Chicago Cubs 2018 Season Preview
My, how things have changed for an organization that was once Major League Baseball’s most lovable loser.
The Chicago Cubs are coming off their third straight season with more than 90 wins. A 2017 season that ended with the team making it to the National League Championship Series is considered a disappointment. Whether or not the Cubs will win the National League Central division seems like a laughable question. to most people, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Cubs will win their division; the bigger question is around what they’ll do after they win it.
Like being married – i think
For better or for worse, the Cubs are rolling with the core of the team that won the 2016 World Series intact. During the offseason, they brought back Addison Russell and superstar Kris Bryant on one-year arbitration-sparing deals. Kyle Schwarber has come into spring training in great shape. Javier Baez looks primed to take on a bigger role in the lineup.
Ben Zobrist will be out there in left field for the team. The biggest difference will be Albert Almora Jr. taking over in centerfield for Jon Jay, or whether they’ll have to put the offensively-challenged Jason Hayward in that spot (potentially messing with their depth in the outfield).
On the mound
On the mound, the Cubs will still have one of the best rotations in baseball, though it does remain to be seen regarding how formidable the group overall will be, especially in comparison to what we’ve seen in years past. Jon Lester went from 2nd in the 2016 voting for the NL Cy Young to giving up 32 additional runs in 22 fewer innings, finishing the year with a 4.33 ERA last year.
Kyle Hendricks missed almost two months of the season last year. John Lackey turned 39-years old this offseason, and finished last year with a 12-12 record and a 4.59 ERA in 30 starts. And then the Cubs replaced Jake Arrieta, the inconsistent pitcher with absolutely electric stuff when he’s on, with pitcher Yu Darvish, the enigmatic thrower who was the goat of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.
The bullpen needs a Red Bull or two
Things aren’t much sunnier in their bullpen, especially considering they did have the 7th-best group in the Majors last season. Aroldis Chapman is gone, as is Wade Davis. In other words: there’s still work to be done here.
All of this might otherwise seem pessimistic, but there’s a reason this team advanced to the NLDS last year. General Manager Theo Epstein has assembled a roster that’s absolutely loaded, with logjams of players that most other organizations would kill to have.
Manager Joe Maddon is phenomenal at motivating his players and getting the most out of them. The Cubs have one of the most dynamic pairs of young hitters in the game in Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. The hitting order is still young and talented, and has the experience of playing in important postseason games.
The end bit
It wouldn’t be any surprise to see Chicago once again battling it out with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fall, for National League supremacy.