The start of the 2017 Chicago Cubs season hasn’t exactly gotten off to the start that many fans wanted to see. I’ve already fielded numerous phone calls from friends and family asking me, “What the hell is wrong with the Cubs? They’re not going to win it all this year are they? They’re still hungover from the World Series right?”
I’d like to think I’m a relatively level-headed Cubs fan so I’m not too shook up at the fact the team currently sits a game over .500 (8-7) and have the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds for a three-game set this weekend at Great America Ballpark.
Seriously, the Reds are leading the Central.
Fans have seen the 2017 Cubs offense struggle for the most part and the once dominant starting pitching has seemingly come back down to Earth from an unbelievable 2016 campaign.
But has it been as bad as Cubs fans make it out to be?
The answer is no.
They currently rank in the top 10 in the National League in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, batting average, OBP, and OPS. The one offensive category that fans love to track is probably the same reason why most fans think the team has been struggling offensively — home runs. The Cubs currently rank 13th in the NL with 11 home runs (Milwaukee leads the NL with 27 but we all know that the Brewers will cool off in the very near future.)
Well, what about pitching?
Also not as bad as one would think.
The Cubs rotation ranks in the top ten in the National League in wins, ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, and BAA. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester have looked sharp in the early part of the season and if you take one bad outing away from Lackey, Hendricks, and Anderson — the staff has been relatively sharp. Combine that with a relatively steady bullpen and you have a team that has kept their heads above water even after a few early season struggles.
So why have Cubs fans been unnecessarily freaking out? I think I have the answer.
The team’s start in 2016.
The 2016 team started the season on a blistering pace through the first 15 games going 11-4 and only spent ONE DAY in second place in the Central. Hell, the Cubs were red-hot through most of the 2016 season and that one day in second was the only day they’d spend in second for the entire 2016 season.
Fans were under the impression that 2017 would simply be a continuation of 2016 and some (myself included) argued that this year’s team would actually be better. I still believe that and although it’s been a bumpy first 15 games in 2017, the team is still a game over .500 and only 1.5 games out of first even though they’ve been playing pretty average baseball.
However, the best part of the early part of 2017 is the fact that the Cubs are IN THE EXACT SAME SPOT in terms of series wins then they were in 2016.
series results to start season:
— Max Haid (@maxhaid10) April 19, 2017
So even with that blistering start in 2016, the Cubs opened their season winning four of their first five series and the 2017 team has done the exact same thing. Baseball fans understand that winning a series takes precedence over winning individual games. Granted, the Cubs haven’t swept anyone yet like they did last year but taking two of three from teams (especially in the NL Central) will begin to open up some breathing room as the season progresses.
So before you start unnecessarily panicking at the fact that the Cubs don’t have an eight-game lead in the Central at this point of the season, just remember that it’s a 162-game roller coaster ride. The difference is the 2016 started the ride at the top and this year’s team have just begun the climb.