Chicago Cubs: Offense looking its strongest since historic 2016 campaign

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The 2019 campaign may not have gotten off to the start the Chicago Cubs had hoped for, but the team’s offense is firing at a level we haven’t seen in years.

When the Chicago Cubs coasted to a 103-win regular season three years ago en route to a National League Central title and, eventually, an NL pennant and World Series championship, the team featured an offense that ranked amongst the best in baseball.

They ranked second in the National League in runs (808), trailing only the Colorado Rockies, who enjoy the benefits of playing half their games in hitter-friendly Coors Field. Chicago ranked third in OPS and second in on-base percentage, respectively. The lineup was bolstered by National League MVP Kris Bryant and his fellow corner infielder Anthony Rizzo.

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That being said, the 2016 Cubs were also notoriously streaky at the plate. For much of the postseason, the bats went ice cold and the hopes of fans hung in the balance. But, when they turned it on, they manufactured runs in a way that was truly amazing to behold.

But here we are, three years later, looking to many of the same players to lead the Cubs back to the top of the baseball world. Rizzo and Bryant still anchor the corners. Kyle Schwarber, who missed virtually the entire 2016 season after suffering a brutal knee injury in the first week, is considered a huge part of the offense. Javier Baez, who broke out with a runner-up finish in last year’s NL MVP voting, adds an entirely different level to the lineup.

When you can trot out the likes of Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, Schwarber and catcher Willson Contreras, the potential for greatness is there. That’s not to say every guy is going to put up career-best numbers, but that’s five of your eight position players capable of changing the game with one swing.

So far this season, the Chicago Cubs have averaged 7.2 runs per game, scoring at least 10 runs in half of their contests. Pitching kept the club from coming away with wins in all those games, but the fact Joe Maddon and new hitting coach Anthony Iapoce have the offense hanging crooked numbers on a near-nightly basis stands in stark contrast to last year’s offensive shortcomings in the second half.

The team ranks second in the National League in OPS, batting average and on-base percentage. They’ve gotten solid contributions from role guys like Victor Caratini and David Bote this season. Ageless utilityman Ben Zobrist continues to defy Father Time, coming off his first .300-plus average season in 2018.

Perhaps the biggest wild card in the lineup is outfielder Jason Heyward. We’re talking about a guy who has failed to make a difference at the plate since joining the Cubs. But at least early this year, he’s led the team to two of their three wins, thanks to a 1.034 OPS that trails only Contreras among regular position players.

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Despite an early-season slump from Bryant and a bit of a slow start from Rizzo, everyone has stepped up to push this offense to new heights. If they can sustain it over the course of the season, it might just be enough for this team to make history in 2019.