Midseason Review: Chicago Cubs

Could the Future Be Now?

If you are familiar with the “Back to the Future” movies from the 1980s, you should remember in the second of the three, the scene went 30 years into the future. That year was 2015. It’s funny to think about how people 30 years ago thought this year would be like. Some of the things they got terribly wrong, such as skateboards that flew and really stupid looking clothes that changed colors while you wore them.

But one thing the writes may have gotten right, or at least close was they had the Cubs winning the World Series this year. Unfortunately they had them winning it over Miami which can never happen since Miami ended up in the National League. But how cool would it be if they played the Rays? The Rays wouldn’t play their first game for 13 more years. That would be close enough.

It is both funny and sad that 30 more summers have passed since that movie was made and the Cubs are still looking for their first World Series Championship since 1908. But how amazing would it be if they won it in 2015 after all? Could it happen?

Think about this. The Cubs are in the position if the season ended today where they would be the visiting team to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the one game National League Wild Card playoff. The Pirates hosted the very same game a year ago. The team they hosted was the San Francisco Giants who went on to win it all. In fact, the World Series went seven games last season and the team that lost it was the winner of the American League Wild Card game, the Kansas City Royals. So the Cubs might be just where they need to be.

The Cubs are no fluke either. They have a lot of young and very talented players now. Guys like Kris Bryant, who may be the next great slugger following Bryce Harper and Mike Trout of recent seasons, and Jorge Soler, Chris Denorfia, Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Welington Castillo mixed in with some very good veterans like Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Dexter Fowler, Jon Lester, and Jason Hammel and they have a team capable of beating anyone.

Graphic via blogofsports

But the most important piece to the Cubbies puzzle this year is probably the manager Joe Maddon, who has a history of getting teams to the post season that most thought did not have enough talent to make it there. Maddon and his staff in Tampa Bay seemed to have a knack for getting guys to win games by playing smart, aggressive, and fundamentally sound baseball. His Rays teams seldom beat themselves. They also never thought they were out of a game, or a race. See his 2011 team for example.

Another thing this Cubs team has that may put them into October is a reliable closer. No more will Cubs fans get indigestion watch a “closer” come in and walk the bases loaded a la Mitch Williams, Carlos Marmol, etc. Jason Motte has been getting it down in the ninth inning since moving into the closer role. He is 6-1 with five saves.

The Cubs have some competition for the last playoff spot with the Giants and the New York Mets. Both of those teams can be a bit scary. The Giants have the pedigree having won three of the last five championships. The Mets have a very good starting rotation that features guys like Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steve Matz that are very tough to score on. If the Mets add a bat, they could make life difficult.

Looking ahead at the Cubs remaining schedule, the rest of July looks fairly soft. They have a bunch of sub .500 teams the rest of the month including the Braves, Reds, Phillies, Rockies and Brewers. But they did just drop two of three to the under .500 White Sox, so they have to take these teams seriously.

In early August is when things get serious. They have back to back series with the Pirates and Giants between the third and ninth. Later in the month is a tough west coast road trip where they face the Giants and Dodgers for six games.

If the Cubs get to September in good shape, and looking at the schedule there is no reason they shouldn’t, then September should be very exciting. This could be one BTF prediction they got right. And it would be the most unlikely of all.

Graphic via bleacherreport

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