Before I get to the list of concerns, let me say we are still only 3 games back of the Reds and we won 3 out of 4; which if we continue at this pace, would be exceptional in any league.
However, it is almost impossible to have the expectations and comfort level that we had at the All Star Break. Here is a list of reasons why.
1. James MacDonald has regressed. Seriously regressed. His demeanor screams "help, I have no idea what is happening." He was a big half of the tandem that made our pitching staff look like that of a playoff bound team. Without him, I do not think we have that look.
2. The Hammer is missing or bending too many nails. (OK, the metaphor stinks.) But the truth is we have had to hold our breath and worry like all get out the last few times; and, with good reason. Bouncing the ball in front of the plate is not what you expect of your closer. With a three run lead our closer should be throwing strike after strike. He is hard to hit. Walks are not acceptable.
3. McGehee has been awful. He was a key part of the last 40 or so game run, but, like so many of his teammates, has been AWOL.
4. I really like Presley. And at times he shows flashes of a bat, but we need much more consistent production from a corner outfielder.
5. Marte may yet become a consistent hitter in our line-up, but right now, in tandem with Presley, we are weak in key situations at the top of the order.
6. Kevin C was a disaster today. His trade value went way down. Now we have a 6th starter in the bull pen.
7. Here is one that is really hard to say: Cutch has been carrying this team. Oh, all the pieces were contributing, and the Fort and Jones and especially Walker have been fantastic, but without Cutch we are a much weaker team. Even though the average is right up there, the HR and RBi production has become flatlined. If we are to win a division title, Cutch will have to have about as good a second half as his first half of this season, which was great and MVP caliber. Right now he looks like he is headed for a normal, good but not great finish. (Yet the Reds are winning without their MVP candidate. Another concern!)
8. Barmes is still not hitting and is a drag on the offense. We keep hearing that he is a second half player, but how long can you wait?
9. Alvarez has also gone into a power slump. Our power is being mostly generated by our catchers (Fort is unreal), Walker and Jones.
Now don't get me wrong. I have not given up on this team. I watch them on ROOT every game. And I certainly hope that they are in a mild slump and Wrigley will cure the cold. But, I believe there are many legitimate causes for concern here.