Lack Of Timely Hitting Dooms Cubs

The Cubs lost their series opener in Miami against the Marlins. The Cubs had the bases loaded in the top of the ninth after Addison Russell, Albert Almora, and David Ross had managed to get on with one out. After Ross, Chris Coghlan and Ben Zobrist came up to the plate.

Coghlan struck out swinging and Zobrist popped up to end the inning. The loss marked the first four game losing streak for the Cubs this season. Had Coghlan or Zobrist gotten on base with a single, the Cubs could have scored one or even two runners. The Cubs would have to fend off the Marlins again in that inning to win the anyway, but it is possible the Cubs could have won in they could have gotten a few more hits in the ninth.

Prior to losing to the Marlins, the Cubs had been swept by their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. This cut the Cubs’ lead in the NL Central by three games. The Cubs still have a large lead on the second place Cardinals, but had a 12.5 game lead prior to being swept.

The Cubs lost their games against the Marlins and the Cardinals for a number of reasons, but mainly it has been their hitting, or lack thereof holding them back. In the series against the Cardinals, the Cubs averaged 2.33 runs per game. In their opener versus the Marlins, the Cubs only scored two runs. Nine runs over four games is abnormal for one of the MLB’s best offenses.

In addition to the Cubs struggling offense, several young prospects have taken the place of established stars in recent games. Albert Almora took the place a Dexter Fowler, and Willson Contreras took the place of Anthony Rizzo. There will be growing pains as Joe Maddon tries to get his prospects some playing time, but hopefully they will pass as the Cubs starters return to play.

Those prospects will become valuable in the near future, however, as they are considered for potential trades. For the past several weeks, multiple sources have said that the Cubs are looking to make a trade in order to bring in a big time reliever. Whether Albert Almora or Willson Contreras will be moved is speculation at this point but nothing should be ruled out at this point as the Cubs try to take improve their team for a long postseason run and try to take home some hardware.

Moving Forward

The Cubs have three more games to play the against the Marlins after losing the series opener and will round out the month of June against the Cincinnati Reds in Ohio. The Cubs will then finish their current road trip in New York against the Mets and then come home to play the Reds again in July.

The Cubs will look to get back on track going forward with two series against a last place NL Central rival. The Cincinnati Reds are 28-45 as of June 23rd, have a 17-20 home record, and are 20 games back of the 1st place Cubs. While it is still early in the season, the Cubs need to end their losing streak.

Cubs Lose Jake Arrieta’s Start

The Chicago Cubs finished their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 2nd. The Cubs won three out of the four games against the Dodgers, but failed to take advantage of a Jake Arietta start in their one loss. Arrieta went seven innings giving up no runs.

The Cubs lost the game in the last two innings. After seven innings, the game was scoreless, but two runs were scored off pitcher Clayton Richard in the eighth and three runs were scored off pitcher Adam Warren in the ninth.  The Cubs lost 5-0.

The last time the Cubs lost a game when Jake Arrieta started a game was in July of 2015. The game was officially a no-decision for Arrieta so it didn’t affect his win-loss record.

On June 5th, however, The Arizona Diamondbacks managed to put up three runs on Arrieta. The Cubs offense only managed to put up two runs in that game. The final score was 3-2, giving Arrieta his first loss in eleven months.

Best Rotation in the MLB?

As of June 4th, the five starters of the Cubs rotation all have an ERA under three. John Lackey has a 2.88 ERA, which is the best among starters. The average ERA of the five starters is 2.55, the best statistically in the MLB as of June 4th.

Hot Streak

The Cubs have won ten of their last twelve games as of June 5th. This comes after the Cubs had lost eight of twelve at one point in May. The Cubs are hitting especially well in their current stretch.

The home run ball has especially helped the Cubs. Anthony Rizzo hit one out to right field on the on June 4th and Kris Bryant has hit 400-foot home runs on consecutive days this past week. Dexter Fowler recently hit his 3rd leadoff home run.

Fowler has been especially good against opposing fastballs. According to an infographic posted on Inside Edge’s twitter account, Fowler has a .405 batting average when a fastball is thrown to him. Five of his home runs have also come off fastballs.

Looking for Relievers?

According an article published by ESPN’s MLB Rumor Central, the Cubs are possibly looking for a lefty reliever on the trade market. The news come in the wake of Clayton Richard’s struggles. Richard has an 8.00 ERA in sixteen appearances as of June 3rd.

