Chicago Cubs Pull Out of Recent Slump

 

The Chicago Cubs have won three straight games as of May 27th. The Cubs beat their NL Central rivals the St. Louis Cardinals in the last two games of that series and won the series opener of against the Philadelphia Phillies on the 27th.

In their series opening win against the Phillies, the Cubs rested Anthony Rizzo and put Kris Bryant in his spot at first base. It was an unusual sight, as Bryant usually plays third base. This is the first time all season that Anthony Rizzo has not played a game for the Cubs.

The Cubs were also beneficiaries of well-timed home runs. Jorge Soler hit a 461-foot bomb that bounced off the Cubs Video Board in left field during the 4th inning. David Ross also hit a home run in the fourth inning. The home run hit by Ross was his 100th career homer.

Also helping the Cubs in their last few games was the return of outfielder Jason Heyward. He was injured during the series against the San Francisco Giants. He was only out for a few days and managed to return in time to play the Cardinals, his former team.

Prior to their current win streak, the Cubs had lost eight of their last twelve games. In that stretch, the Cubs lost games to teams that rank in the bottom half of the league. The Cubs dropped two games to the San Diego Padres and two games to the Milwaukee Brewers.

Despite that rough patch, the Cubs are still listed first in the weekly ESPN power rankings. The Cubs also still have the best record in the MLB. Every team has its slumps and the Cubs seem to have pulled out of theirs.

Going Forward

After their series with the Phillies, the Cubs will start the month of June at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are 25-24 as of May 27th. After that, the Cubs will host the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 3rd before traveling on Philadelphia to play the Phillies again on June 6th.

The Cubs a very favorable stretch of games coming up in the next week and a half. The Dodgers are their most difficult opponents and the Cubs will play at home until June 6th.  The Cubs should be able to take most of their games in that stretch.

Starting June 13th, however, the competition heats up. The Cubs travel to Washington D.C. to play the Nationals and then come home to play the Pittsburg Pirates on June 17th and the St. Louis Cardinals on June 20th.

The Cubs have a 4.5 game lead over the Pirates after their series opening win against the Phillies on May 27th. Prior to their slump, the Cubs had an even bigger lead in the NL Central. Depending on how the Cubs do over the next few series, the division could have a new leader by the time the Pirates and Cubs meet.

The Pirates are no joke and despite the recent dominance the Cubs have had over them, it is still early in the season. Anyone could come out on top of the division. No one expects the Cubs to tank, not with all the talent they have on their roster, but it is still possible.

 

 

 

Why James Loney Makes Sense for the Mets

It’s no secret that the New York Mets are having issues at first base right now. Lucas Duda was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a stress fracture in his lower back. It’s estimated that he’ll be sidelined for about four to six weeks. Eric Campbell has started at the position since Duda’s injury. However, Campbell is not meant to be an everyday player. The Mets need to consider other options.

One option that the team has reportedly been inquiring about is James Loney. Currently with the San Diego Padres organization, Loney has spent the year in Triple-A with the El Paso Chihuahuas. In 154 at-bats, he’s hitting .344 with two home runs and 28 RBIs. His on-base percentage is up to .376. Given that Loney’s currently playing in the minor leagues, the Padres would probably be willing to part with him should the Mets attempt to acquire him.

Joel Sherman of The New York Post reported on Tuesday that the Mets “have some curiosity” about Loney. There’s certainly no reason why they shouldn’t. The reality of the situation is that the team needs a first baseman. Eric Campbell just has not hit enough to justify putting him out there everyday. He can field the position well, but that’s not enough. He’s only batting .192 in 52 at-bats this season, and has just one home run and five RBIs. The Mets don’t really have too many other internal options at first base. Wilmer Flores is expected to be activated from the disabled list later today. He’ll get a chance to be the starting first baseman for the time being. Before he was placed on the disabled list on May 12 with a hamstring injury, Flores was Duda’s primary backup. However, he wasn’t exactly having the best season offensively prior to the injury. Flores is hitting just .180 in 50 at-bats this year, and has a home run and two RBIs. His numbers aren’t really much better than Campbell’s.

