Cubs' brimming potential brought a disturbing strikeout trend in 2014

MILWAUKEE -- Unless the Houston Astros set a record for strikeouts in a single game on Sunday -- they’re 29 behind -- the Chicago Cubs will finish the season with the most K's in baseball.

If you think it's unfair to compare the Cubs to an American League team, given that the pitcher doesn't bat in the AL, the Cubs are even further ahead of the next National League team, the Miami Marlins, whom they lead by 56 strikeouts.

The strikeout total is one of the big narratives for the Cubs offense this season, after it struck out 16 more times in a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. Milwaukee starter Wily Peralta set a career high before even reaching the sixth inning.

"We're going to attack a lot of different aspects of the offensive game to help us improve," manager Rick Renteria said of his plans for the team next spring. "The emphasis is going to be simply playing the game."

In other words, playing the game that is needed at the time. We know the Cubs will hit home runs, but when the tying run is at third base with fewer than two outs -- as it was in the seventh inning Saturday -- some small ball is in order. Any kind of contact would have been nice in that situation, but Ryan Kalish whiffed, as did pinch hitter Logan Watkins. It's happened too many times this season.

"You can have a really good offense, but sometimes, they don't click on all eight cylinders, so you've got to play the game," Renteria said.

Truer words could not have been spoken. The Cubs have six players who have struck out 100 or more times and two more who passed 90. And some of the big strikeout guys haven't even been here a whole season. Right now, the Cubs are setting themselves up for a lot of all-or-nothing games in 2015. There will be plenty of days on which things click, but with good pitching making a resurgence around the league, a more dynamic offense will be needed. They don't need a complete overhaul, just some tweaking.

"Playing the little game," Renteria said. "Those are going to be things we will emphasize."

It won’t get any easier Sunday. Hard thrower Mike Fiers starts the season finale for Milwaukee. He struck out 14 Cubs in a start the past month.