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Are the Chicago Cubs legitimate contenders in 2015?

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One can say that the city of Chicago, North and South, won the off-season battle this year. Both organizations made a plethora of moves, and both teams respectively upgraded major needs. But looking good on paper doesn’t always translate to a World Series appearance, let alone a playoff berth. Just ask the Washington Nationals who have been favorites the last couple of seasons; how has that worked out?

“We’re going to win the N.L.. Central and you can quote me on that” – Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo.

On the contrary, the San Francisco Giants have never looked great on paper, but none the less have managed three Commissioner Trophy’s the last five years. Baseball isn’t easy folks, there’s a certain part of the game that is unquantifiable through statistics and projections. With that said, what should be a realistic expectation for your Cubs in 2015. Are they really legitimate contenders?

The Chicago Cubs have been rebuilding for a few years now, and all the scouting, player development, free agent signings and trades seem to finally be all coming together. But legit World Series contenders now!? Hold your horses, the Cubs have finished either last or second to last four seasons in row. Only the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks finished with worst records last year in the NL. The National League Central isn’t a walk in the park either. The St. Louis Cardinals are built like a well oiled machine. Their in contention seemingly every year, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have Andrew McCutchen, arguably the best all around player in baseball. The Brewers might have the best offense in the division, with All-Star players such as Carlos Gomez, potential future hall of famer Aramis Ramirez, former MVP Ryan Braun, up and comers Jean Segura, Khris Davis, and Scooter Gennett. The Cincinnati Reds were plagued by injuries in 2014, their best offensive players missed substantial amount of time; Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and starting pitcher Mat Latos all missed games-the Reds could never get it rolling.

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Chicago Cubs /

Chicago Cubs

If the North Siders are going to leapfrog four teams to win the division -as Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo alluded to recently – they’re going to have to collectively get better in some major categories. In 2014, the Cubbies led all National League clubs in strikeouts. To compare- the Cardinals finished last, the Brewers 13th, the Pirates 12th and the Reds in ninth. As a team they finished second to last in batting average and on base percentage in their division, only the Reds were worse in those two categories, and as I previously stated missing their best offensive players for most of the season. The Cubs did manage to finish second in long balls in the NL, but only ninth in RBIs, which is an illustration of their poor on base percentage as a team. Look at it this way, the Cardinals were last in home runs, but only finished one spot behind the Cubs in RBIs at 10th. And yeah, we’re all excited about the kids, but there is a learning curve in the majors as Javier Baez found out once he got called up.

Pitching as a whole needs to improve as well, in the National League Central the Cubs finish last in team ERA (3.91), first in earned runs allowed, and first in hits allowed. Not to mention they led the division in stolen bases allowed, which is as much on the pitcher as it is the catcher.

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Now credit Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and the rest of the Chicago Cubs front office as they have addressed most, if not all of the concerns I’ve outlined. Whether it be adding players known for their on base prowess like Dexter Fowler, Tommy La Stella, Chris Denorfia, or helping bring that division leading ERA, earned runs and stolen bases allowed down with the additions of Miguel Montero, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, etc, etc,.

And of course acquiring  the ultimate orchestrator in Joe Maddon. It all feels and looks dandy on paper, but it will be a challenge like no other for the Cubs players, coaches, and front office in 2015, and as the hype builds so do expectations. After finishing 17 games back of first place St. Louis Cardinals are the Chicago Cubs really legitimate World Series contenders? Probably more like legitimate wild card contenders, but hey you never know. Only thing left now is to play ball!

Next: Can Turner fulfill his once lofty promise?

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