Last season, it took the Cubs 31 games to lose their 6th game of the season.
In 2017, it took 12 games.
A 19 game swing even early in the season is a huge red flag.
There is probably a huge championship hangover, with all the celebrations and
spring press expectations for a repeat.
The players off-seasons were probably quite different than seasons past in having to deal with the celebrity interaction with fans about the championship.
The Cubs were only swept once last season. The Pirates took that honor over the weekend when the Cubs re-tooled bullpen blew up.
Most people believe the Cubs will be fine. The Reds are not sustainable in first place in the NL Central. The Cardinals are in panic mode after dropping to dead last without a pulse. The early season is not a prediction of October. But, every game counts the same in the end. The Cubs are only on pace to win 81 games, which would be a huge nuclear meltdown if it would occur.
There was no drama, no real competition in spring training. It was a quiet, professional work out. The pundits believed that it would take 5 appearances before the pitchers would get into their groove.
The concern about new closer Davis was wrong. He is off to a good start; 1-0, 6 G, 2 SV, 0.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP.
It is the middle of the bullpen that has been surprisingly bad.
Grimm: 6 G, 9.53 ERA, 1.59 WHIP
Strop: 6 G, 0-1, 9.00 ERA , 2.00 WHIP
Uehara: 7 G, 3.18 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
Montgomery, 0-2, 4 G, 3.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP
The WHIP numbers indicate control issues which have led to half of the team's current losses.
It looks like the back end of the pen is set with Davis at closer, and Edwards and Rondon as 8th inning set up men. But since Maddon does not want to overtax his starters early in the season, long relievers like Montgomery and Grimm have to step it up. The bridge to the back end of the pen is broken.
What will cure a weak middle bullpen? An explosive offense.
The Cubs team batting average of .240 ranks 7th of 15 in the NL.
The Cubs 47 runs scored is 11th in the NL.
The Cubs 9 HR is last in the NL.
The Cubs OBP of .366 is 3rd in the NL.
The Cubs can get on base, but cannot get timely hitting to score adequate runs.
The tipping point will be May 1. That is when you will really know if your team is a contender or a pretender.