The article specifically mentions Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller of the New York Yankees as trade targets for the Cubs. The Cubs have recently done business with the Yankees, trading Starlin Castro this past winter. The Cubs got Adam Warren in return, who has a 2.75 ERA as of June 5th.

Will the Yankees will be willing to trade one of their relievers? It is not guaranteed. The Yankees are currently six games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East, but could improve their standing as the summer goes on. It is too early in the year for the Yankees to give up hope on the postseason.

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

Chicago Cubs Early Season Recap

The Cubs are now 25 games into their regular season and with their most recent win, a 7-1 win over the Pittsburg Pirates, have improved their overall record to 19-6 which is still good enough for best in the Major League.

Once again showing his magic on the mound was Jake Arrieta. Pitching seven shutout innings and allowing only two hits against the Pirates, Arrieta once again dominated. This has become the norm for Arrieta even against superb competition like the Pirates who are the 5th best team in ESPN’s most recent power rankings.

It’s not just Arrieta that’s having a great season so far. Several Cubs players have contributed to the team’s success.

 

Pitching

The Cubs rotation is among the best in the league. Lead by Cy Young Winning Pitcher Jake Arrieta, Cubs starters have a combined 16-4 record. After their win against the Pirates on May 3rd, Arrieta now leads the league in wins for a starting pitcher along with Chicago White Sox’s Pitcher Chris Sale.

In addition to Arrieta, starters Jon Lester and Jason Hammel have an era below 2.00. Only John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks have ERAs above that mark, 4.32 and 3.52 respectively. Hendricks is the only Cubs’s starter with a losing record at 1-2.

The relievers are also performing at high level. Justin Grimm, Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon, Travis Wood, and Adam Warren have ERAs below 2.00. Trevor Cahill, who helped seal the victory against the Pirates has a 3.86 ERA.

The only Cubs pitcher with an ERA above 5.00 is Clayton Richard at 6.75.

 

Offense

The Cubs are loaded with offensive talent. Dexter Fowler is currently leading the regular starters with a .352 average, 31 hits, and a .473 on base percentage. Given a one-year deal in the offseason after searching for a long term deal in the open market, Fowler is proving his worth.

Anthony Rizzo normally has a higher average than his current .242, but he now has sole possession of 1st place in the RBI standings with 26. Rizzo also leads the team in home runs with 8.

Former Rookie of the year Kris Bryant is hitting above .300 again after Tuesday’s game. He also has 17 RBIs and I second on the team in hits at 29.

Free agent acquisitions Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist are hitting .211 and .253 respectively. While Heyward is not performing poorly, his number are down from last season’s career highs with the Cardinals.

 

Coaching

Not much needs to be said here. Joe Maddon is one of the best coaches in baseball and was the National League Coach of the year in 2015.

 

Fielding

Out of 27 qualifying players, 18 Cubs’ fielders have a 1.000 fielding percentage, and another 5 have at least a .900 average. Only Adam Warren hasa fielding average below .700.

 

Injuries

In the third game of the year, the Cubs lost outfielder and catcher Kyle Schwarber to a season ending leg injury. Since then the Cubs have not missed a beat and continue to be a powerhouse without the young phenom.

More recently, Jason Heyward is dealing with a wrist injury. According to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs are hopeful that Heyward can be back in the lineup Wednesday May 4th in the series finale against the Pirates.

Matt Szczur is also injuried. Gonzles is reporting that Szczur has a right hamstring injury and has been put on the 15-day disabled list. His temporary replacement on the Cubs roster is Ryan Kalish.

 

Expectations

The Cubs are considered the best team in Major League Baseball. Going forward they have to keep winning in order to keep steady in the rankings. After finishing their series with the Pirates, the Cubs will travel back to Wrigley Field and face the Washington Nationals. The Nationals are currently 18-7 and are the number 2 team in the ESPN power rankings. The Nationals should be a good test for the Cubs and a means to test expectations going forward.

 

How the Cubs are Winning the Offseason

They were one of the most improved teams in all of baseball in 2015. Now after signing a few key players this offseason, it looks like the Chicago Cubs are gearing themselves up for a World Series run next season.

This past season was a very successful one for the Cubs. They won 97 games and captured the second NL Wildcard spot. The team got all the way to the NLCS before they were swept by the New York Mets. Nobody really expected the Cubs to do as well as they did in 2015. Manager Joe Maddon had his young team at least a year ahead of schedule. Players like third baseman Kris Bryant , first baseman Anthony Rizzo, and left fielder Kyle Schwarber really emerged as rising stars.