The Mets have floated around other internal possibilities, including playing young outfielder Michael Conforto at first base. This would allow center fielder Juan Lagares to get more playing time. This could be a good idea, except for the fact that Conforto has never played first base professionally. Neil Walker sliding over to first base has also been discussed. Although these other options might work, Loney is still the Mets’ best bet.

Loney is a proven major league first baseman who has always put up good offensive numbers. Over the course of his 10-year career, he’s had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays. He’s only batted under .250 in a season once. Last year with the Rays, he batted .280 with four home runs and 32 RBIs. He could definitely provide some stability at first base until Duda is able to return. Given that he’s a left-handed hitter with some power, Loney would fit right into the Mets lineup. When Duda is ready to return, Loney could serve as his main backup, adding more depth to the bench. Depth on the bench is something the Mets have definitely lacked this season.

If the Mets are smart, they’ll try and acquire James Loney as soon as possible. He’s a solid short-term option at first base. There’s no reason not to go out there and get him.

Back In The New York Groove: The Yankees Are Rolling

This six game winning streak the Yankees have put together is building momentum for the team to be contenders in the AL east. This next series can put them over the .500 mark if they win 2 out of 3, so it is important that they take an aggressive approach to this series and they have.

At the beginning of the season the Yankees were not playing like this because of injuries and the suspension of Aroldis Chapman. Now that the bullpen is together and starting pitching has been solid the team is making their competition look rather easy.

Now that the team is playing as one they can help each other out on offense and defense and win big.

Great starting pitching has been a big help in their recent success and that has been supplemented by a high powered offense. In the past six games they have been scoring an average of 5 runs per game. 5 runs should be more than enough with the way the Yankees have been pitching. Making the load lighter on starting pitchers is paying off because they are allowed to have more efficient innings while they have a comfortable lead. The defense is feeding off of the offense and that strategy is the key to keeping a good balance on the field.

The Yankees have also been capitalizing with runners in scoring position. Earlier in the season they would strand runners on second and third, and sometimes with the bases loaded. That was a problem that could not continue or they would have remained in their losing rut.

At some point during the season all of the players will have a drought because it is hard and impossible to stay hot all 162 games. Other teammates are there to pick up the slack and get runs in.

Opposing pitchers should stay away from walking batters because the Yankees have been driving in those runs.

Another reason the run production has been so high is because of capitalization on errors. Errors don’t happen often maybe one or two a game, but when they do the Yankees have taken them and turned them into runs. During the series against the Oakland Athletics they had a total of 6 errors. They Yankees swept and that was a big reason why. Turning mistakes into runs is a different dynamic the Yankees have used that has given them insurmountable leads and helped them win games. Scoring opportunities are important and the Yankees are taking them every chance they get.

Joe Girardi deserves credit for this winning streak and the Yankees getting back to .500. The way he has been managing the pitching staff has helped the starting rotation and the bullpen. He has been using the big 3 when they are needed, but he has given them a chance to rest due to great starting pitching and run support. The Yankees have made winning look easy, but it all starts with the manager and Girardi has found what works for his team.

The Yankees will try to continue their winning streak tonight in game 2 of the Blue Jays series. They will have to be as great as they have been because Toronto can be dangerous with their power hitting lineup.

Why The Braves Shouldn’t Promote Their Top Prospects

With the 2016 Braves continuing to struggle, the fans are looking towards the future. They await the new season, they await the new SunTrust Park, and, more eagerly (or should I say impatiently), they await the arrival of the Braves’ two top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies.

The argument for promoting these two ballplayers is based on sound logic. The current team is historically bad. The two players appear to almost be major league ready. Why not let the fans get a sneak peak at what all this struggling is leading towards and improve the current team at the same time?

I can understand why many fans feel this way, and the side of me that is a fan is fully onboard with them. Dansby Swanson is currently batting .313 with 4 homers, 21 RBIs, and 9 stolen bases down in the minors so far, and meanwhile Ozzie Albies is already in Triple-A Gwinnett as a 19 year old (over 5 years younger than the average player at that level ) and is batting .312 with 3 homers and 2 triples across two levels this season. They certainly are not far away from being able to produce at the big league level.

