still as talented as any baseball has to offer. The Cubs shouldn’t need to make trades to win a very underwhelming National League Central.
But World Series hangovers are a real thing. Remember, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, but failed to even make the playoffs in 2011, 2013 and 2015. The Boston Red Sox won it all in 2013, but finished in last place in the American League East in both 2014 and 2015. The Kansas City Royals followed up a World Series win in 2015 with a .500 finish in 2016 and well out of playoff contention.
Playing into late October (or even early November) does wear players out. All of the offseason attention that players get after winning a World Series does the same thing. And more than any champion in recent memory, the Cubs got plenty of attention after winning the World Series.
So, Maddon is right. It’s not something that can be fixed with a trade. It’s going to come down to Chicago’s nucleus getting out of the funk its in and playing to its full ability.
If that happens, the Cubs shouldn’t have any problem winning the National League Central. Despite the troubles, Chicago is only one game back. If it can’t happen, then the Cubs are likely in for a real fight with lesser talented teams to even return to the playoffs. And if this team doesn’t begin to play more consistent, don’t bet on a long run when and if it does qualify for the postseason.