30 in 30: Chicago Cubs

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The Chicago Cubs World Series drought is now 1 year. After losing to the Dodger in 5 games in the NLCS the Cubs made a splash in free agency in order to boost the pitching rotation. The acquisitions of Tyler Chatwood, Drew Smyly, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek, and most notably of all, Yu Darvish.

Although the Cubs will not get the help of Drew Smyly this year due to Tommy John surgery, the additions of Cishek and Morrow will greatly improve the bullpen. Morrow was a starter for a good chunk of his career. Last year, with the Dodgers, Morrow posted a 2.06 ERA in 43 ⅔ innings. Cishek spent a decent chunk of his career in Miami, and in the past few years has also suited up for St. Louis, Seattle, and Tampa Bay. Cishek holds a 2.73 ERA in his 8 seasons in the big leagues.

At the beginning of the offseason, the Cubs knew they would return ⅗ of the staff in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Jose Quintana. What everyone wanted to know was who would fill out the final 2 spots.

The Cubs inked Tyler Chatwood on a 3-year, $38 million deal that brings him from the Mile High City to the north side of Chicago. Chatwood has been part of the Rockies rotation for 5 seasons. The most eye-popping stat for Chatwood would be his home/road splits. Everyone knows that Coors is not a pitcher-friendly park. In his 5 seasons at Coors, he recorded a 5.25 ERA at home and a 3.31 ERA away from Coors. Based on these numbers, Chatwood poses a very high upside and if he continues those stout number when he doesn’t pitch at Coors, the Cubs could have themselves a gem.

The big-ticket item that started the free agent ball rolling was when the Cubs decided to give Yu Darvish a 6-year, $126 Million deal. Darvish spent 5 ½ seasons playing for the Rangers before he got traded to the Dodgers last July. Darvish holds a career 3.42 ERA. Overall Darvish is a great pitcher, and at the age of 31, he still has another few great years left in him. The only outlier when you dive into his splits is it appears Darvish does not like pitching in July where he holds a 5.09 ERA in 120 ⅓ innings pitched. In all the other months his ERA is no higher than 3.50. This is by far my favorite offseason move by any team. Tell me this man doesn’t look good in Cubbie Blue.

Whenever you hear people talk about the Cubs, the same two names always come up. Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant have been a dynamic duo in baseball since Bryant entered the league in 2015. In Rizzo’s 6 years with the Cubs, he has 3 all-star appearances, a gold glove, and a silver slugger award. Bryant entering his 4th big league season already has 2 all-star appearances, an NL Rookie of the Year, and NL MVP honors. Skipper Joe Maddon will always feel confident whenever he’s got these two in the lineup.

During the 2017 season, the Cubs had 6 players hit more than 20 home runs. One of those names is Kyle Schwarber, whom many Cubs fans wanted to trade away at any point in the previous season. There’s no question he can hit home runs, he showed that by hitting 30 in 129 games last season. The number that is concerning is the .211 batting average. Rumors are Schwarber has lost some weight over the offseason so, hopefully, the loss in weight will increase the BA.

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First of all, I want to say congratulations to Javier Baez and his wife on the announcement of their child. Javy is slowly becoming a finished product. The home runs are there, the defense is there, the only thing he needs to work on is not swinging at balls out of the strike zone.

Continuing on the plethora of young talent the Cubs poses we move on to Ian Happ. Happ’s role reminds me of how the Cubs use Ben Zobrist. He can play in the outfield or at second base, and he’s a switch hitter. The 9th overall pick in the 2015 draft made his debut on May 13th last season. While he had a .253 batting average he’s got some pop in his bat, which he showed by hitting 24 long balls in only 115 games. Expect him to see more playing time and hopefully, those extra at-bats will generate more home runs.

There is no question the Cubs are interested in Bryce Harper when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season. However, he will cost a lot of money and so another question raises, what do you do with a guy who you signed to an 8 year, $184 Million deal who is stout at defense but can’t find his swing? When the Cubs signed Jason Heyward before the 2016 season they knew what they were getting defensively, a 5-time gold glove winner in his 8th season. However, what they got offensively last year from Heyward is far from expected. In 2016 Heyward had a .230 batting average and in 2017 he batted .259. Give him credit, the numbers are going in the right direction, but Heyward will turn 29 in August. He should be in the prime of his career but he hasn’t shown that. I expect Heyward to win another gold glove this year and you will see him on Sportscenter’s top 10 plays here and there, but if he wants to stick around he’s going to need to start producing at the plate.

Willson Contreras has quickly become one of the better catchers in baseball. He made his debut in 2016 due to the injury to Kyle Schwarber. It didn’t take long for him to make his presence felt. The first big league pitch he saw he took deep to center field at Wrigley for a 2-run home run. Contreras is another guy the Cubs have who can hit 20-plus home runs. It’s scary to think the Cubs could have lost him in the rule 5 draft a few years back.

With the roster the Cubs have, there is no argument that can be made as to why they should not make it back to the playoffs. They have made it to the postseason the past three seasons, and this year, they look to make it four. The talent the Cubs have can definitely win the World Series. The only thing that will hold the Cubs back in the postseason will be the bats.

In the 5 games against the Dodgers in the NLCS, the Cubs scored 8 runs compared to the Dodgers 28. That is not a recipe for success. So with multiple postseasons under most of the team’s belt, we should hope that the bats will come to life. Barring any injuries I fully expect the Cubs to win the NL Central, but if they want to win it all they know what needs to get done.

Record Prediction: 93-69

(Photo Credit: USA Today)

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