Chicago Cubs: 2016 proved depth and versatility could overcome injuries

Apr 11, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) is introduced prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber (12) is introduced prior to a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago Cubs fans have absolutely nothing to complain about in 2016. We enjoyed the journey through 103 regular season wins that was capped off by the team’s first championship in over a century.

The company around us that has become accustomed to being the top dog has become resigned to the fact that the Chicago Cubs are the new force in Major League Baseball.

Many years ago, as the Cubs blindly traveled through summer after summer of brain-dead effort, it was our arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals that shined the path to success like a lighthouse on a foggy night.

Like an auto assembly line, the Redbirds inevitably turned out player after player while maximizing their value.

More from Chicago Cubs News

That was until 2016 happened. Jose de Jesus Ortiz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote a scathing review of the Cardinals efforts last season.

St. Louis fans quickly took to twitter to express their dissenting opinions.

Overcoming Injuries

There is no debate that the Cubs experienced remarkable health as a team. Kyle Schwarber‘s horrific collision being the exception, the Cubs managed to get by with minimal roster losses.

Frustrated fans of the bird nation proclaimed that it was the rash of injuries that caused them to fade in the rear-view window last year. Perhaps injuries to the same positions would have affected the Cubs too?

The real crux of this argument is that the Cardinals lacked the organizational depth a year ago to overcome the injuries that occurred. Schwarber’s injury was a blow but it provided the Cubs with many options for the season.

What if?

The hole left by the Cubs’ slugger was filled by a variety of players from Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler just to name a few.

An injury to Bryant would have taken away the Cubs best power threat. But in doing so, the Cubs had multiple players with third base experience that had pop as well. Don’t forget that it was Bryant’s versatility that allowed him to move around the field to provide rest and coverage when needed.

The loss of infielder Matt Carpenter and outfielder Brandon Moss happened quickly. The problem for the Cards was that they lacked a decent replacement level option behind them. Injuries sustained by the Cardinals simply made them one-dimensional.

Managing the Staff

Kyle Hendricks, in my opinion, was the unsung hero for the 2016 Chicago Cubs. We don’t often speak seriously about a fifth starter being a Cy Young candidate. Joe Maddon‘s masterful job at managing his workload mid-season allowed Kyle to thrive deep in the playoffs. Regretfully, it was a similar approach that should have been taken with Jake Arrieta a year earlier.

Down the stretch, Maddon used his rotation sparingly. Mike Montgomery was called upon intermittently to start while giving the regular starters an extra day to rest. Maddon’s plan worked.

Using last year as the model, Maddon learned to not overwork the rotation too early. This also minimized the injury threat. Furthermore, it helps when your supporting offense has the best run differential in the league. The Cubs were spared too many high-leverage, high-stress situations.

Next: Heyward is self-motivating

The Cubs and Cardinals had two very different seasons. Meanwhile, Cardinals got away from organizational depth and development and it showed. Chicago simply kept the assembly line moving.

A machine that the Cubs have built is paving the direction of many front offices in the league. It’s not a question if the Cardinals are committed to catching the Cubs, but rather if they are committed to reestablishing themselves as a depth-oriented franchise.