Jed Hoyer’s state of the Cubs amid tough losing streak
There are a lot of questions surrounding the Cubs right now.
How does this team climb over the hurdle after a 10-game losing streak? How long until we see that next great Cubs team? Who will be traded at the deadline?
“Everyone has questions,” Jed Hoyer said as he met with the media for more than 30 minutes Thursday morning. “I have questions. [David] Ross has questions. You would not be paying attention or not doing your job if you’re not asking questions on why we’re struggling in certain areas.
“Some of it, I think is obvious. And some of it is more nuanced. But I think everyone’s asking questions. And they should be asking questions.”
The answers aren’t quite as simple.
Hoyer refused to use injuries as an excuse for the Cubs’ performance as they will wake up Friday morning with a 23-40 record. Thursday’s 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Padres marked the Cubs’ longest losing streak since a 12-game stretch from Aug. 5-16 last season.
Make no mistake: Injuries are certainly a part of the narrative for why the Cubs are tied for last place in the NL Central. The starting rotation currently has a pair of rookies taking the mound every fifth day (Matt Swarmer, Caleb Kilian) while a trio of veterans are on the IL (Marcus Stroman, Wade Miley, Drew Smyly). Swarmer wasn’t able to make it out of the 4th inning Thursday, allowing 4 runs and 5 walks.
The top offseason addition to the position player group (Seiya Suzuki) is still out with a finger injury and will have missed roughly a month by the time he returns. Nick Madrigal is supposed to be the second baseman of the future but he is back on the IL for the second time this season.
“Of course [injuries are] having an impact on how we’re playing but you can’t use that as an excuse,” Hoyer said. “Everyone’s dealing with it. You have to focus on your depth.”
Hoyer actually was pleased with the way his team was playing up until last Saturday in New York. He liked the way the Cubs were grinding and felt like the team was in just about every game, even if the results weren’t there in the win column.
Things have obviously not gone as smoothly since Saturday. A big reason for that is the struggles of the bullpen.
Through Friday, the Cubs ranked 13th in baseball with a 3.80 bullpen ERA (a mark that was actually tops in the division). In the 4-game stretch from Sunday through Wednesday, Cubs relievers gave up 37 runs in 17.1 innings (not including the pair of Frank Schwindel appearances on the mound).
In the midst of the losing skid, Hoyer has tried to keep a big picture view on the state of his team.
“This is a frustrating moment in time,” he said. “What we’ve seen since Saturday, obviously that’s been a real struggle and really frustrating. Our bullpen that was really good has really struggled and we haven’t been able to prevent any runs.
“But trying to remember that prior to that, I do feel like we were battling and I do think that was progress.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Cubs Friday as the Braves come into town. The defending champions are the hottest team in baseball, riding a 14-game winning streak into Wrigley Field.
The Cubs draw the Pirates and Reds later this month but the rest of the first half schedule also includes teams vying for playoff spots (Cardinals, Red Sox, Brewers, Dodgers, Mets).
The Cubs entered 2022 with an eye on competing while also building for the future. Even before the 10-game losing streak, Hoyer acknowledged that plan was not coming to fruition for this season.
“I’m not sugar-coating anything,” he said. “There’s been real frustrations that even when we were competing and playing well, we weren’t winning games. We were losing 1-run games.
“A lot of that — up until [Saturday] — was we just weren’t scoring enough. Our offense hadn’t clicked the way we had hoped. Looking at our run-scoring compared to where we are in batting average and on-base and things, we’ve been really inefficient in not scoring runs. Some of that’s situational.
“But yeah, we haven’t been able to pull out those games. So I don’t deny from a record standpoint — even before this stretch — we weren’t where we want to be.”
Hoyer doesn’t believe this current skid will change the timeline on when we might see that next great Cubs team.
“Trying to pretend that this current 9-game period has somehow changed that [timeline], I think it’d be the wrong thing,” Hoyer said. “I know what I have a vision to build. I know what we built last time. And I have all the confidence in the world that we’re going to get there.
“But also, I’m aware that sometimes things speed up and sometimes things slow down and I am not smart enough to know which of those is going to happen. But I have the ultimate confidence we’re gonna be successful, just like I knew that same thing last time.
“It doesn’t make it any easier day-to-day. It doesn’t. But I have all the confidence in the world about the quality of the team that we’ll build.”
Check out Hoyer’s entire press conference here: