Tom Brennan: - Scouting The Enemy - Chicago Cubs


The long drought is over.  Mountaintop achieved; the view is breathless.  The World Series victors' banner will fly in the Lake Michigan breeze at Wrigley Field.

A young, highly talented squad, and likely a chief contender to keep the Mets out of the World Series: the Chicago Cubs.

The young Cubbies emerged explosively in 2016, with masterful pitching and brimming offensive talent, won like mad in April and never looked back, winning 103 regular season games, roaring to the World Series, and then winning it all, repelling the very tough Cleveland Indians, who were trying hard to break their own decades-old World Series drought but came up just short.

So let's get down to it.  Are the 2017 Cubs good?  Are they formidable opponents for the Mets?  Oh, yeah!

First, can the Cubs get even better in 2017 than 2016? Sure.

Here's why:

2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant will just be 25 this year and, after hitting 39 homers in 2016, can 50 be so hard?

Javier Baez and Addison Russell?  Two young, budding superstar infielders.  First baseman Anthony Rizzo? Another budding star with great power, hitting 32 taters last year.  The Cubs no doubt have the best starting infield in baseball. And having Jorge Soler as a back up is not shabby, folks.

And, scarily enough, despite having surrendered big prospects (like Gleyber friggin' Torres!) to rent Aroldis Chapman from the Yanks, the Cubs have a 1st round prospect, 2B Ian Happ, who has torched spring training to the tune of .417/.473/.813...Babe Ruth said, "hey, I want numbers like that".  He isn't on the roster, but will show up with the Cubs during 2017, most likely.

Kyle Schwarber?  A 2016 playoffs hero coming back in record time from an ACL surgery, the big bopper could certainly hit 40 this year.  HUGE power.  Besides Schwarber, who will be one of heir outfielders and occasional catcher, Dexter Fowler, who played a big role in 2016, has departed.  And Jason Hayward and his $184 million contract remain an albatross after a miserable 2016 offensive season and equally miserable spring. 

But super valuable Ben Zobrist is a key and versatile cog for this team, as the Mets discovered in the World Series of 2015; lots of quality outfield from this very productive asset.  (I still think his name sounds like a menu item - "yes, I think I'll order the Zobrist, medium well"). And big things are expected from Albert Almora, Jr., a 22 year old CF who hit .277 in 112 at bats for the Cubsters last year.

Catching? Wilfredo Contreras gives them a great young blossoming catcher, and Miggy Montero and/or others should give them a solid contingent there.

Pitching? What can one say?  Their 5 starters in 2016 were an amazing 79-39...Arrieta, Lackey, Hendricks, Hammels, and Lester got it done big time.  Hammels (15-10) is gone to KC, replaced by a #5 quality starter in Mike Montgomery and/or lefty Brett Anderson.  The latter had a 10-9, 3.69 season in 2015 but a very poor, little-pitched-in 2016.  Eddie Butler may be a 2018 starter, and went 5-0 this spring (likely a lot of luck there for a guy who has pitched poorly in his time in the bigs in 2016 and prior).

Strop, Cahill, Wood, Grimm, and Rondon all pitched well from their pen, and the added-in-midseason Chapman was....well, Aroldis "Haley's Comet" Chapman during his awesome rental.  But Chapman is gone...but so what? They pick up mighty Wade Davis in his stead (lousy spring for him so far, though, with 13 runners and 8 runs in 4 IP).  That looks like a superior pen to me.

Simply put, this Cubs team is built to win 100+.

The Mets have a decent offense, to be sure, but not of the Cubs' caliber.  The Mets' starters could be better, but Mets' health (which I think will be OK) is a factor.  I would give the Mets the bullpen edge with Familia, Reed, Robles, Smoker, Blevins, Montero, and one or two of the starters who fall out of the rotation.  

The Cubs are the better of the two teams for the long haul of the season (I'd say 100 wins, give or take a few, vs. Mets' 94 wins).  Chicago is also better equipped, in my opinion, for a NL championship series, but short seasons can go to the underdog...just ask the 1973 mini-me-Mets and Cincy Red Machine Reds. 

The Mets, after all, do have Thor and Jake, two of the very best starters anywhere.  And Wheeler, Gsellman, and Harvey are shaping up nicely, and I think Mr. Elbow, Steve Matz, will be fine and pitch very well.

Play ball, and let's make the Cubs wait another 108 years.


Thomas Brennan said...

My old fave, Jack Leathersich, was sent to AAA on March 31, when Cubs trimmed their spring squad down to FIFTY. That does not sound promising for the Leather Rocket.

Thomas Brennan said...

A scary quote in a Chi Tribune article today:

"(Wade) Davis leads all relief pitchers with a 1.18 ERA and an average of 0.15 home runs allowed per nine innings since the start of 2014."

Those are ridiculous, unreal numbers.

Reese Kaplan said...

They are the anti-Mets. They develop hitters and acquire pitchers.

Thomas Brennan said...


Christopher Soto said...


On Wade Davis.

He has been great in the bullpen for years but his workload caught up to him last year and he suffered from forearm pain which limited him to a career low 45 IP.

His fastball velocity has lost about 2 ticks since that amazing 2014 season and his K/9 rate has declined from 13.6 in 2014 to 9.8 last year.

He's still great but there are certainly some kinks in the armor

Anonymous said...

Jorge Soler is not an infielder or a Cub, he was traded to Royals and had a terrible spring

Anon Joe F

Thomas Brennan said...

Thanks for the heads up, Anon Joe F.

Due to my Met-rocentric view of the world, I am often not fully up on other club's moves and thus missed (or forgot) the Soler move. Ian Happ's path to the bigs is thus a whole lot easier.

Chris, I wish no player ill, but if Wade Davis can't be more than mediocre, I will not be unhappy about that at all.

Mack's Mets © 2012