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Chicago Cubs: Offense to make bold statements in 2017

jfrancis
Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Indians in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 2, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) celebrates after defeating the Cleveland Indians in game seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
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The future is bright for the Chicago Cubs. With many players under 28 years old, the offense will make bold statements in 2017.

As the offseason tour of the Chicago Cubs continues, excitement builds for the coming season. Another year older and with championship experience, the youthfulness of the team looks fierce. But what are they really capable of doing?

To understand what they can do, you must first understand where they came from. In 2016, the 103 win team scored 808 runs. Just one year earlier, they scored only 689 runs while winning 97 games. Go back to 2014 and we see a 73 win team scoring 614 runs. The similarities? The average age of each team was 27.5, 26.9, and 26.8, respectively. That is top-5 in each season.

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What does that all mean? It means players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Addison Russell have seen Major League pitching for another year. They watch, the swing, they adjust. They already proved their ability to learn and improve as each improved in several offensive categories in 2016. And, with a supporting cast that steps up regularly, it means less pressure on them to carry the load.

So, what is possible? Here are some bold offensive predictions for 2017.

Major Power Surge

For the first time in 13 years, four players on the Chicago Cubs will hit 30+ home runs. It is a task that was completed by Sammy Sosa, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Moises Alou in 2004. On the current roster, Rizzo and Bryant will lead the way and each could break the 40 home run mark. If Schwarber stays healthy, the batters box will be renamed a launching pad for him. Add in Addison Russell, and you have for players with the ability to hit 30 home runs each. And, it will happen in 2017.

Above Average

While the Cubs scored runs last year, their ability to hit was average at best. As a matter of fact, their .254 average was 19th in all of baseball. That was a jump from their .242 average in 2015, baseball’s worst. Historically, the Cubs have never been a team of great hitters. Their best season in the last 10 was 2008, when they hit for .277.

That changes this year. With the progress of Rizzo and Bryant, the crafty intelligence of Ben Zobrist, and the arrival of Jon Jay, the 2017 Cubs will hit for a .280 or better team average.

Runs, Cubbies, Run

Its only happened 16 times in baseball history, but it will happen in 2017. And the Cubs are just the team to do it. The last time it happened was 1999 by the Cleveland Indians. Before that? The 1950 Boston Red Sox. What is it? Scoring 1000 runs as a team.

Sure, it can be a stretch to get to that level, but not impossible. The gap between the good and bad teams in the NL is widening. Teams like the rival of the Cubs, as well as the San Fransisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, boast pitching staffs that can handle the best hitters each game. Other teams may have a solid start or two, but lack the depth to control each at-bat. The lineup that Manager Joe Maddon will set out each day is loaded top to bottom. There will be no easy at-bats. That will but pressure on pitchers and managers, leading to runs for the Cubs.

The Triple Crown

It is the hardest level to achieve, but not impossible. Since 50+ home run seasons are a things of the past, 40 is the new goal. In 2016, the most hit in the NL was 41. Bryant was second with 39. He is already close. And Rizzo was second in runs batted in. Hitting for a high enough average will be the challenge. However, it can happen. And it will be Rizzo that does it.

The advantage that Rizzo has over Bryant his ability to hit with two strikes. Sure, Bryant decreased his strikeout rate in 2016, but Rizzo bested him by 46 (154 to 108, respectively). Now that the pressure to perform is off, Rizzo will show his ability to lead and knowledge of situational hitting. Look for big things, including a shot at the triple crown

Next: Schwarber poised to be a leader?

There you go. Some bold predictions for 2017. Will they happen? Maybe. Maybe not. What we do know is that the potential fireworks will be bigger than any we witnessed since New Year 2000. Let;s enjoy the show.

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