‘You try to be patient’: Jed Hoyer isn’t panicking about Cubs offense just yet

MILWAUKEE — As Jed Hoyer took a seat in the visitor’s dugout at American Family Field on Tuesday evening, he had to know what the gathered media would be asking about. He’s not blind, after all. He’s seen how the Cubs offense has performed over the last 30 days.

“No one has been hot,” Hoyer said. “Ultimately, that’s a very unusual thing. Normally, you have a few guys who are hot, a few guys who are cold and a few guys in the middle. Right now, there’s no one carrying the load. That really has an impact. All these guys that have really long track records of success, I think they’ll get back to where they have been and that’ll allow us to start scoring runs again.”

It was more of the same for much of Tuesday’s game for the Cubs offense. Through nine innings, the bats had just four hits and one run — a booming solo home run from Michael Busch in the third. But yet again, the starting pitcher for the Cubs was dominant. This time it was Ben Brown, who tossed seven no-hit innings while striking out 10 and walking two before being lifted after tossing a career-high 93 pitches.

The offense did finally arrive, something that just hasn’t happened often enough over the last month of baseball. A five-run, five-hit 10th inning allowed the Cubs to snap their five-game losing streak as they topped the Brewers 6-3 to climb back over .500 (28-27).

But one game — one inning, really — won’t alleviate the very real concerns the Cubs face with their offense. Hoyer is right, nobody is hot. Entering Tuesday, over the last 30 games, the Cubs had just one player with a wRC+ over 120, Cody Bellinger. And he’s only at 122 during that stretch. Solid, but hardly scorching.

When Hoyer points out the track records of his players, he makes a valid point. Dansby Swanson currently has a 77 wRC+. Over his previous four seasons, Swanson had a 108 wRC+. Ian Happ takes a lot of heat from fans who expect more, but his 102 wRC+ would be the worst of his career, down significantly from the 119 he’s posted over the last two years.

Christopher Morel’s 95 wRC+ feels incredibly low considering his peripherals and quality of contact. He posted a 108 and 119 wRC+, respectively, in his first two big-league seasons. And he looks like a better player this year. Seiya Suzuki entered the year with a career 122 wRC+ and is at an even 100 for the season.

It’s one thing for a few players to have down years or go through rough stretches. But all of them at once creates a situation that both makes it tough to watch and tough to believe that it will last.

“We had a really good offense last year,” Hoyer said. “We’re struggling this year with the same guys. I think we’ll hit. I don’t know what else to think of it. Obviously, we’ve asked as many questions as we can. The hard part is there’s no team meeting to snap your fingers and do it. You have to come out of these things. We don’t know when. But I’m very confident we’ll come out of this and we’ll start scoring runs. I do think there will be a cumulative exhale.”

Bellinger agreed that Tuesday’s big 10th felt like that release of tension the team has built up with the impotent offense over the last month. But few will believe it’s a trend until they do it again on Wednesday. Then tack on more strong performances over the coming weeks.

Some seem to think last season’s team wasn’t a strong offensive club. The reality is they were sixth in runs scored and on-base percentage and had a 104 wRC+, just a tick behind the Philadelphia Phillies and Baltimore Orioles who were at 105. That Cubs team had a weak May and June (91 wRC+), but was strong every other month and proved to have a very consistent scoring attack over the course of the season.

But when a front office and manager preach patience, it’s hard for fans to get on board. What they see is inaction in the face of a team crumbling. They want to see veterans benched, prospects called up and bold trades made in May. While Hoyer, Craig Counsell and others all search for answers, straying too far from the plan after a bad month of baseball early in the season is rarely the conclusion they’ll come to.

How is one to know when it’s time to make a drastic change?

“That’s what we talk about all the time,” Hoyer said. “It’s a very fair question and there’s no specific moment. You try to have a lot of conversations with a lot of people around you who have been around the game for a long time. What may be perceived to the outside as action may be perceived internally in a negative way. We try to figure that out.”

It’s not like these are foreign experiences for Hoyer and Counsell. Last year’s Cubs team was 10 games under .500 on June 8 and got to 11 games over on Sept. 11 before running out of gas.

Counsell’s Brewers team last year got off to an 18-9 start before a 16-25 run pushed them back to .500. They ended up with 92 wins and took their division by nine games. Those experiences, and many more in the decades of baseball these people have been a part of, make it patience is preached over panicking.

“You try to be patient,” Hoyer said. “You want to believe that track records will win out. But at the same time, there has to be a level of urgency as well. That’s a fine balance.”

If the struggling offense drags on deep into June, surely there will be changes made. But right now, the Cubs aren’t going to act in a desperate fashion. They need players like Swanson and Happ to get hot and Morel’s luck to change. A night like Tuesday is a nice step forward for Busch — who went 2-for-4 with a walk and a homer — as he tries to adjust to pitchers who are hammering him with more breaking balls.

No savior is coming from Iowa or some massive trade to swing at this point. Not yet. It’s those players along with Suzuki, Mike Tauchman and Nico Hoerner who will be relied upon to turn things around for this team. Hoyer and Counsell are betting that the players who have performed for years will figure it out once again.

“That’s what I tell myself when I drive up here,” Hoyer said.

(Photo of Michael Busch watching as his third-inning home run exits the park: Jeff Hanisch / USA Today)

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