Chicago Cubs: Evaluating strengths of top-two divisional rivals

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs fell to the Brewers last year; can Milwaukee do it again?

Are the Milwaukee Brewers a 96-win team again in 2019? No doubt this team has enough talent to make another playoff push. Adding former Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal to a line up with Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Travis Shaw, Mike Moustakas and Ryan Braun is enough to justify that. However, regression in some areas is also something to consider.

NL MVP Christian Yelich slashed .326/.402/.598 with 36 homers and 110 RBIs on the season. He is 27 and in his prime and will continue to put up All-Star numbers, but the .370/.508/.804 September where he was basically Barry Bonds was historical. It is just hard seeing him repeat last year’s totals.

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Other questions in the lineup can go towards Jesus Aguilar and/or Ryan Braun for two different reasons. Aguilar hit a career-high 35 homers and slashed .274/.352/.539 last year after playing 168 games total in his career prior to 208. Is he a late bloomer or was it a career-year? Only time will tell. As for Braun, he is 35 and has not put up the numbers he once did in his prime and one can question what kind of numbers he will put up in advanced age.

Their rotation is where most questions come in. Is Jhoulys Chacin, Chase Anderson, Jimmy Nelson, Zach Davies and Brandon Woodruff going to hold their own again? They exceeded expectations last year. Nelson will be coming back from injury after missing all of 2018. Chacin had a great year in 2018 with a 3.50 ERA in a career-high 35 starts and Woodruff surprised many with a 3.61 ERA in 41 1/3 innings to aid the staff. On paper right now it looks like a middle of the road rotation.

Lastly their bullpen. It was arguably the most dominant bullpen of any National League playoff team last year. It was second in the NL in FIP (3.57) as a staff. Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel were a three-headed monster. Hader looks to be a dominant force for years to come, unfortunately, Knebel is battling injury issues in spring. Jeffress has had some great years and some down years, but he can still be good even if he regresses from the 1.29 ERA and 2.78 FIP from last year. It should still be a great pen, but it may not be quite as great as it was last year.