The Chicago Cubs are heading into September with a sizable 14 game lead over the second-place St. Louis Cardinals.
It looks like this team is headed toward the postseason for the second straight year. They’ve played well, especially after the All-Star break.
I am not by nature a statistics guy. I gravitate towards images, and moments like the roar of the crowd when Kyle Schwarber hit a bomb of a home run against St. Louis in the playoffs.
Or, when a pitcher gets an ovation from the fans after going a strong 7 1/3 innings. As he walks off the mound, the fans rise up to salute him. That has happened more often than not for Cubs pitchers this season.
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Numbers do tell a story. And, here are some of them that, put together, could explain the success the Cubs are now having.
1. 84-47. The Cubs haven’t played this well since the 1945 season when it last went to the World Series against Detroit. And the season isn’t over yet. Their 21 wins in August is a strong indicator of how well they have played. The St. Louis Cardinals are in a battle to claim a wild-card spot. The Cubs have all but shut the door on the Division crown.
2. +221 in run differential — Chicago Cubs lead the majors in this category. They have allowed 445 runs, the fewest in the majors. This shows you how good their pitching has been and on defense. This is an often overlooked statistic. But when you have a positive 221, you are doing something right.
3. 2.09. That is the ERA of pitcher Kyle Hendricks, the fifth starter, who is having a great season thus far. Hendricks just went a strong seven innings and threw shutout ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He is 13-7 and has entered the conversation for Cy Young Award consideration. Hendricks leads the majors in ERA. And, he spoke about how he set his goals but did not expect to be talked about in relation to post-season trophies. The Cubs pitching staff’s ERA of 3.11 leads the National League. And, Hendricks’ season is a big reason why.
4. .305 batting average, 35 home runs, and 89 runs batted in. Those are Kris Bryant’s main stats this season. Last year he was Rookie of the Year. This season is he and teammate, Anthony Rizzo, are in the conversation for who might win Most Valuable Player. Bryant has shortened his swing and when he makes contact, it is usually for an extra-base hit. Many times he has hit big home runs, the most recent coming against the LA Dodgers to give the Cubs a dramatic 6-4 win in 10 innings.
5. Anthony Rizzo has 26 home runs, 93 runs batted in, and carries a .294 batting average. He is one of the foundations of the team. A good week for Rizzo would have him right in the thick of MVP talk.
The Major League baseball season is much like the NHL season. You play a lot of games to reach the postseason, whereas, in the hockey playoffs, anything can happen. However, usually, the better teams win the Stanley Cup.
The Cubs will be in the post-season and soon all eyes will be upon them.