Chicago Cubs: Which injured player’s return is most important?

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

Three of the Chicago Cubs’ top tier players are injured in Kris Bryant, Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow. Whose return to action is most important to the team’s success?

Kris Bryant is easily the Chicago Cubs’ best player when healthy and doing great Kris Bryant-like things. Meanwhile, Yu Darvish is one of the MLB’s better pitchers when healthy and pitching up to his capabilities.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, both Bryant and Darvish have struggled to stay healthy this season. The third baseman has played in just 76 games, missing extended time on multipe occasions due to a shoulder injury. Darvish has only made eight starts in a Cubs uniform.

Bryant is having a down year for his standards, though he has fared quite well, overall. In 304 at-bats, he’s hitting .276 with a .380 on base percentage. His current .854 OPS would be a career-low, largely due to him hitting just 11 home runs to-date in 2018.

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Darvish has struggled badly on the mound, posting a 4.95 ERA while pitching just 40 innings across eight starts. Of those eight outings, he has pitched less than five innings in five of them.

In addition, Darvish’s 1.43 WHIP would surpass the career worst 1.28 he posted in 2012, his MLB rookie year. He has walked 21 batters this season after walking just 13 in his nine starts (49 2/3 innings) with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017.

Offense hanging in there (and then some)

Despite losing Bryant for extended time, the Cubs offense has performed at an elite level in 2018. Their 560 runs scored is tops in the National League and fifth-best in Major League Baseball. Their .345 on-base percentage leads the all of baseball.

Cubs starting pitchers have delivered a mix-bag with and without Darvish. Their 4.12 ERA ranks 15th in bigs; their 272 walks allowed leads the National League and trails only the Chicago White Sox for worst mark among all 30 MLB teams.

Of course, Tyler Chatwood has walked 86 batters in 2018, 85 as a starter. The starting rotation is bound to improve its walk totals now that Cole Hamels has replaced Chatwood in the rotation.