Cubs showing signs of potential

Christopher Gibson, Courier Staff

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The Chicago Cubs, the 2016 World Series Champions, haven’t done a whole lot since they won it all three years ago. The best they’ve done is make it to the NLCS but lost. Coming into this season, the ball-club was projected to last in the NL Central with only 80 wins according to PECOTA. The team didn’t take that well and refused to accept the projection. Heading into the regular season, the team was fired up until that fire was quickly snuffed out.

The team got swept by the Atlanta Braves in the first series of the season. They followed that up by losing two out of three to the Milwaukee Brewers, the team that ended up beating them out for first place in the NL Central last season. Before the team knew it, it was April 14 and they started the season out at 4-7. After the first 11 games PECOTA was looking good about their prediction because a shift occurred.

And no, not one of the infield shifts that opposing teams do against Anthony Rizzo.

The Chicago Cubs are one of the hottest teams in the MLB right now. Since April 14, the Cubs haven’t lost a series, sweeping the Miami Marlins, taking two out of three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks twice and taking two out of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers, for a combined record of 9-3 in these series.

The main thing that helped to turn this ball-club around was the pitching. In those first 11 games, the Cubs were leading the majority of them. The problem was that the pitching was blowing the lead, whether that was early in the game or, more often than not, late in the game.

This is very visible by looking at their pitchers’ ERA’s. Relief pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. has the highest on the team currently with a 32.4 ERA and Mike Montgomery is right behind him with a 16.88 ERA. These two pitchers also have the highest opponent batting average on the team with Montgomery allowing hitters to hit .571 off of him, while Edwards Jr. is allowing opposing hitters to hit .375 off of him. This hurts to see, as both of these pitchers played vital roles in the 2016 postseason. However, after using these two pitchers so much, the other pitchers on the staff are starting to get back into the swing of things, the pitching staff has started to right their ship.

Another thing that has helped the Cubs launch themselves back up from the bottom of the rankings is their hitting. Coming into the season, everyone expected shortstop Javier Baez to lead the team offensively. Baez has done just that, leading the team with 22 RBIs, nine home runs, 35 hits and a batting average of .315. This doesn’t just put Baez at the top for the team, but also in the entire National League. However, Baez has been getting help from the rest of the offensive lineup. David Bote, the utility man for the Cubs who oftentimes plays second base or third, has been hot as of late and has added a couple of walk-off hits to his 2019 resume as well. Right fielder Jason Heyward has started to step up offensively this season, leading the team in on-base percentage with .433. Even though it is still early in the season, Heyward has the highest on-base percentage of his career. This is much needed for the Cubs, as only a couple seasons ago people were criticizing Heyward on his lack of offense.

While that’s good to see, and definitely a much-needed turn around, the Cubs haven’t played top tier teams. The majority of those wins came against sub-par teams. The Marlins and the Diamondbacks have a combined record of 24-33. The Marlins alone are 8-20.

Now, I don’t bring this up to dispel the Cubs’ victories. I bring this up to help their case. The Cubs have won games that they’ve been expected to win. If they were losing these games to sub-par teams, then there would be huge trouble looming ahead for the team. In order to succeed in the MLB, teams need to play up to their potential, which includes beating teams that they should be beating.

The Chicago Cubs may not win the 2019 World Series, but I’d love it if they did. What I know for sure is that right now they are one of the hottest teams in all of the MLB. They are playing the game like they were a couple of seasons ago: fun. Hopefully, they can keep this up for a while.