May 13, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross (3) celebrates with second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) and first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) after hitting a three run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
Last season, the Chicago Cubs took baseball by storm earlier than expected with a 97-win 2015 campaign. The scary part for the rest of the league? They’re even better this year.
In 2015, the Chicago Cubs won 97 games and went to the National League Championship Series, where they would get swept in four games. In 2016, The Cubs are out to do more, and get over that hump, and here are three reasons why they can do it:
The additions of Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist, and John Lackey. The Cubs’ biggest problem offensively last season was the lack of contact, as they led the Major Leagues in strikeouts, with 1,518. Theo Epstein and Co. set out to find guys who get on base and make a lot of contact. They got those guys with Zobrist and Heyward. Another issue with last seasons’ team was outfield defense, which Heyward has massively improved. The defense as a whole has been miles better than last year. Lackey adds to an already solid rotation, with an impressive playoff resume. It’s helped, as the teams’ strikeout rate is down 5%, while the walk rate is up by 3%. That may not seem by much, but it makes a difference in the long run. It makes so much of a difference in fact, that the Cubs are on pace to walk over 1,000 times and break the all-time run differential record.
Dominant pitching: We all know about the top three with Arrieta/Lester/Lackey. But, it’s the fourth and fifth starters that have really stepped up. Jason Hammel currently ranks sixth in the Major Leagues in ERA, it’s at 1.77 after his last start vs the Pirates. Jake Arrieta sits atop the ERA leader board at 1.13, while Jon Lester is 10th with a 1.96 ERA. John Lackey has been dynamite when they’ve needed him to be, and Kyle Hendricks has an ERA right around three. As a collective staff, the Cubs lead the majors in ERA, its currently at a robust 2.68, sporting a .205 opponent batting average. In terms of the bullpen, Hector Rondon has been arguably the best closer in the game, so far he is perfect in save opportunities, with 20 strikeouts and no walks, in just 12.1 innings. Guys like Adam Warren and Trevor Cahill have also contributed nicely.
The defensive improvement: It’s well documented that the Cubs struggled in the outfield last year, and with
has started to play a lot more at third base, and he has been magical, some of the plays that kid makes are unreal. As for last season, the Cubs had just ten defensive runs saved. This season, that number is better, as it’s already at 17.
It’s clear that this team is better in all phases of the game, and it’s translated to a 26-8 record. This team shows no signs of slowing down, they added the pieces to get over the hump, and they are more than determined to get there.