Even though the Cubs greatly exceeded expectations, they still fell short of the ultimate goal. The front office knew there were a few positions that the team could upgrade at. As soon as the offseason began, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer got right to work. Pitcher John Lackey was the first player the team signed. They agreed on a two-year, $32 million deal with Lackey, who went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals last year. This signing helps strengthen the Cubs starting rotation. It’s already a solid staff that includes Lackey’s former teammate Jon Lester, as well as the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta. These three pitchers will help make the Cubs’ top of the rotation one of the best in baseball.

On December 8, the Cubs signed switch-hitting utility man Ben Zobrist to a four year, $56 million contract. Zobrist was highly coveted by many teams, including the Mets. He was a big part of the Kansas City Royals during their World Series run this past October. A switch-hitter with power that can play second base, shortstop, and the outfield, Zobrist is a big addition to an already talented Cubs team.

Minutes after signing Zobrist, the Cubs made another big splash. They traded second baseman/shortstop Starlin Castro to the New York Yankees in exchange for pitcher Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan. Epstein and Hoyer decided to ship Castro because they didn’t have a use for him anymore. Zobrist will mostly play second base for the Cubs next season, the position that Castro played for most of last year. The Cubs have the shortstop position pretty much nailed down as well, with Addison Russell starting and Javier Baez backing him up. Russell had a good year last year in his first season in the MLB. He has the potential to be one of the best offensive shortstops in the game. The trade made sense for the Cubs. They got rid of Castro’s contract and acquired a good long relief pitcher in Warren.

Epstein and Hoyer weren’t done yet. They decided that one more big signing was necessary to solidify their team. That signing came in the form of power-hitting outfielder Jason Heyward. The deal was first announced a week ago. It was made official on Tuesday, when Heyward officially signed the eight-year, $184 million contract with the Cubs. Not only is Heyward a good offense player, but he’s also a three-time Gold Glove Award winner. He’ll join a young talented outfield that includes Jorge Soler and Kyle Schwarber. Both players have a tremendous amount of offensive potential. Schwarber really showcased his offensive talent last year, although he also showed that he’s not very good defensively. Heyward’s great glove will help improve the Cubs’ overall outfield defense, and his offense will help make their lineup even more dangerous.

The way things look right now, the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in all of baseball next season. They have an extremely talented young team. The additions of Lackey, Zobrist, and Heyward help give them veteran leadership and even more skill than they had before. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done an excellent job of improving their team this offseason. Thanks to them, the Cubs now have a very good chance to win the 2016 World Series. Cubs fans have been waiting forever for their team to win it all. Next year, their patience might finally pay off.

 

Cubs Skipper Joe Maddon Named NL Manager of the Year

He accomplished a lot in his first year in Chicago. Now Joe Maddon has been recognized for his success.

On Tuesday night, Maddon was officially named the National League Manager of the Year. The Chicago Cubs manager beat out Mike Matheny of the St Louis Cardinals and Terry Collins of the New York Mets for the award. Maddon received 18 first-place votes, while Matheny received 9 and Collins only 3.

This is the third time that Maddon has won Manager of the Year. He won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2008 and 2011 while he was managing the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon managed the Cubs to a 97-65 record this season. The team finished third in the NL Central, but captured the second NL Wildcard spot. They beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 in the NL Wildcard Game, and then went on to beat the Cardinals in four games in the NLDS. Maddon had the Cubs back in the NLCS for the first time since 2003. However, the team went no further, as they were swept by the Mets in the NLCS. Even though the season didn’t end they way they wanted it to, the Cubs definitely took a big step forward in 2015.

The Cubs won 73 games and finished in last place in their division in 2014. After Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays at the end of the 2014 season, the Cubs decided to fire their manager Rick Renteria and hire Maddon. While with the Rays, Maddon had established himself as one of the best managers in all of baseball. Over the course of nine seasons in Tampa Bay, he posted a record of 754 and 705. He managed the Rays to the World Series in 2008, but they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s easy to see why the Cubs were so quick to fire Renteria and hire Maddon.

Tasked with managing a young Cubs team, Maddon certainly had his hands full this past season. As the season progressed, more and more good young hitters were called up from the minor leagues. Young third baseman Kris Bryant was called up in mid-April. Going into the season, many baseball experts considered Bryant the best prospect in all of baseball. Addison Russell was called up by the team a few days later. Kyle Schwarber, the player the Cubs drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, was called up in June. These three hitters all showed right away that they had tremendous offensive talent. They added to an already talented Cubs offense that included Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Maddon did a good job of managing his lineup day in and day out. He made sure to use his young offensive talent in the most effective ways possible.

