Chicago Cubs News: Five X-factors for team in postseason

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Nico Hoerner, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: Strong up-the-middle defense helped win in ’16. Repeat?

Baez was able to assert himself as a key component defensively alongside a certain former shortstop (who had a tragic fall from grace), forcing Joe Maddon’s hand into playing him as much as possible throughout the postseason.

Sure, it didn’t hurt that Baez was on fire in the first two rounds of the playoffs that year, but the point remains- Maddon wanted Addison Russell and Baez to lock things down up the middle. Defensively, they were by far the best tandem in baseball; one legitimate shortstop is hard enough to find, and the Cubs had two combining to make most plays look easy. Maddon could also rely on right fielder Jason Heyward, who was at the height of his right field powers in ’16.

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The defense was one of the most important aspects of the 2016 Championship run because most of the Cubs pitchers were pitching to contact and relied heavily on the smooth leather flashing of the fielders behind them. It’s also a tad lackluster ever since.

Granted, much of that could be attributed to the loss of Russell. Still, Kris Bryant’s injuries had precipitated a slide in his defensive metrics, and the outfield defense outside of Heyward certainly has its detractors and critics.

By placing the best defensive squad on the field for as many innings as possible, Ross will be able to maximize his out-making. Nico Hoerner will have to be an option to start games because of his superior defense at second base. The speedy and aforementioned Hamilton will indeed have to play some center in games the Cubs lead in the late innings. Defense wins championships, and that’s the goal. Hopefully, the Cubs will rely on their much-improved defensive group this season through the playoffs.