Things go from bad to worse for Kris Bryant


For the past two seasons, the Cubs have been in at least the Top 5 in runs scored as a team, but with six games remaining this year, they're down to 10th in baseball. Not a precipitous drop, but at least some of that can be attributed to the sizable chunk of the season that Kris Bryant has missed to injury.

The shoulder inflammation that initially put him on the disabled list in late June marked the first time in his career that Bryant has had to miss time with an injury. He returned in July for a couple weeks but found himself back on the DL and was absent for most of August with the same injury. Even in his return, the third baseman is still struggling to find himself at the plate.

To make matters worse, he left Tuesday's game in the sixth inning with a left wrist contusion after being hit by a Chris Archer pitch in his fourth-inning at-bat.

X-rays were negative for any broken bones, but Joe Maddon said the Cubs will probably be without their star for at least Wednesday's game and Bryant's staus for the final four days of the season after that is currently unknown as the race for October heats up.

"I was talking to KB today about that," Maddon said Monday. "Because of course he has not been swinging the bat like he's capable of, but my biggest point was, 'Listen, stop worrying about all the crap. Just worry about that at-bat, that pitch and do something to help us win tonight.'"

Bryant has just one home run since returning from the disabled list at the end of August, and that was a week ago. While Bryant is not able to supply the kind of power that is his norm, Maddon stressed that he can still contribute. 

"This is a 5-tool player. It's just not about hits every night. He can run the bases, he has a great arm, he plays multiple positions - there's so many other ways he can help us win the game," Maddon said.

But at a time when the offense can not afford to go flat for days in a stretch, the Cubs need more from Bryant than defensive flexibility and good baserunning. With less than a week remaining in the season, Bryant is hitting close to 20 points below his average from 2016 and 2017, and his power has dropped as well. In his MVP year of 2016, Bryant's slugging percentage was .554, and this year it's .460.

Because of this, Maddon has had to use Bryant differently in his return than he has in the past. On Monday and Tuesday, Bryant was in the sixth spot in the order, marking a first for him. Typically, Bryant is best employed in the two hole, where he has hit .301 in his career. When he can hit in this spot, Maddon can lean on the tandem of Bryant and Anthony Rizzo at second and third in the order to drive the production of the offense. 

This changes the structure of the entire lineup, and to some extent, the rest of the bats are impacted negatively when Bryant isn't his usual self.

"You know what he’s capable of, let’s put it that way. We just haven’t seen that on a consistent basis," Maddon said Tuesday. "We could definitely use him, there’s no doubt about it. We could use what we’ve seen over the last couple years more consistently would make a huge difference in what we’re doing right now."

The hard part is, time is the enemy. It would take an epic collapse in the next six days for the Cubs to miss the postseason, wildcard or division title, but once they reach October, a quiet offense can sink the team's chances quickly. However things look when they get to the playoffs, the Cubs cannot afford to not have Bryant looking as close to his old self as possible. 

The trick will be trying to make that happen fast. 

"Just continue to support him, and listen to him, and talk to him and try to figure out how we can help him," Maddon said Tuesday, describing what the day-to-day process of managing his current state is like. "Just looking to get him as many at bats as possible to get the ball on the fat part of the bat more consistently."

Contact Us