Even though the Cubs were loaded with talent in 2015, they didn’t have much experience. Maddon was able to guide this inexperienced team. They stayed a few games over .500 for the majority of the season, and then really took off the last two months. They won a combined 38 games in August and September while losing only 18. As the season went on, you could see the young players becoming more and more comfortable as they became acclimated with the Cubs and playing at the Major League level. By the time the regular season was over, Maddon had the Cubs looking like one of the best teams in all of baseball.

There’s no doubt that Joe Maddon deserved to win the NL Manager of the Year Award. He came to Chicago and completely turned the culture around. Under his leadership, the Cubs went from being a last place team to a legitimate World Series contender. With all the good young players the Cubs have, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be back in the playoffs next year. After the success they had this year, the logical next step for this team would be to at least get to the World Series. Considering the players they have and who their manager is, it’s hard not to like their chances.       

 

 

Cubs Surge Into NLCS For the First Time in 12 Years

It was quite a scene at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night. The Chicago Cubs, a franchise that has been known for their struggles and championship drought finally had something to celebrate. They had finally won a playoff series, and by doing so cliched a birth in the NLCS for the first time in over a decade. For the Cubs and their fans, this was a long time coming.

The Cubs used their high-powered offense to beat their division rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in the NLDS. After getting shutout 4-0 in St. Louis in Game 1, the Cubs’ bats woke up. They scored six runs early in Game 2 and were able to hold on and win 6-3 thanks to a strong outing from their bullpen. The series shifted to Wrigley Field on Monday for Game 3.

That’s when the Cubs took control of the series. They had an offensive explosion, hitting six home runs in the game. Kyle SchwarberStarlin CastroKris BryantAnthony RizzoJorge Soler, and Dexter Fowler all went deep for the Cubs. The six home runs in a single postseason game set a new MLB postseason record. The Cubs offense picked up Jake Arrieta, who was surprisingly didn’t have a good start. The Cubs ace only lasted 5 2/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on five hits. The man who allowed only two earned runs the entire month of September actually had a bad start. Michael Wacha and the other Cardinals pitchers couldn’t couldn’t capitalize on Arrieta’s struggles however, and the Cubs won the game 8-6.

The Cardinals wouldn’t go down in the series without a fight. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in Game 4. The Cubs responded in the bottom of the second inning with an RBI single by their pitcher Jason Hammel. The next batter was Javier Baez, and he took  John Lackey deep for a three-run homer to give the Cubs a 4-2 lead. Unlike Game 1, the Cubs were actually able to get to Lackey. The Cardinals still would not die however. They tied the game in the top of the sixth with RBIs from Tony Cruz and Brandon Moss. Anthony Rizzo gave the Cubs the lead back in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run. Kyle Schwarber padded the lead in the bottom of the seventh with a towering home run that landed on top of the video board in right field. That home run pretty much sealed the deal for the Cubs. The bullpen finished the job. The Cubs had finally clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field.

Before Tuesday, the Cubs had never clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field in the field’s 100 year history. The team last won the World Series back in 1908. Before this postseason, they had only won one postseason series since 1908. That was in 2003 when they beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS in five games to advance to the NLCS. They were unable to get to the World Series that year, as they were beaten by the then Florida Marlins in seven games. What everyone remembers about that series though was the infamous “Steve Bartman incident”. The Cubs have been a franchise more remembered for the negative things that have happened to them over the years rather than the positive things. That’s mainly because not a lot of positive things have happened to them since 1908. So far, this year’s an exception.

This could finally be the year that the Cubs break the Curse of the Billy Goat. That of course was the curse put on the team by Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis when he was asked to leave a World Series game at Wrigley Field in 1945 because of the odor of his pet goat. Many Cubs fans attribute their team’s lack of success over the last 70 years to this curse. They haven’t been to the World Series since then, and have only won one playoff series. They have reason to believe the curse is real. We’ve witnessed the Curse of the Bambino be broken in the last decade. In fact, the Red Sox have won three World Series titles since 2004. Maybe it’s time for the Cubs to break their curse.

Whatever happens the rest of the way for the Cubs, this year was certainly a success. They went from being a last place team in 2014 to a Wild Card team in 2015. Manager Joe Maddon has his team in the NLCS in his first year managing in Chicago. He’s got a very talented young team that will be good for many years. In the coming weeks, we’ll find out if the Cubs have what it takes to win it all this year. The way they’re playing right now, they definitely have a good chance.