SAU Buzz

There's Always Next Year

by Kaylee Golden
Posted on Nov 02, 2017

The defending World Series Champions’ seek to repeat came to an end against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Chicago Cub’s regular season performance left fans and critics alike wondering about the team’s shot at the postseason. Were the expectations from the year before too heavy to shoulder? Were the offseason retirements, trades and acquisitions too much to handle? Regardless, the team made a somewhat miraculous run into the postseasondefying odds, proving potential and battling through the last pitch. But to see how the Cubs repeated as NLCS champions and went five games into the NLDS, a look into their regular season is necessary.

The team had a rough first half of the season. Going into the all-star break, they had no members in the all-star game. In 2016, the team dominated the NL All-Star roster. They were 5.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and 7.5 games back for the Wild Card. To put a nail in the first-half coffin, their last game before the break was against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field. Jon Lester allowed 10 runs in the first inning. The Cubs went on to lose that game 14-3. The all-star break was never needed more than after that crushing defeat.

The team began to turn things around after their short break in July. After, their position players increased their batting averages, avoided errors on the field, and the starting pitchers stayed in the game a little longer. The key to this equation happened when the Chicago Cubs acquired Jose Quintana from the Chicago White Sox on July 13. His dependable performances were enough to kick the other guys into motion. Arrieta, Hendricks, Lackey and Lester stepped up their game, sometimes fighting through injuries, to put the team in contention for the division title.

The dependability of the starting pitchers were critical, because what the Chicago Cubs were lacking, and still are, was a dependable bullpen. The relievers and closers were typically enough to get the job done, but not always reliable. Wade Davis was the replacement for 2016 phenom Aroldis Chapman, but could only be used so much with a limited pitch count. Davis was the most dependable, while the relievers and other closers were a handful of guys who were hit or miss—Strop, Rondon, Duensing, Montgomery, etc. The offensive capability and come-and-go strength of the starting pitchers were enough to lead the team to an NL Central title for the third year running.

The real challenge came in the five game series against the Washington Nationals. With stars like Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Max Scherzer on the roster, the Cubs were in for a tough battle. The Cubs won the first game, lost the second, won the third, lost the fourth and then won in a nail-biter to claim the NLDS title in game 5 with a final score of 9-8.

The club hoped to take the momentum from the NLDS title into an even tougher match-up against the Los Angeles Dodgers who had been on fire the entire season. Their team featured stars such as Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Clayton Kershaw. In a seven game series, the Cubs lost the first three games decisively. However, the team battled for a fourth game victory against the Dodgers at home. That kick wasn’t enough to power the team to a repeat run against the Dodgers and their season ended with a decisive 11-1 loss in game 5.

The team’s season was always going to be a wild situation. With so many trades throughout the offseason, including some key arms in the bullpen and starting rotation, the roster never felt completely right. Bats weren’t connecting, slumps were lasting longer and position players struggled to make routine plays. Some may call it a World Series hangover, but I think that it was an impressive run after an exhausting previous season and shake-up in the roster.

The team still has its key players like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Javy Baez. However, we should expect to see big names such as Jake Arrieta move on to other teams. Others such as Kyle Schwarber maybe be on the bargaining table. This offseason will be interesting to say the least. The team has already fired many of its coaches and lost their bench coach Dave Martinez to the Washington Nationals. With some smart moves by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon, hopefully this team can regain their footing and make another postseason run in 2018.