COMMENTARY | A 7-14 start, good for last place in the National League Central, is not exactly what Chicago Cubs fans had hoped for. Holes are everywhere you look, all over the field -- offensively, defensively, and, yes, pitching, too.
What's particularly concerning is that steady play isn't even necessarily coming from the players that were expected to excel. Take first baseman Anthony Rizzo, for example.
The 6-3, 240-pound product has hit six home runs, but that number doesn't do enough to diminish his .173 batting average. Thursday's effort against the Miami Marlins typified his season so far: 0-for-4 at the plate with three strikeouts.
Rizzo's slow start comes after a surprising second season in the major leagues in which he hit .285. As I've written, though, professional-baseball success in one season doesn't always translate into success in the next season, a reality from which Rizzo is not exempt.
One has to wonder if Rizzo came into the season fatigued or unfocused after missing part of spring training for the World Baseball Classic. He played well in that tournament, helping Italy to win two of its games.
In the five games Italy played, Rizzo led his team in walks while also producing an impressive on-base percentage of .409 and posting six RBIs. Like now, though, his batting average wasn't anything to write home about, which makes me wonder if his efforts to hit for more power are affecting his average.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum has not been shy about criticizing Rizzo, even to the extent of suggesting that he--and Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro--is not beyond the realm of being demoted to the Cubs' Triple A team in Iowa.
"If people keep playing like that, you have to find options," Sveum told the Chicago Tribune. "Give people playing time at Triple A to figure this stuff out."
Sveum may prove to have more bark than bite when it comes to Rizzo, but he also sounds like someone worried about his own performance and job security. His team already has eight losses by two runs or less.
Rizzo, Castro, and Sveum are not alone in their struggles, of course.
As a team, the Cubs currently possess the underwhelming 28th best batting average, 29th best on-base percentage, and 27th highest run total in Major League Baseball. The underachievement has been been contagious, and all those numbers are under the leadership of a president of baseball operations with Moneyball origins.
Chris Schumerth is a freelance writer who grew up in Northern Indiana following the Cubs. You can follow him on Twitter @schumes22.
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- Anthony Rizzo
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- National League Central