So why shouldn’t the Atlanta Braves’ front office promote their top prospects?

The answer is actually rather simple…

Service time

Major league service time is a tricky, frustrating, confusing part of professional baseball that should be adjusted in the future. But for now, I can best explain the concept as so: when a player is called up it begins their service time clock and once a player has elapsed 6 years of major league service time, they then qualify for free agency.

You’ll see front offices manipulating the service time rules in their favor every season, delaying prospects who are likely prepared for the big leagues and waiting to call them up so that will extend their time with the club.

The current system is not fair to the players and casts a negative light on baseball front offices, even though it’s a necessary evil that they must cope with and use to their advantage as best they can (under the current rules).

Waiting until midway through the 2017 season will allow the Atlanta Braves to control their top prospects Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies until after the 2023 season, instead of controlling them just through the 2022 season.

The difference of just one season may not seem like much on paper, but when you consider the Braves window to compete, it could be all the difference they need to make the delay worthwhile.

The 2017 Atlanta Braves will not be serious competitors with or without these two top prospects on the opening day roster. In fact, the Braves likely won’t be competing for the World Series again until at least 2019 or later, with most of their top prospects being several years away, including the potential arrival of this year’s upcoming international signings and draft picks, something that we profiled in much greater detail and depth here: “When Will The Atlanta Braves Compete Again?

So this extra time tacked onto their window of opportunity could prove to be the difference in the Braves winning it all in 2023…or potentially having Dansby Swanson and/or Ozzie Albies leave the team in free agency after the 2022 season.

The Braves front office will likely say that they are not going to hold the players back from making the jump to the big leagues, and that is exactly what they should say. However, the fans should not expect to see their much awaited middle infield tandem until midway through the 2017 season.

I understand this may cause slightly more pain in the now, Braves fans, but it will all be worth it when you have an entire extra season of watching these two future stars up the middle.

Have patience.

Chicago Cubs Redefining the Term Slump

Recent Results

After coming out with one of the best starts in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs have slowed down in the past week and a half. After losing a double header to the Padres, the Cubs lost their series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The team has lost 5 of its last 8 games against considerably weaker opponents and now will travel to San Francisco to the Giants and Saint Louis to play the division rival Cardinals. The level of competition is rising this week and the Cubs will have to adapt.

In their 5 loses, the Cubs have posted 4 runs or less. In their 3 wins, the Cubs scored a total of 19 runs, 17 of which came against the Pittsburg Pirates, a team the Chicago Cubs have dominated this season.

While individual players, such as Ben Zobrist, are hitting their stride, the Cubs offense is faltering. The Cubs have left a number of runners on base in scoring position. According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs went 1-for-24 with men in scoring position against the Brewers. They left 24 runners on base in the series, 14 coming of Wednesday.

In the grand scheme of it all the Cubs still lead the NL Central by 6.5 games and still have baseball’s best record. Even the best teams have their slumps. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Cubs.

Facing the Champs

On May 20th, the Cubs will begin their series against the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs also played the Giants last year and swept the would be champions.

This will be a good test for the Cubs. If they can rebound from their recent slump and beat the Giants in the series, they will be a good place going forward. The Giants are the real deal and still are a very good team.

Adding A Reliever

The Cubs recently signed Joe Nathan to a contract. Nathan is on the wrong side of 40 and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He could be a good pickup if he still has something left in the tank. He is currently on the disabled list rehabbing his throwing arm.

The Cubs have most of their relievers returning from last season. Guys like Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Travis Wood are still effective, but this move could further bolster their bull pen if Nathan pans out.

The Future Of Cubs Catching

This is David Ross’ last season in the major leagues. He has made it known for a while now that he won’t be coming back. How much of a priority will it be for the Cubs to replace Ross?

The Cubs still have Miguel Montero and Tim Federowicz who are currently listed as catchers. They also have Kyle Schwarber, who is naturally a catcher, but is versatile enough to play outfield. While it may seem like a rather obvious answer, there is more to it than what is listed on paper.

