Commentary: How do Cubs have best record in the NL?
|Thursday, June 21, 2018 2:17 PM- -|
At 42-29 and winners of 16 of 23, the Chicago Cubs are 13 games over .500 despite getting nothing from newcomer Yu Darvish. Albert Almora Jr. the only regular hitting over .300 and only one starter out of the five-man rotation is consistently churning out great starts, Jon Lester.
They have had two five-game winning streaks and one five-game losing streak. They are surprisingly 11th out of 15 teams in the NL with only 73 home runs but are second in the NL with a .259 team batting average. They have been shut out seven times, and Kris Bryant has only 36 RBI’s. Joe Maddon has done his usual tinkering with the lineup, and on some days when I see infielder Ian Happ misplaying fly balls in center field while replacing a guy that is hitting 100 points higher than him, it makes me scratch my head! Granted, the weather in Chicago hurts a lot of player’s stats in April and May, here they are at the end of June in first place! So how are we here? Let’s see….
Pitching and defense, something that didn’t exist in the Cubs world as recently as five years ago has been leading the charge.
The Cubs lead the National League with a 3.13 team ERA, despite only 612 strikeouts as a staff. They lead the NL in walks with 306, but the staff as a whole doesn’t give up a lot of hits, which contributes to fewer baserunners. Pitching Coach Jim Hickey was known for turning around the career of journey relievers in Tampa Bay, and he is doing the same in Chicago with the likes of recent additions Anthony Bass, Luke Farrell, and Randy Rosario.
At the back of the rotation, Mike Montgomery has shown management that he deserves to remain in the rotation when all is said and done. Tyler Chatwood’s control issues have put the team in a precarious position because if he is moved to the bullpen I don’t think you can trust his control in the late innings of a tight game. His stuff is so good when it is in the strike zone, the problem is he doesn’t find the plate often enough, as he leads all of baseball with an astounding 63 walks in 68 innings pitched.
The outfield arms of five-time Gold Glover Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber, who leads the NL with seven outfield assists, have become nightly missile launches. If you include Almora’s highlight reel, the Cubs have arguably the National League’s best outfield, and we already have seen the past three postseasons what Baez and Rizzo have done in the infield.
The just-completed series win against a hot Dodger team was one out from being a sweep. It was an excellent test for this group.
The individual numbers don’t have to jump off the page, that’s for losing teams! This team has embodied Maddon’s 9=8 approach, nine guys playing hard, equals one of eight postseason spots. The only real number that should matter to this group is 2, which is the number of World Championships they hope to own come October!