Rozner: Chicago Cubs won't go anywhere if they don't improve pitching, defense

At least for a day, the hysteria over the Cubs’ offense dissipated.

That’s what happens when a team produces 14 runs on 15 hits and 5 walks against the Marlins’ Jarlin Garcia, who entered Monday night leading the majors in ERA.

But it misses the point.

The Cubs are going to hit. There’s little doubt about that. Whether it’s this week or next, this month or next, the Cubs will eventually hit and their offense will look like what you thought it would be going into the season.

And still, it won’t matter if they don’t get better starting pitching and solid defense, which has been a big problem this year.

Lost in Monday’s barrage was that Kyle Hendricks was superb and the defense played well.

That hasn’t happened often enough in 2018.

The Cubs went into the week 20th in baseball in quality starts, which is bad, but when you add in poor defense — let’s call it a quality start plus a clean game — they were bottom five in all of MLB.

They were also bottom five in unearned runs allowed and bottom five in walks issued.

So you can talk all you want about the offense, but offense comes and goes. Teams get hot as a lineup and they get cold as a lineup. It’s normal during the course of a baseball season.

What you can control is how you pitch the baseball and how you catch the baseball. If you do those two things well, you will win a lot of games and you have a chance to go deep into the postseason.

The Cubs have been bad at both through the first fifth of the season and it’s kind of impressive that they’ve won as many games as they have considering how poorly they’ve played to this point.

That’s a positive, assuming they begin to pitch well and play better defense.

The Cubs have invested a lot of money in their rotation in dollars (Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Tyler Chatwood) or prospects traded (Jose Quintana), but only Hendricks has held up his end so far with 5 quality starts in 7 appearances, while Lester is 3-for-7, Quintana 2-for-6 and Darvish 2-for-6.

Chatwood is 3-for-6, but has walked 27 in 32 innings, has a WHIP of 1.53 and even in his 3 quality starts has walked 14 in 19 innings.

It’s not about the offense, though it’s always more exciting to talk about the hitting, which Theo Epstein addressed Monday.

“I think every reasonable look at it … you remind yourself these guys are going to come out of it,” Epstein said. “Anthony Rizzo is going to be Anthony Rizzo again and Willson Contreras is going to be Willson Contreras. We’re due for some positive regression at some point.

“We’re last in the league (offensively) in walks. That’s not going to last. We’re not going to lead the league in soft contact. We’re not going to be standard deviations worse than other teams with runners in scoring position.

“That’s not going to last.”

It doesn’t mean Epstein has enjoyed the first 30-plus games any more than you have.

“It was easy to look at the World Series hangover thing last year. There’s no cute name for this. It’s not pretty,” Epstein said. “We know our fans are probably really frustrated, but our guys care a lot.

“They’re pressing, but we know it’s not going to last forever, and you just have to keep grinding your way through it. There’s no easy answer.”

The offense will get it going and hit consistently at some point here soon, but it’s hard to score enough to overcome bad starting pitching and poor defense.

If you really want something to worry about, start with that.

• Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score’s “Hit and Run” show at WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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Source: Sports

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