A Mixed Bag
We are exactly halfway through this weird season, of 2020, and the beloved continue to hang in there, while making you scratch your head wondering, who are they really. As they head to Cincinnati, to start the second half on Friday, they are 18-12 and lead the Central division by two games over the St. Louis Cardinals, who have played 1/3 fewer games to date. Earlier this week we recapped the White Sox, so today let's look at the Cubs.
There is no doubt that this guy, Yu Darvish, is the ace of the starting staff right now. After a terrible first game he has been virtually unhittable, and unstoppable, going 5-0 since then. His ERA is 1.70 and his WHIP is 0.919, both Cy Young-ish. Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills, and Jon Lester have been so-so, one good game, one stinker, all season. Tyler Chatwood seems to have rediscovered his 2018 self last night by lasting an inning and a third and walking the world. This likely opens the door for Jose Quintana to reclaim the fifth spot in the rotation. Overall the starters have been mostly OK. Mid Season Grade - B
Thank goodness the Cubs went out and signed Jeremy Jeffress last winter. He has been the saviour for the bullpen back end while Craig Kimbrel continues to struggle. Ryan Tepera and Kyle Ryan have also been solid while Casey Sadler and Rowan Wick have been generally OK. The bullpen continues to be hit or miss, starting the season they looked strong, then went through a bit of a slump, and now seem back on track. Such is the life of a bullpen. Mid Season Grade - C
Ian Happ was off to a scorching start, but has come back to earth recently, as expected. Nobody thought he would keep up the pace he was on, but he has been a pleasant surprise, so far, for the Cubs offense. His BA has dropped to .267 but his OBP is .405. The Cubs offense remains a work in progress as they are next to last in BA in the NL, yet first in walks. Their overall OBP puts them 4th in the NL at .332. Once Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez actually start hitting, they will have as formidable of an offense as there is in baseball. Defensively they are numero uno in the NL with a steller .987 fielding average, a huge improvement over the past two years. Mid Season Grade Offense - C-; Defense - A+
New Cubs manager, David Ross, has done everything the Cubs management could have hoped from him so far. The defense is better, they are finding ways to win, they never quit, and the starting pitching has been perfectly slotted all year. You can just tell they are playing with more emotion, and interest, than was the case the last two years under Joe Maddon. So far so good for Rossy. Mid Season Grade - A
So, what happens from here on out? The trade deadline is next Monday, but I don't expect any blockbusters from the Cubs. They could always use another reliever and I expect to see some minor moves there. Getting Quintana back is like trading for another starter, and, if/when, Kris Bryant can get his wrist healed and start hitting like his baseball card shows, the offense is in pretty good shape.
The schedule the last half is the one thing that has me a bit concerned. They have 30 games left, 22 against their division rivals, which are must win series, and 8 against the AL teams, however, those eight games are against the top three teams in the AL Central, two with CLE, three with MIN, and they end the season with three against the Sox. Importantly, 13 of the 22 divisional games are against the Reds and the Pirates, two teams they struggle with every year.
I still think they will be one of the two automatic teams from the Central, and then by having a three man rotation for the playoffs, with Hendricks, Darvish, and, either Lester or Quintana, depending on who is trending at that time, should help them in the playoffs. It might just come down to another Cubs/Dodgers NL championship series. If they get past them, maybe, just maybe, a Cubs/Sox world series? A pier six brawl, holy cow, you can put it on the board, yes!