Cubs are off to their best start since 2016, despite endless stream of injuries

With the series-opening win at Fenway, Chicago is off to a 17-9 start under Craig Counsell.
Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox
Chicago Cubs v Boston Red Sox / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

At this point one year ago, the Chicago Cubs sat at 13-10, three games out of first in the NL Central. They'd finish the month of April with a .500 mark at 13-13, which gave us, as fans, just enough hope that they could hang around and remain relevant into the waning weeks of summer.

That's exactly how it played out in the end, although David Ross' club took the road less traveled to get there, becoming the first team in Cubs history to go from 10 games under .500 to 10 over in the same season, only to collapse in the season's final weeks and miss the postseason for a third straight year.

The 2024 campaign, though, is off to a very different start. Despite losing Justin Steele, Seiya Suzuki, Cody Bellinger, Ian Happ, Jameson Taillon and Julian Merryweather to injury at some point in the season's first month, Friday night's 7-1 win over the Red Sox at Fenway have the Cubs sitting at 17-9, their best start since 2016.

Cubs keeping pace with the white-hot Brewers atop the NL Central

Unfortunately, the division rival and reigning NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers are off to just as hot of a start at 17-8, with both teams winners in 7 of 10 entering action Saturday. Still, given not only the number of injuries, but the level of players impacted, it's a testament to the entire roster - and new manager Craig Counsell - that the Cubs find themselves in such an enviable position. A big piece of that puzzle has been Chicago's play at home, the best in all of baseball at 10-3.

Of course, that 2016 team remains the stuff of legends. Reigning NL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon guided his young club to a 17-5 mark out of the gate, despite losing former first-rounder Kyle Schwarber to a season-ending injury in the second series of the year. They followed it up with an 18-10 mark in May and went on to post a winning record in all but one month (which they quickly followed up with a 22-4 record in August).

The early returns from this year's Cubs team have been very promising. Shota Imanaga and Michael Busch look ready to go head-to-head all season long for NL Rookie of the Year and, given what this group has done at half-strength in April, it's scary to think about what they could do at 100% this summer.