Jake Arrieta gave up 6 earned runs last night, the most he's given up in a game since 2014.  That's a lot of runs to give up in one game.  Arrieta only gave up 6 earned runs total in a span of 15 regular season stats, stretching from the middle of August last year into May this year.  Giving up runs isn't such a foreign concept to Jake Arrieta anymore, though.  He's given up 15 in his last three starts.  Despite his best efforts, his accustomed efficacy isn't there.  This is his nadir -- hopefully.  Frustrations certainly are at an all-time high.

This is happening at an inopportune time, as well.  The Cubs are in a death spiral, losing 8 of their last 9, and 14 of their last 19.  When we need our stopper the most, he can't seem to stop the bleeding.  If anything, he's exacerbated it.  Jake knows that.  He's an intense competitor.  There is no one hurting more than him.  Getting out of this rut must seem like a Sisyphean task.  If this all sounds too depressing, then I have good news for you:  Last night wasn't so bad for Jake.  He did get shelled, but he got shelled... differently.  More importantly, he changed his approach in order to correct some issues he's been having.

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A little past the halfway mark of the season, the Cubs have very few areas of real concern. The offense is one of the very best in baseball. The starting pitching has been healthy and extraordinary (with a few bumps in the road lately). The biggest concern throughout the first half has been with the bullpen. Rondon and Strop have both been very good, but getting the ball to them has been a big challenge. 

In 2015, there was a third reliever in the pen that posted fantastic results - Justin Grimm. But 2016 has been something of a nightmare for Grimm (or for the fans when he pitches). While he has been better than his 5.79 ERA would suggest, he has still been pretty bad. The 4.42 FIP and 4.12 xFIP both point to a reliever that cannot be relied upon in close games.

So is there any hope that Grimm returns to his 2015 level of performance? Let's take a look at some charts!

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This is a question I've heard asked a lot over the past few days. The first question to ask: is the offense really struggling?

I'm going to look at the splits by month to see how much the offense has really tanked during June when compared to the glory days of the first couple months when the Cubs were running roughshod over the rest of baseball.




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I've been holding off on writing this article.  There have been some signs that something's off with Jake Arrieta.  I figured he would suddenly snap out of his funk, unfurl a complete game shutout and make me look silly in the process.  And he still might do just that.  But, I can't keep sitting idly by.  Something's wrong with Jake.  I don't mean to be alarming, but this just isn't right.  I have to write about this, much to my own chagrin.

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You might have heard that Kris Bryant had a pretty good game last night.  He became the first player in baseball history to hit three home runs and two doubles in the same game.  His 16 total bases are the most ever by a Chicago Cub in a single game.  He became the youngest Cub to hit three home runs in one game.  He pretty much single-handedly willed the Cubs to victory.  He did so while playing three different positions during the game.

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As we all know, Addison Russell is an exciting young shortstop for the Chicago Cubs. At only 22 years of age, he is already a key component to the best team in baseball. Dating back to his days as a prospect, he has often been compared to Barry Larkin.

So why does he suck against left handed pitching? As evidence look at this chart from 2016:

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Willson Contreras has taken MLB by storm. It would be fair to say that if he could keep up the hitting pace of his first seven games (.412/.474/.941) that he would be the greatest player in the history of baseball. That won't happen, of course, but there are reasons to believe that Willson Contreras might just as good as any of the young studs the Cubs have assembled.

It goes beyond his short stint in MLB, of course. Let's begin with his performance for the past 1.5 years in minor league ball. Willson had his breakthrough year at AA in 2015, going .333/.413/.478 at the plate. More importantly, he showed tremendous plate discipline and contact skills with 10.9 BB % and 11.9 SO %. If you added in HBP, he got on base with free (and painful) passes more frequently than he struck out across 521 PA. He continued that excellence into the Arizona Fall League (where many of baseball's best prospects play when the regular minor league season concludes) with a .283/.361/.547 line and 11.5 BB % / 14.8 SO % peripherals. 

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