Chicago Cubs: The 2020 team is radiating 2016 energy
This year’s Chicago Cubs team is radiating that same 2016 energy that brought them a trophy.
It’s early in the 2020 season, but the Chicago Cubs have the feeling of a team hungry for another championship. The starting rotation has so far surpassed expectations even without Jose Quintana, the offensive depth has become a strength of the team, and the bullpen, while not particularly good, has failed to ultimately hinder the Cubs in the same vein as the 2019 team. Rather than finding new ways to lose each night, they’re finding new ways to win, something more reminiscent of the fabled 2016 team.
The team is already on a similar pace to the 2016 Cubs, but a look at what’s made them this good shows a few similarities. For one, both teams had strengths in their starting pitching rotation. In 2016, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks finished second and third in Cy Young voting, respectively, as the rotation pitched to a collective 2.96 ERA. 2020’s team, similarly, is carried by a stellar rotation with, so far, an ERA of 1.95 (!) through 60 innings.
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The two rotations profile similarly as well, with Yu Darvish becoming the new ace of the rotation and Alec Mills and Tyler Chatwood acting as this year’s Jason Hammel and John Lackey. Both of these rotations were and are, to this point, perfectly capable of keeping you in a game no matter who is on the mound, and that kind of insurance is invaluable.
Offensively, the 2020 Cubs also have a better OPS+ at the time of writing than the 2016 Cubs without their pitchers, something that’s bound to change with more time but is certainly encouraging. They’ve gotten stellar performances so far from guys like Ian Happ and Willson Contreras, but more importantly, have just received substantial contributions from all over the order in critical situations.
Every night, somebody new seems to come through for the Cubs, something the team desperately needs after 2019 and 2018, where the entire offense seemed to fizzle out at random. Unlike 2019 as well, the team seems to win games that they would’ve thrown away with their bullpen last year. It’s incredibly fun as a fan to see every team member give at least somewhat competitive at-bats for once rather than easy, gimme outs for opponents.
Perhaps the winning is merely luck and the team will come crashing back to Earth at some point, but I genuinely think they have a shot at bringing another trophy to Chicago this year. The team looks revitalized under David Ross, and Tommy Hottovy seems to have worked his magic with Mills and Chatwood, previously two question marks in the rotation. The key to this team is that, once again, everyone takes the opportunities they have to step up and give the Cubs the best chance of winning.
Obviously, the Cubs have a softer schedule than much of the league, and the playoffs will likely feature challenging opponents like the Dodgers, Yankees, and Braves. Still, if they can keep improving with trades and if Kris Bryant heats up, this team is a serious threat again. Right now, this team is “trying not to suck” all over again, and with Ross keeping them in check, I doubt they will.