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It turns out the NL Central isn't as strong as advertised. The mediocre Cubs are still atop it, after all, tied with the Brewers for first place with a 45-39 record, the worst mark among all division leaders.
With the loss to the Reds on Sunday, the Cubs have now dropped five consecutive road series'. The loss also left them under .500 for the month of June, their first month with a losing record since May 2017.
After that game, the team seemed to push back against the notion that this is their new normal. But at some point, you have to come to grips with the fact that maybe you aren't as good as you think you are.
The rest of the division, having just finished a stretch of uniformly stinking against non-divisional foes, isn't very good either. And the Cubs sure as hell aren't close to as good as the Dodgers, and at this point that is the only measuring stick that matters.
As the calendar turns to July, and trading season opens in earnest, especially given that there is no longer an August waiver period, the Cubs have 31 days to fix their roster.
How? Trade Kyle Schwarber and move Willson Contreras to left field.
Schwarber had a big day at the plate Sunday, going 3-for-5 with a two-run homer and two singles, but his overall offensive numbers still just don't cut it - not for a guy who was once proclaimed to be the next Babe Ruth.
His on-base percentage is just .320 and he ain't even slugging .500 (he is at .475, well behind the Cubs' four elite hitters). These numbers are obviously not good enough for a spot in the top four lines in a lineup.
It is past time to move him down in the lineup - and sit him down against lefties, period.
He's also a liability in the field. Just when you think he's good enough to not actively undermine the team's chances to win a given game, he makes a fool of himself out there. On Sunday, he put on quite a clinic on how not to play left field, including dropping a routine fly ball off the bat of Joey Votto.
It's beyond time to trade him to the American League, where he can fulfill his destiny as a designated hitter. Maybe an American League team will become overly enamored with power numbers - he has 18 homers! - that are pretty good even in a league in which the round-tripper has been dramatically devalued this year.
The Cubs also continue to pay the price for Willson Contreras's incredibly bad defense. It's as though he begins every day by studying his offensive numbers (which are quite impressive - no doubt about that) and then says to himself, eh, I don't have to work on my pitch framing and blocking today.
Early in Sunday's game, Jon Lester threw Reds stud third baseman Eugenio Suarez one, two, three fastballs just below the knees. All were called balls. Any one of them might have turned into a strike if an expert pitch framer had been able to turn his glove down to catch one rather than moving his glove down out of the strike zone and trying to move the ball up after it is caught. The latter is Contreras's modus operandi, every time.
Sure enough, that led to a full count with a couple men on base (one thanks to Schwarber's dropped fly ball). Lester moved his next fastball up and into Suarez's sweet spot. And the Red third-bagger hit the ball 457 feet out to dead center - the longest dinger of his career. The Cubs never recovered despite scoring six runs in the final three innings.
And then at the end of the game, the Reds were openly stealing bases on the first pitch every time against young lefty reliever Kyle Ryan. Ryan didn't do a good job holding runners on but Contreras didn't seem to care about any of it - a stolen base that put the base-runner in position to score one of the Reds' add-on runs didn't even draw a throw from the catcher.
The solution is obvious and solves two problems in one move. Send Schwarber to the AL and give Contreras ample time in left field to keep his bat in the lineup. Time to make the change.
Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.
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Posted on Jul 15, 2019