Oct. 07, 2017
Can the Cubs Repeat?
Last year was a magical season for the Chicago Cubs. From the very start of 2016, the Cubs showed everyone that they could be a special baseball team. And boy, they were. The team was largely led by the starting pitching staff, which included two Cy Young finalists and the former winner of the award. To go with that, a batting lineup with great hitters all throughout, including the MVP.
The 2017 version of this team appeared to be set for a disappointing season. Through most of the year, the Cubs couldn't seem to get anything going. There was no Ace on the pitching staff. Every starter had issues at some point or another. The offense still had great hitters, but none seemed to play as well as last season. It seemed like nearly every player had just gotten a little bit worse from the previous year.
Fortunately, the Cubs began to peak at the right time. In fact, no NL team won more games than the Cubs post All-Star break. Most of that success is due to the resurrection of the offense. The Cubs scored far more runs than any other NL team, and had the best team batting average of any team that doesn't call Coors Field home. The Cubs also stayed patient and drew more walks than everyone but the Reds. Some of the top performers have been, you guessed it, Bryant and Rizzo. Along with them has been two of last year's top playoff stories, Schwarber and Baez, and probably the most improved of the year, Willson Contreras.
Pitching has also seen improvement since the All-Star break. The Cubs were 3rd in the NL for most pitching stats. The only issue is that the Dodgers and Nationals are the two teams ahead of them. And that brings us to the big question. Can the Cubs beat these teams? The short answer is yes, yes they can. When this team is at their best, I fully believe there is not a single team that can beat them. The problem is they have been far from their best far too often. Although we saw a lot of good throughout the year, we also saw a lot of blowout losses and losing streaks. We saw players go on seemingly endless skids. You can't afford that in the postseason.
It's for this reason that I don't see the Cubs repeating. They hit one rough patch and they're done. It's hard for me to imagine this current team going a month without a skid like they have had so often this season. Unfortunately, I think that skid will come sooner rather than later. The Nationals have seemed to have the Cubs' number this season. The Nats only won the season series by 1 game, but the Cubs looked pretty ugly in a couple of the losses. Washington also reminds me a lot of last year's Cubs. The have those 3 aces in the rotation and the bats all through the lineup with just the bullpen leaving something more to be desired. And even the bullpen has seemed a little better as of late. I see Washington taking the series in 5 games. The Cubs will battle and give a couple good games, but they will fall just a tad short of victory.
I hope they prove me wrong. However, if they do in fact take a 1st round exit, maybe that isn't such a bad thing. Maybe that will give this team the extra time they need to get better. Obviously it's hard to say that because we want them to be the best right now, but let's be realistic. Even the best teams don't win every year. Often times the mark of a great team is not how they win, but how they respond to losses. A great team grows from defeat. They use losses to find their problems, fix them, and then seek redemption. If the Cubs really are a great team, an early exit won't hurt them but help them. But for now, let's just hope they don't need the help.