The Cubs will have a number of young studs to pay in the near future. Should salaries become an issue, the Cubs could consider trading Montero and his large contract. Montero is currently making $12 million this year according to mlb.com and that number will rise to $14 million next year.

Should it come down to it, and the Cubs do trade Montero, Schwarber could move back to catcher in order to keep Jorge Soler in the lineup who is currently filling in for Schwarber.

 

 

 

 

Cubs Sign Injured Veteran Closer Joe Nathan

It’s only May, but it looks like the Chicago Cubs are already thinking about October.

On Tuesday, the team signed relief pitcher Joe Nathan to a major league contract. They immediately placed him on the 60-day DL, as he is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Nathan will make the major league minimum, which is $507,500. The contract also includes a $1.5 million team option for 2017.

Nathan, 41, is a six-time All-Star. He last pitched in April of 2015 for the Detroit Tigers when he picked up a save on Opening Day. A few days later, he was placed on the DL with an elbow injury and ended up tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during a rehab start. This meant that he needed to have Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career. Nathan underwent the surgery and has been recovering ever since.

Signing Nathan is definitely a smart move. Although the Cubs are off to a fantastic start and have the best record in all of baseball, their bullpen hasn’t been all that great. It’s the one area that they could improve upon. The Cubs bullpen ERA is 3.34, which is only fourth-best in the National League. Closer Hector Rondon has been very good so far this season, as he’s converted on all seven of his save opportunities and has an ERA of 1.26. Set-up man Pedro Strop hasn’t been as solid. In 19 appearances, he’s 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA. Other members of this bullpen have really struggled. Justin Grimm has an ERA of 4.30, while lefty Travis Wood has his up to 4.09. Other than Rondon, the only other Cubs relief pitcher that has pitched well in 2016 is former New York Yankee Adam Warren. He’s appeared in 15 games and is 3-0 with a 1.72 ERA. Warren was acquired by the Cubs this past offseason in the deal that sent Starlin Castro to the Yankees.

Over the course of his 15-year career, Nathan has saved 377 games. He’s eighth on the all-time MLB saves list. Among active players, only Francisco Rodriguez has more saves. Nathan started his career in San Francisco pitching for the Giants. He then spent seven season with the Minnesota Twins. During his time in Minnesota, he amassed 260 saves while posting an ERA of 2.16. He was an All-Star four times while with the Twins and also finished in the top five in the AL Cy Young Award voting twice. After Minnesota, he spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Texas Rangers. He was an All-Star both years and saved 80 games with Texas. He then signed a two-year contract with the Detroit Tigers In 2014, Nathan had 35 saves, but his ERA was 4.81. He only appeared in one game in 2015 due to his injury.

Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein obviously thinks that Nathan has something left in him. If he can come back healthy later in the season, he could really help the Cubs bullpen. Nathan might also be able to be a major factor for the team once the playoffs come in October. He has plenty of postseason experience under his belt. If everything goes well, he could possibly serve as the set-up man in Chicago’s bullpen and be the bridge to Hector Rondon. Cubs fans hope this will be the case.

 

 

 

No-Run DMC: The Yankees Pitching Phenomenon

Over the vast winning history of the New York Yankees the management has always thought of a way to keep the right players together. That has been the winning formula for the team and they may have struck gold once again in with the talent they have in their bullpen.

After the departure of Mariano Rivera in 2013 fans knew that he was irreplaceable. Rivera the greatest closer of all-time left a hole in the pitching staff that needed to be filled.

There may never be another player like that for years to come or ever, but the Yankees have three pitchers that can get the job done. These players are a nightmare for an opposing team when the game is on the line.

These pitchers build a bridge strong enough to maintain the lead and finish the deal.

Dellin Betances

He is the beginning of the Yankee big three and he has been dominating in his role. Betances can come in and give two solid innings of work for the team and hold on to the lead. The reason he is such an important piece of this three man rotation is because of his poise on the mound.

