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BALL FIVE: Cubs are missing the Brizzo effect

As the halfway point nears in Major League Baseball, my Chicago Cubs have not been the team I anticipated they would be this year. It’s not that they have been bad, it’s just that they have not been the dominant team it seemed like they were going to be.
Seventy-seven games in, the Cubs are nine games over .500 at 43-34, but they broke a five-game losing streak last night. Over the weekend they were swept in a four-game series in Cincinnati by the last place Reds. That hadn’t happened since 1983.
Trying to figure out where the Cubs have to improve is a bit of an enigma. The pitching staff, although beset with injury and certain players struggling, is ranked third in the majors. Hitting, the Cubs are ranked eighth and lead the NL in run differential. Defensively, they are middle of the road as far as errors, but are one of the best teams at run prevention because of good plays.
The stats add up to a team that should not be 2.5 games behind the Brewers for first place. They are, however leading the NL wild card standings, a game-and-a-half ahead of the Cardinals and Dodgers.
Here’s the thing. The last three years they have been led by a duo that has been dubbed Brizzo. The combo of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo has not been what it has been in the past. Sure, they have some pretty good numbers. But what they are not doing is leading their team in the way they have the last couple of years. What I mean is, in the past they have been so confident and so productive that the rest of the team just knew their team was going to win almost every night. Now, Bryant is on the DL with a shoulder injury that happened about a month ago. That might explain his lack of power this year. Bryant has just nine home runs. Rizzo is producing at times with a dozen home runs and 50 RBIs, but is hitting just .233.
It has been Javey Baez who has been the team’s MVP this year. The young second basemen is coming into his own. Baez leads the team with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs. His grand slam, as part of a four-for-five, two home run, five RBI night, in Los Angeles last night broke a five-game losing streak. As the hitting gets better, Baez is becoming one of the best players in all of baseball. Plus, Jason Heyward looks like the player he was before he injured his wrist two summers ago and a slimmed down Kyle Schwarber is looking better and better after suffering that nasty knee injury in 2016.
But, the Cubs can’t be the Cubs without Brizzo.
The unofficial midway point of the season comes at the All-Star Game break the second week of July. Bryant should be healthy by then. Rizzo might not even be an all-star this year, so he can get some well-deserved rest.
If Brizzo is back after that, the Cubs will start soaring again. Maybe even to another World Series.