The Chicago Cubs fulfilled every Northside fan dreams this past season and won the World Series. Cubs 108 year long drought ended with an inspirational 3-1 series comeback against the Indians. However, Cubs couldn’t keep the same team intact after the incredible season. You go, we go not the slogan for the Cubs next year anymore, Cubs lost Dexter Fowler and lost their flamethrower closer Aroldis Chapman to MLB free agency. Both players were key to the Cubs championship and the incredible 103 win season; Wrigley Field fans will miss them both. The hardest thing a championship team can do is make their team better, and that’s just what the Cubs did this offseason. Will the Cubs still be the best team in MLB this year?
The Cubs had to fill the closing role; Aroldis Chapman signed a big deal with New York Yankees this offseason. Aroldis Chapman played an important part in the Cubs bullpen in the postseason, but his numbers weren’t actually up to par. Chapman’s postseason numbers were 2-1 3.10 ERA and three blown saves and could have been a reason why the Cubs traded for a better closer. They didn’t fill the role with just “anybody” they added Wade Davis, Kansas City Royals postseason hero of 2015. Cubs are getting a two-time all-star closer who has dominated in the postseason. Wade Davis playoffs stats and stats from the last three years show he’s an overall better closer than Aroldis Chapman.
Wade Davis the only pitcher in MLB history to have multiple seasons with at least 50 IP and an ERA of 1.00 or lower (2014 and 2015) according to ESPN. Davis Postseason stats: 32.1IP, 0.84 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 46 Ks, 9BBs. Davis Only 1 ER in his last 27.1 playoff innings. Wade Davis was once one of the best closer and pitchers a few years back. Another key departure is Dexter Fowler. He left, and that’s a big hole to fill. Dexter Fowler had an amazing OBP .393, a BB % of 14.3; Cubs went 27-12 when Fowler scored a run in the game. Cubs tried to fill his departure with Jon Jay, but while Jay doesn’t have the power like Fowler, he can get on base like him.
Cubs didn’t get Jon Jay to be exactly like Fowler; they got him to platoon CF with Albert Almora Jr. Albert Almora Jr and Jon Jay numbers combined, can produce the same numbers as Fowler or even exceed his numbers. Jon Jay is going into his 8th year, spent his first six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. His last season didn’t see much action playing off the bench. Started 68 games with the Padres in the 2016 season, hit 2 HRs, 26 RBI’s, with a .291 AVG. The last signing Cubs made this offseason to improve the team was Koji Uehara who pitched the last out in the 2013 World Series for the Red Sox. Cubs survived some questionable in-game decisions at Progressive Field that made this signing key. A right-hander pitcher that frustrated the left-hand hitters to having a .183 batting average. Koji career numbers are 2.53 ERA, 93 Saves, 522 SO, and the incredible 0.86 WHIP, Koji pitched in the postseason last year against the Indians and only gave up one hit with a 0.00 ERA.
Their bullpen is still elite as well; with Davis, a top 5 closer when healthy. CJ Edwards, Pedro Strop, Koji Uehara, Hector Rondon, Wade Davis will be the bullpen lineup for the Cubbies. All bullpen pitchers have World Series experience that could be helpful in the Cubs reach the postseason. Cj Edwards is an emerging star on this Cubs team, Edwards posted 3.75 ERA, with a killing 0.81 WHIP, 52 SO in just 36 IP. On the other hand, If Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon can stay healthy, they can be back in Joe Maddon’s circle of trust in 2017.
Pedro Strop and Hector Rondon both posted ERA of under three before the injury. The Cubs starting pitching staff is real solid, and could potentially be even better if they sign Tyson Ross or make a trade. With another year of the starting pitching crew, Cubs get a full year of Kyle Hendricks. He who led the MLB in ERA, and could have been the World Series Co-MVP. Mike Montgomery is the newcomer into his role and outperformed himself last year, Montgomery pitched 38.1IP, had 2.82 ERA and even pitched the last out in the World Series. Cubs pitching rotations still feature Jon Lester Jake Arrieta as their top 2 guys both ended up in top 10 pitchers in low ERA. The Cubs rotation is still a force.
The Cubs offense only gets better with young players is getting more opportunities. Jason Heyward is like a new signing because Heyward’s career statistics show his 2016 season was an out-liar and looks to be an excellent candidate for a bounce-back season. Javier Baez and Addison Russell numbers are getting better year after year according to FanGraph and Baseball Reference numbers. The scary part about the Cubs offense is that Kris Bryant not at his peak of his game. Kris Bryant still has some problems with hitting to the opposite side of the field and spreading the ball around the diamond. The third baseman has highest OPS to pull field, lower OPS to opposite field with a .313 OPS. He still has to learn to lay off the breaking pitch and cutting down the strikeouts. Bryant already improved on his strikeout rate. In 2015 his K% was 30.6, this past season the MVP cut it down to 22%. If those numbers from FanGraph indicate anything, we can assume Bryant will cut down his strikeouts, even more, this season.
The Cubs projected 2017 lineup is about the same, even with the departure of Fowler. A full season of Kyle Schwarber plus a rebound season from Heyward counteracts that loss. Schwarber is another big addition to this offense that the Cubs didn’t have last season. He’s a player that can probably double Fowler’s offensive numbers. FanGraph projects Kyle Schwarber to hit 27 HR 73 RBI 23.5K% and a 2.9 WAR. Lastly, their defense was already the best in baseball, and they’re adding Almora and Jay to center, which are both upgrades over Fowler. Jorge Soler departure was an upgrade for the outfield defense. Sometimes, Soler didn’t run the right route to get to the ball in the outfield. Both Jon Jay and Albert Almora’s defensive percentages are better than Jorge Soler with Jay’s defensive fielding % at .994. A full season with Wilson Contreras behind the plate will almost ensure better numbers from the catcher position as an upgrade from fan favorite David Ross. Contreras made sure his presence was known when he came to the big leagues. In just 76 games, Contreras hit 12 homers with 35 RBI’s and contributed big in the Game 6 and 7 World Series.
The World Series champions are still the team to beat; this Cubs team was destined to win for 2017. You heard the slogan “Next Year is The Year” you heard that because Kyle Schwarber went down. Kyle Schwarber is back in the Cubs lineup and will provide a lethal force in the middle of the lineup, or even the leadoff batter Cubs offense numbers will be better with Kyle back and a chance of having five players in the opening day lineup to have 20 + home runs. Addison Russell is still working on his offensive game, and past the sophomore test, now he’s ready to continue his career his power will get nothing but better. Teams still have to face the daunting 1-5 hitters, if Schwarber does indeed leadoff.