He gets settled in fast and he does not shy away from the big moments. Although he is a relatively young pitcher, he knows how to get out of a jam like a veteran. As a relief pitcher he has shown he can take the pressure off of starter and help out the rest of the bullpen.

Andrew Miller

The former closer that has now been bumped to a relief position fits in perfectly with the game ending pitching scheme. Miller has been great both as a closer and bridge man this season, and he can always pitch a great 8th inning after Betances works the 7th.

Miller can have more confidence throwing strikes when he has a comfortable lead, but even in one or two run games he can find his rhythm and get the three outs he needs.

Being the middle man in this trio has made Miller’s job an easy one. Both Miller and Betances throw in the mid to upper 90’s, but the finisher is truly a special player.

Aroldis Chapman

The Yankees did a great job reeling this great closer via trade in the offseason. Chapman is one of the best closers in the game today. Since he is not working alone it makes his job easier because there two pitchers with closing ability in front of him.

Throwing at a top speed of 103mph it is hard for a hitter to get a good swing on the ball. Now there are players that would love to turn one of those pitches into an upper deck homerun, but Chapman backs those players off the plate when he pitches them inside.

Chapman is the anchor of this unit, and when he has to close the deal he does. Right now he has 4 saves and those numbers will keep climbing as the season goes on.

“No Run DMC”

The reason these players are so good together is because they all have the 9th inning mentality, and that is to just get three outs. They have all been in that position in the 9th closing out a game and they all had what it takes to close out.

Yankee announcer Michael Kay called them “no-run DMC” because of the initials in their names that match the rap group Run DMC, and because they have been great closing out games by not allowing runs.

All three pitchers feed off of each other and that is what makes them so great. If the Yankee offense can find some consistency they could wind up in the playoffs. This is the type of pitching that can win a championship.

Throwback Thursday: DiMaggio’s Hitting Streak

Some say records, like rules, are meant to be broken.

However, Pete Rose’ 4,256 career hits, Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,632 consecutive games played, Ricky Henderson’s career 1,406 stolen bases, and Cy Young’s 511 career wins as a pitcher, are all records deemed to be “unbreakable” by many.

Another record to include in the above list of legendary accomplishments, is Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak.

This past Sunday (May 15th) marked the 75th anniversary date on which DiMaggio’s 56-game tear began. His streak would end on July 15th, 1941. That’s two months straight of getting at least one hit per game. The average MLB player today is lucky to hit consecutively for a week, let alone for two months.

To put this feat into perspective, the 14 MLB teams in existence during the time of the streak played roughly 154 games a season. Meaning DiMaggio hit consecutively for an entire third of that 41’season, posting an insane batting average of .408 to go along with 15 home runs and 55 RBI for the streak.

This event also occurred when arguably the games greatest hitter of all-time, Ted Williams, still graced the field with his presence. In case you were wondering, Williams’ longest hit streak, was 23 games in 1941, the same year DiMaggio made history.

What makes the feat of getting a hit in 56 consecutive games so remarkable, is how stacked the odds are against a player to do so. In theory the act seems rather simple. A player needs just one hit, in an average of four at bats a game, over 56 straight games. In reality, however, consistently attaining that one hit is where the difficulty begins.

Any number of factors can bring a players multi-hitting streak to an end. The player could be on the losing side of an opposing pitchers no-hitter, the stadium being played in that night could be one of the less hitter friendly parks, inevitable player fatigue, the list goes on and on. Essentially all it takes is one off or bad night, and just like that the streak is over.

 

(Photo Credit: Mark Bloom/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo Credit: Mark Bloom/Icon Sportswire)

 

In all of MLB history there have been only 55 occurrences in which a player earned a hitting streak of at least 30 games. Of those 55, the closest player on the list to DiMaggio’s 56-games is the very player he surpassed in 1941, Willie Keeler, who had a streak of 45 games between 1896-1897. Simple math shows us that DiMaggio buried the previous record by 11 games.

Other notable hitting streaks include Pete Rose’ 44 games in 1978, George Sisler with 41 games in 1922 and 35 in 1924-25, and Ty Cobb with 40 games in 1911 and 35 in 1917. Sisler and Cobb are the only players to make the list twice.

