Manager not concerned by defending champs' slow start
By Scott Chasen
CHICAGO -- Joe Maddon isn't fretting his team's slow start. It's just the opposite, actually.
With Saturday's game postponed due to weather, the Cubs' manager took advantage of the off-day. His schedule consisted of some rest and relaxation, even though the downpour didn't quite materialize in the way it was expected.
"Two naps, cleaning up the apartment, lunch, eventually dinner, more sleep," Maddon said of his Saturday schedule. "That's the beauty of weather forecasting, and around here, it's very difficult."
The Cubs entered Sunday's series finale against the Brewers at 21-20, three games back of first and a half-game back of second in the National League Central, well behind the pace of a team that won 103 games a season ago and raced out to a fiery 29-12 start through the same number of games to start the year.
Part of that change, Madden said, is due to the increased level of competition across baseball. He talked about the increased parity in the sport on Saturday, and he added to his comments before Sunday's series finale.
"I think there's an ascension of other teams, especially within our division right now," Maddon said. "And for the most part, we just haven't played up to our capabilities. That's probably the primary reason."
He isn't wrong about the second point.
While the Cubs do rank favorably in several stats, ranking in the top three in the NL in bullpen ERA (3.13), walks drawn (179) and strikeouts by pitchers (382), the Cubs entered Sunday ranking just 23rd in the Majors in batting average (.238) and 15th in on-base percentage (.327), while posting the ninth-most strikeouts (361) of any team.
The Cubs do rank in the top 10 in overall ERA (3.92), but Maddon said he'd still like to see things improve across the board.
"If you look at it to this point we just haven't hit. We haven't had ... even one hot hitter for an extended period of time. We haven't pitched to our [capabilities]," Maddon said. "We just haven't played our game yet."
But Maddon was quick to note there may be a silver lining.
Drawing on inspiration from his first year with the Cubs, when the team was just seven games over .500 at the All-Star break, and last year, when the Cubs cooled off after the blistering hot start, Maddon said the slow beginning to this season may not be the worst thing in the world given where things stand across the league.
"From my perspective, the fact that we're in such good position without playing a real game yet," Maddon said, "I kind of like that."
Scott Chasen is a reporter with MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.