The 2016 season was a historic one for the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs ended a 108-year World Series drought by beating the Cleveland Indians in a thrilling Game 7 to win it all last November. But can the Cubs repeat of taking the MLB title once again?
After getting off to a hot start last season with a record of 30-6, the Cubs have struggled out of the gate so far in 2017. Chicago is just 16-15 to start and are in a log-jam NL Central Division which has five teams separated by just 3 games.
Part of the reason why the Cubs have struggled have been due to poor pitching.
Cubs starters have given up 41 first inning runs this season, the most in the majors. Pitchers like Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey, Kyle Hendricks and Brett Anderson have all struggled this season. That wasn’t the case in 2016 when the Cubs had arguably the best rotation in baseball.
One thing that can keep the Cubs in it is their hitters.
The Cubs lineup is filled with star power including reigning National League MVP Kris Bryant. The 25-year-old is on a mission to repeat as the NL MVP and help the Cubs reach the World Series again.
After a slow start, Bryant has really turned it on in late April and early May. In his first 150 plate appearances in 2017, Bryant has 6 home runs and 16 RBI.
He’s leading the way for Cubs hitters early on.
In addition to Bryant, the Cubs also have young sluggers like Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell in their lineup.
Rizzo is in the middle of a slump, with just 3 hits in his last 32 plate appearances. If the Cubs really want to repeat, they will need the left-handed batter to start hitting better.
With the departure of leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler, manager Joe Maddon has resorted to putting left fielder Kyle Schwarber in that spot.
So far it hasn’t been as successful as Maddon imagined.
Schwarber is hitting just .198 through the first 30 games, which is not the production you want to see from the guy at the top of the lineup. It will be interesting to see if Maddon makes a move sooner rather than later.
If Maddon does decide to switch things up again, two players to keep an eye on are Jon Jay and Albert Almora.
Both outfielders are hitting the ball well to start the season, as they split time in center field. They could be two candidates to stick at the top of the lineup and try to fill the void lost when Fowler signed with St. Louis in the offseason.
Almora is in his first full year with the team and has already shown how good he can be defensively for the Cubs early on this year. The 23-year-old has wowed fans with his defensive web gems.
Jay is a veteran who is one of the better offseason signings for the Cubs. He’s hitting .332 in 72 plate appearances to start the season and has provided a spark.
The Cubs bullpen has pitched well overall, despite a few hiccups.
They acquired Wade Davis to be their closer, a key offseason addition. Davis has been lights out for the Cubs in save opportunities this season.
If Chicago reaches the post season, he will play a key role in the team’s success.
Even with the team’s struggles, it’s only May. There are still a lot of baseball games to be played and the Cubs still have a very talented roster.
Don’t panic just yet Cubs fans.