Cubs: Their second-half run was one for the record books
The World Series victory honeymoon ended for many Cubs fans fairly quickly after the first week of the season. The banners were raised, the rings were distributed, the trophy was encased in public display and it was time to defend the title. What followed was several months of annoying, subpar play from the defending champs.
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Neither the starting rotation and offense clicked like the previous year. The starting pitching staff pitched to a 4.66 ERA and 1.4 WHIP in the first half ( vs. 3.09 ERA and 1.1 WHIP in the first half of 2016); they were notorious for giving up first-inning runs and putting the offense in early holes. The offense itself slashed .239/.326/.419 with a 99 OPS+in the first half (.256/.348/.438 in 2016 first half). It was no wonder they were sub-.500 come mid-July and it was very tough to watch with expectations so high.
Then came the second half when everything clicked again. Instead of nearly half the team going to the All-Star Game like 2016, the boys got to rest and regroup. They went 49-25 (.662) the rest of the way, overtook those pesky Brewers and clinched the division in St. Louis on September 27 with four games to spare. To go from 5 1/2 back to winning the division by a full six games in 2 1/2 months is pretty remarkable.
In that time the starters’ ERA went from 4.66 to 3.36 and they slashed .273/.352/.459 at the plate. Cannot fail to mention how they dominated the Brewers and Cardinals which was key in returning to the postseason. Winning three-of-four at both Miller Park and Busch Stadium in back-to-back series in late September was the icing on the cake. Not often the Cubs do that.
The Cubs typically blow big leads, not rise above them. Even when the team ran out of gas in the NLCS against a clearly superior Los Angeles Dodgers team it was a season to remember. It was hard not to enjoy a postseason run with the “curse breaking” pressure off, after all.