*Disclaimer: This is a homer article, if you don’t like it I don’t really care*
Yesterday, the Cubs capped off a 7-1 home stand by defeating the Reds (finally) 6-5 on a walk-off walk. The win was due in part to Joey Votto making one of the most boneheaded errors you’ll ever see. I’ve always been a big Joey Votto guy, even though for a bit, I thought he wasn’t really Canadian because he loves to sass fans, but this was a terrible set-up for a loss.
Anyways, yesterday marked the Cubs SEVENTH consecutive win after trailing during any point in the game.
Chicago now sits 15 games over .500. Although the Brewers are still doing very well, they are in a strong position heading into the All-Star break. Entering today, the Cubs are fourth in the league in run-differential and have batted over .300 as a team in their last 10 games. They look to be clicking on all cylinders.
If you’ve just been watching them from as a casual fan, it makes sense you’d think that. As someone who has watched almost every inning of Cubs baseball this season, I’m here to tell you they can still be so much better, and that’s scary. Let’s discuss why.
The pitching rotation is a mess
One reason why the Cubs won the World Series in 2016 (ugh, I’m getting emotional just thinking about it) was their dominant starting rotation. Heading into this year, it looked like they would have that once again. However, besides Jon Lester (who should be an all star), the rotation has been a mess.
Kyle Hendricks has looked more like a TA than the “Professor”. Jose Quintana falls apart after the fourth inning, and Tyler Chatwood doesn’t know what or where the strike zone is. Oh, and Yu Darvish has been M.I.A. this season.
I’ll be honest, Chatwood is a lost cause. You can’t put him out there every fifth day with confidence. If Quintana, Hendricks and Darvish are all pitching to their ace potentials, use Mike Montgomery as a fifth starter, and maybe add an arm at the deadline (please), it becomes a scary rotation to face.
I’m not guaranteeing they will return to their dominant forms, but the Cubs are already winning games from their offense alone, so a formidable pitching staff will take them to the next level.
Bryzzo isn’t even Bryzzo
For those who are unaware, the Cubs mega-hot offense has been cooking over the past two weeks without arguably their best bat: Kris Bryant.
Bryant has had a strange season. He’s batting .280 with a .383 OBP and he’s still being accused of having a bad season. As Stephen A. Smith would say, that is BLASPHEMOUS. Yes, he’s gone on cold streaks and his strikeout rate was increasing right before he hit the DL, but he’s a bat you always want in that lineup.
Anthony Rizzo has been healthy most of the season, but hasn’t yet recovered from a slow start. The RBIs and OBP are there, but for someone who’s hit .270 with 30 home runs a season, I expect his .248 average and home run total of 12 to increase.
I’m not saying Rizzo or Bryant are struggling, I’m just saying they can both be better, and probably will be. That’s something no team wants to see.
Everyone else is already producing
You might be wondering how the Cubs are 51-36 with a struggling rotation and no Bryant. Everyone else is pitching in.
Javy Baez has finally become a bona-fide stud, and no one cares that his OBP is low when he’s making you “ooh” and “ahh” every time he steps on the field. I basically wrote this article just for this paragraph so I could tell you all how much I love Javier Baez and how lucky the Cubs are to have him.
Though Javy has greatly improved this season, the biggest step-up has to go to Jason Heyward. His numbers don’t look special, but they look a lot better than the past two years. He’s hitting, the defense is still there, and I don’t want to puke every time he steps up to the plate.
Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are on-base machines, Albert Almora Jr. is top five in batting without his name on the All-Star ballot. Willson Contreras is an All-Star catcher even without his awesome Venezuelan sleeve and the dancing bullpen crew lead by Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop have been solid even though they enjoy making you bite your nails off first.
I know I just threw a lot at you. Maybe I didn’t give you enough Sabermetrics to convince you. That’s because I am bad at math and hate looking at numbers, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
The Cubs have been one of the better teams in baseball, and they can get a lot better. Pray for the NL.