As we celebrate the 246th birthday of the United States this weekend, please take time to celebrate with family and friends. I penned this piece over my Sunday morning coffee and will take part in the festivities as the day wears on.
On Opening Day, I thought the Chicago Cubs would win 70-75 games with the roster as it stood. By mid-July, if they were in this range Jed Hoyer would have some decisions to make. The better scenario? Maybe make a run at a wild card spot with a strong second half. The worse, and likelier outcome? Another sell-off would be in our very immediate future.
As it stands today, they are on pace to win sixty-six games. To say injuries haven’t helped is an understatement. Thirteen different pitchers have started a game. But since June 22, the Cubs are 7-3, something one normally wouldn’t’ get excited about that. David Bote is back, which is needed, because over 75 percent of the time the second baseman’s name was Madrigal, Villar, Simmons and Vargas, none of whom had a on OPS north of .600. It can’t get worse, it’s got to get better.
The big offseason signings of Seiya Suzuki and Marcus Stroman have seen them in uniform less than sixty percent of the time. Reports are Suzuki may be back before the All-Star Game, and I would hope his time off has given him some time to acclimate to the US, as well as study the American game a bit more. Stroman and Drew Smyly could be back soon, as well, giving the rotation a much-needed boost.
Cubs are starting to put some things together of late
Willson Contreras is having an All-Star caliber season and Yan Gomes is the capable backup that has been needed for some time. Frank Schwindel, Alfonso Rivas and P.J. Higgins are serviceable at first, and as stated, second has been a black hole. Nico Hoerner is in the top ten in batting average and his glove has been very good. Patrick Wisdom is feast or famine, but he has hit sixteen more home runs than Kris Bryant.
Ian Happ is having the best season of his career, and I hope he can maintain the consistency down the stretch to turn in a full season of success. Christopher Morel and Rafael Ortega have combined to have the most production in center since Dexter Fowler roamed that area. Suzuki is coming back – and could have a decent second half.
Keegan Thompson is one of the most impressive rookie hurlers in the league and Justin Steele has been steady. Kyle Hendricks has shown signs of his old self, and injured and developing arms may be on the way. The bullpen has been inconsistent, but functional, with pitchers in roles they were not intended to be. Remember these names: Adbert Alzolay, Codi Heuer, Brailyn Marquez, Manny Rodriguez, and Brad Wieck. None has thrown a pitch, yet, and who knows when, and if, we will see them.
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Don’t get me wrong, we’re not looking at the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals. This has not been fun, and the road trips to Milwaukee and Los Angeles to face the Dodgers could be a wakeup call. We haven’t seen what Hoyer planned to put on the field, but we could. After 50 years of following the Cubs, I am much more a realist than an optimist, but just maybe…