In regards to more current baseball stars on the list, Jimmy Rollins had a 38-game hit streak which he strung between 2005 and 2006, followed by former teammate Chase Utley’s streak of 35 (2006) . The last MLB player to reach a 30-game hit streak was Andre Ethier in 2011. That same year, the last longest current player streak ended with Dan Uggla’s 33-game stint.

This exclusive club of 55 could possibly see member 56 join this year. Boston Red Sox Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is currently enjoying his teams day off as the proud owner of a 25-game hit streak, which leads the majors.

Bradley Jr. will have the chance to extend his streak when the Sox return to action this Friday (May 20th), beginning a three game series against the Cleveland Indians. “JBJ” would notch his 30th consecutive game on May 25th at Fenway Park, against the Colorado Rockies.

 

Final Thoughts:

What really makes DiMaggio’s record hit streak so special, is that he most likely wasn’t trying to break Keeler’s previous mark of 45. DiMaggio, like many of the greats from baseball’s Golden Era, was simply doing what all great players do, getting on base and producing runs.

For DiMaggio in 1941, something magical, almost other worldly took place during that 56-game span, that he probably didn’t even realize until it was all over. Now that record stands, as it has for the past 75 years, unmatched and unbroken.

As to whether Jackie Bradley Jr. can re-write the history books this season, only time will tell. With pitchers topping out anywhere between 100-105MPH and other increased factors playing against today’s hitters, we may never see someone come close again.

Of Course, people said the same thing about Babe Ruth’s career home run record, enter Hank Aaron, and then said no one could ever pass “Hammer’n Hank”, enter Barry Bonds with an asterisk.

Who knows, maybe you can beat DiMaggio’s legendary streak, yes YOU.

Since 2001, MLB.com and it’s affiliates have offered fans a chance to “Beat The Streak”. Fans can pick one or two players a day whom they think will get a hit, to try and build a 57-game streak. The current grand prize pay out for doing so is $5.6 million.

A word of caution though, the closest a fan has come to DiMaggio is 49 (impressive in its own right) by Michael Karatazia of New Jersey in 2007. (Fan Information courtesy of MLB.com)

(All statistical information courtesy of BaseballReference.com)

 

 

 

 

 

New York Baseball Role Reversal

The New York Mets and the New York Yankees have always been compared to each other when it comes to which New York team is better. Over time the conversation has been sliding more toward the side of the Mets.

The reason this is happening is because the team has been consistently improving over the past few years, and the Yankees have been rapidly declining in team productivity.

Yankee fans can always point to the 27 championships that the team has accumulated, but that seems like a distant memory. Here are a few reasons the Mets have taken the role as New York’s best baseball team.

Pitching Staff

A big part of the Mets success has been their pitchers. Say what you want about their nicknames or the way they look at the plate, but they get the job done. In the National League they are making the number nine hole of the batting order a problem for their opponents.

Bartolo Colon hit his first career homerun against the San Diego Padres in a 6-3 win. Odds are he is not going to hit one every start he makes this season, but he is an example of how dangerous this team has become.

Run Support

Having a high powered offense helps when you are pitching well, but being part of that offense and producing is a deadly one-two punch.

Another pitcher in the Mets starting rotation Noah Syndergaard or “Thor” as he is referred to by Mets fans showed his batting talents by hitting two homeruns in a game and capturing a win.

Players Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto are keeping carrying the team with hot hitting. Things have looked good in Queens, but in the Bronx it has been a different story. The Yankees have not been getting runners across the plate and the pitchers have been suffering.

Veteran Leadership

David Wright and Curtis Granderson are player that have been in the league for a while and they know the importance of winning. They show the younger players that they mean business when they play. They run hard and make plays on defense to help the team.

The Yankee veterans Carlos Beltran and Alex Rodriguez are only trying to help with their bats when healthy. One veteran that has been the best player on the field for the Yankees is first baseman Mark Teixeira.

At 36 years old he is the type of player that can spark the Yankees when he needs too.

Who’s Better?

