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SportsMonday: Mired In Mediocrity

Mired in mediocrity.

That is all the Cubs have been this season. The last month has been about streaks forward and backward, but it all adds up to average (31-31). And it is becoming ever more apparent that this is most likely who the 2017 Cubs are.

The team has had better than average pitching and equally less than average hitting. The defense has been disappointing, but better of late. It has been a struggle against good teams.

Strangely enough, Exhibit A are the surging Colorado Rockies, who just took three of four from the Cubs at Wrigley despite the home team's 7-5 victory Sunday. Colorado, coached by a manager, Bud Black, who has now had success at multiple stops in the big leagues, has the National League's best record at 41-24.

This is the first time in a long time the Rockies have been this competitive this far into the season. They also find themselves in baseball's toughest division, with the Dodgers 1 1/2 games back and the Diamondbacks trailing by 2. It is starting to look a lot like the NL Central in 2015, when the Cardinals won it and the Cubs and Pirates made it into the playoffs as high-achieving wildcards.

The biggest factor arguing against any sort of major Cubs surge in the near future? injuries have started to crop up: Kyle Hendricks is on the 10-day disabled list and Jake Arrieta might be fixing to join him after a cut on his pitching thumb forced him out of Sunday's game early.

Both injuries appear to be minor but these are just the sorts of disruptions that never happened to the Cubs last season. And the jury is still way out on fifth starter Eddie Butler. He has looked good at times during his six starts for the Cubs but he is just like his team - mediocre. The record is 3-2 and the ERA is 4.03. Butler has struck out 21 and walked 15. He suffered the loss in the Cubs' 9-1 setback against the Rockies on Saturday.

And for a team with plenty of smart, young players, the Cubs' offense is remarkably limited. I understand that we are in the "Three True Outcomes" Era, which is all about walks, strikeouts and home runs, but this is ridiculous.

On Sunday, the Cubs had used a Ben Zobrist three-run home run to take an early 4-0 lead and appeared poised to really start to stretch out their advantage in the fourth, when Miguel Montero launched a lead-off double and Addison Russell singled him to third. The bottom of the order was coming up but at least someone would hit a ground ball or a fly ball to score the run from third?

Nope. Arrieta struck out looking, Jon Jay did the same and Kris Bryant capped it of by . . . striking out swinging. Bryant had appeared to get a big break when his catchable foul tip on the second-to-last pitch slipped out of Rockies catcher Tony Wolters' glove. But Bryant couldn't take advantage of the reprieve.

Somehow innings like this seem to make an opposing comeback inevitable and sure enough, the Rockies soon pulled even at four. Fortunately the Cubs still had several more homers in them, with Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Montero going deep to build the lead back up.

The next stretch of schedule is road-heavy, but at least it doesn't feature any games against the powers in the West. Three games in the next three days at the Mets are followed by a three-game trip to Pittsburgh over the weekend. A three-game set at home with the Padres is followed by more road games against the Marlins and NL East-leading (by a lot) Nationals.

The Cubs will be fortunate to make it through that stretch at the same break-even point at which they start it.


Jim "Coach" Coffman welcomes your comments.

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