I have to confess, I was pessimistic on Ian Happ entering this season.  At the time he was drafted I liked the pick, I'm a big fan of polished bats in the first round, and who could argue the Front Office's process after the immediate success of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.  Still, Happ underwhelmed me in his first exposure to pro ball.  You hope for better than a .348 wOBA and 23.6% K% from your Top 10 college bat in Low A.  Especially one like Happ who has questions about his future position and if he'll provide any defensive value. Visions of Eric Patterson danced in my head.  With that in mind I didn't consider Happ in the top tier of Cubs prospects, and slotted him #9 when I put together a list to start the year.

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With 22 days remaining until the deadline, trades are beginning to happen around major league baseball. Yesterday, the Red Sox made a move for reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona to bolster their pen in the wake of the injury to closer Craig Kimbrel. This series of articles is going to look at the Cubs to see what pieces could help the team and then look at the American and National League teams to see what pieces are out there that would fit those needs.

Coming into play today, the Cubs still maintain a large eight game lead in the division and are one game back for home field advantage for the NL playoffs. The offense has scored the second most runs in baseball and the pitching staff has allowed the fewest runs. Breaking that down a bit further, the starters have easily allowed the fewest runs in baseball, but the bullpen comes in 12th in preventing runs. So, at a high level, the pen would be the first area that needs some reinforcements. But we can take a deeper look than that.

In the first article, I looked at the position players to see what was needed there

This time we will take a look at the pitching and we'll find there are a lot more needs to address.

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With 22 days remaining until the deadline, trades are beginning to happen around major league baseball. Yesterday, the Red Sox made a move for reliever Brad Ziegler from Arizona to bolster their pen in the wake of the injury to closer Craig Kimbrel. This series of articles is going to look at the Cubs to see what pieces could help the team and then look at the American and National League teams to see what pieces are out there that would fit those needs.

Coming into play today, the Cubs still maintain a large eight game lead in the division and are one game back for home field advantage for the NL playoffs. The offense has scored the second most runs in baseball and the pitching staff has allowed the fewest runs. Breaking that down a bit further, the starters have easily allowed the fewest runs in baseball, but the bullpen comes in 12th in preventing runs. So, at a high level, the pen would be the first area that needs some reinforcements. But we can take a deeper look than that.

Starting with the offense, let's go position by position. We'll see how the position ranks by both WAR and by wOBA.

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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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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.

April:

May:

June:

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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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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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