Chicago Cubs: Cubs proving to be threat in NL Playoffs

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: Anthony Rizzo
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 14: Anthony Rizzo /

Two months ago, the Chicago Cubs appeared to be a pretender in the National League. Now, they are proving to be a legitimate threat to win it all.

The season started off rough. Finishing the first half of the season below .500 is not what fans of the Chicago Cubs expected. The team was supposed to dominate. The monkey was off their back and the curse was broken. Losing was not going to happen.

Well, it happened. Too often. The stress and anxiety that plagued Cubs fans for generations came rushing back all at once. How did that happen? Of course, manager Joe Maddon simply stated that Aug. 1 was the important date.

On that day, the Chicago Cubs stood at 57 wins and 48 losses, two-and-a-half games ahead of the NL Central. Since there, they have pressed the pedal to the floor. The rest of the National League is on watch.

Best right now

Yes. The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in all of baseball. They have played really well, until late. Similar statements could be made about the Washington Nationals. On Aug. 1, the Dodgers’ record was 75-31, and 63-42 for the Nationals. They were far and away the best offensive teams in the league.

But things changed. August happened.

More from Cubbies Crib

The Cubs offense took over. For the month, they scored a MLB-best 191 runs. They averaged 121 runs per month prior to August, with 125 being the highest. The team came together. Contrast that with the Dodgers and Nationals. After scoring 159 and 157 runs in May and June, respectively, the Dodgers only scored 107 in July. Then 121 in August. The Nationals scored 170 runs in April, 161 in June. Yet, the last two months, they averaged 128.5 runs.

Overall, the Chicago Cubs are now the fifth best offense in the majors. Believe it or not, their batting average is better than the Dodgers right now. After what looked like a down year is turning out to be sneaky good.

And the pitching

Let’s not forget about the pitching. The staff for the Cubs was just awful to begin the season. The Dodgers still have the best staff on all of baseball. Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen certainly help. However, the Cubs are no longer the worst. They are seventh in ERA overall. Third in opponent batting average.

The Cubs’ rotation has come to life. Soon-to-be free agent Jake Arrieta is pitching like he is worth $30 million a year. Kyle Hendricks is coming on strong, and John Lackey is turning his season around. If Jon Lester returns to his ace-like self, the rotation is one to be reckoned with in the post-season.

Team effort

The best part about what the Cubs are doing is the fact the entire team is producing. Anthony Rizzo leads the way in home runs and runs batted in, but there are six players with 20 or more home runs. The instincts of Javier Baez are proving valuable. Players like Jon Jay and Alex Avila are putting at-bats together that challenge pitchers. Ben Zobrist appears healthy and up to his old tricks.

The Cubs are playing like a team ready to win it all again. Unless the Dodgers fall apart in September, they will have home field advantage in the playoffs. The Cubs were swept in LA back in May. But that was when the Cubs were at their worst all season.

Next: Best deadline trades during the Theo Epstein regime

Now, they are at their best. When they meet, the result may not be the same.