The Yankees will have an opportunity to bounce back and become one of baseball’s better teams again in years to come. They are in desperate need of young talent, and need to let go of some older players.

The days of core four are gone and the only way to get back to the glory days for the team is to get better younger and more talented players.

For now the Mets are at the top and they look like they are on a path straight back to the World Series. If the Kansas City Royals can make it back to back years the Mets have the same plan in mind with a better outcome this time around.

Week Five In The MLB: Chicago Cubs

It is now week five of the MLB season and The Chicago Cubs are still garnering serious interest across the league. In addition to their recent success, a few developments have recently come out of The North Side.

Recent Results

The Chicago Cubs still lead the overall standings at 25-8 and a .781 winning percentage. The team is still the number one team on ESPN’s weekly power rankings.

At their current pace, the Cubs can win 126 games to go 126-36. According to newsday.com, that record would beat by the next best all-time record, set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs who went 116-36, by ten games.

Despite being the best team in the game, the Chicago Cubs have shown signs of weakness recently. On March 11th, the Cubs lost a doubleheader to the San Diego Padres, a team that most of the baseball world would consider inferior to the star studded Cubs.

The Cubs lost 7-4 in the first game and 1-0 in the second game. Usually the Cubs have no problem putting up runs, but only scored five on Wednesday.

This doubleheader comes on the heels of a four game sweep of the Washington Nationals, one of the best teams in the league.  The Cubs actively avoided Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, walking him repeatedly throughout the four game series, but managed to limit his effectiveness on the bases with solid defense.

The Cubs will play division rival Pittsburg on Friday. As of May 12th, the Cubs lead the Pirates, who are second in the NL Central, by seven games, the largest gap in the MLB.

Extension for Arrieta?

The contract for Cubs ace Jake Arrieta is set to expire after next year. He will be a free agent after the 2017 season if an agreement between Arrieta and the Cubs front office is met.

Arrieta’s 1.13 ERA is the best in the league and he has entered the discussion for best pitcher in the MLB. If he does manage to become a free agent somehow, it will be difficult to replace his production.

How much it will cost to keep Arrieta at Wrigley field is unknown, but according to several sources, he is not willing to take a discount to stay with the Cubs. For reference, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg recently received a 7-year, 175-million-dollar contract.  Arrieta believes that he is worth more than Strasburg, but how much more?

No Extension For Theo, Yet

The architect behind the Chicago Cubs ascension, Theo Epstein is in the final year his contract. Epstein would be a great pickup for any team’s front office, but he is not expected to leave Chicago anytime soon.

According to CSN Chicago, Epstein believes his contract situation is a nonissue and Patrick Mooney that the players deserve to get paid first. Epstein specifically mentioned Arrieta as someone who should be a new deal before he does.

Cross Town Classic World Series?

The Cubs have the best record in the MLB, but closely behind them is their cross town rival The White Sox. The Sox are currently sitting atop the AL Central at 23-12, the 2nd best overall record in the MLB. The Sox are somewhat of a surprise are finishing 76-86 in 2015.

Just like the Cubs, the Sox have relied on the solid top three pitchers in their rotation. Chris Sale is the team’s ace. He and Jose Quintana have and ERA under 2.00. Signed in the offseason, Mat Latos has been a solid addition to the team posting a 3.40.

While both teams are very good, it is highly improbable that both will make the World Series next fall. If they do both make it, however, it would be the first time that the two teams have played against each other in the World Series since 1906, the year the Cubs posted their 116-36 record. The Sox won the series that year.

Going Forward From Here

The Cubs have only played 32 games. They still have another 130 to go. They must keep winning consistently to have a shot at the postseason. It is far too early to guarantee anyone a playoff spot.

The Cubs biggest free agent addition, Jason Heyward, has .216 average this season. Heyward has started out slow and has done so they past few years. Each time he has been able to get out of the slump. He hasn’t needed to produce superstar numbers yet, but it probably hurt the Cubs if he did.

The Cubs don’t need improvement in any one area on the diamond. They’re the best team in baseball right now and just need to keep winning. More importantly, they need to win come October when the playoffs start.