In 2018, the goal for the Chicago Cubs was perfectly clear: return to the World Series. But when we closed the book, it was quite a different ending
It took until late February, but the Chicago Cubs finally inked coveted right-hander Yu Darvish to a six-year deal, worth $126 million, with a two-year opt out. The year did not go as planned for Darvish, who made just eight starts with a 4.95 ERA across just 40 innings. He surrendered seven home runs but struck out 49. Ultimately, the club shut him down after an undiagnosed shoulder injury came to light.
The Cubs also parted ways with hitting coach John Mallee and pitching coach Chris Bosio, replacing them with more “Joe Maddon guys.” Chicago added pitching guru Jim Hickey as the pitching coach, and Chili Davis came over from the Red Sox as the team’s new hitting coach.
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The Cubs were really good in the first half, playing to a 55-38 record, good for a 2 1/2 game lead in the division.
In the second half, the cracks in the armor started to show a little. Chicago only went 40-30 in the 2nd half, still good for 95 wins, but the Brewers seemed to leave earth for the better part of two months and forced a winner-take-all Game 163 against the Cubs. The Brewers won at Wrigley, forcing the Cubs to the Wild Card game, which they also lost at home to the Colorado Rockies.
Chicago finished the regular season playing 39 games in 40 days, as there were a few makeup games in there due to rainouts earlier in the season. Factor in Game 163 and the Wild Card game, and you get a staggering 41 games in 42 days.
Playing that many games in such a short time is grueling, and it’s rather impressive that the Cubs kept finding ways to win. Losing the division on the final day at home, however, is something that should motivate the Chicago Cubs going forward into 2019.
The real issue was the offense. The Cubs led the league in games with one run or less. They had more of those games than the 100-loss Kansas Royals, Baltimore Orioles, and the worst team in the National League, Miami Marlins.
Davis and Hickey only lasted one year. The Cubs didn’t extend Joe Maddon’s contract, 2019 may be his last year as the Cubs’ manager. Chicago had a lot of things to fix heading into next season. Where will they find the answers?