The Chicago Cubs have not been to the postseason since 2008. It seems to be expected that they will not make it again this year. However, one can’t exactly say they aren’t capable of being a surprise team. The Milwaukee Brewers have won nine in a row and own the best record in baseball. Few, if any, could’ve seen that coming. It remains to be seen if Milwaukee can keep its hot streak going, and therefore something could happen that the Cubs will make a postseason run themselves. It won’t be easy, but it is manageable.
#1 The team’s best players need to bring the goods. Thru Sunday, Anthony Rizzo has a .326 batting average and .400 on-base percentage. He may not have the power numbers but he seems to be more disciplined at the plate. Considering the team sent Andrew Cashner to the San Diego Padres to get Rizzo and how Cashner has performed, it’s essential Rizzo keeps it going. Also, Starlin Castro is batting .326 and has a 127 OPS+. For a shortstop, that’s very good. If the Cubs are to have any shot at all in going to the postseason in 2014, Castro and Rizzo must continue the way they are performing, if not crank it up a little more.
#2 Starting pitching cannot fall apart. The team is 4-8, but one can hardly blame the rotation, which has turned in nine quality starts to begin the season. Jeff Samardzija is likely to be dealt at the trading deadline, but he’s doing his part to try to win this team ballgames. He has a 317 ERA+ and 1.048 WHIP so far in his contract season. Should a contender pick him up, he has all the makings to be a valuable asset and the Cubs could get a nice little return for him. Travis Wood so far has been a tough luck pitcher again. He currently has an ERA+ of 141 and a WHIP of 1.135. If he keeps pitching like that, he may find himself on his second straight All Star squad. The best pitcher so far this season for the North Siders has been Jason Hammel. His ERA+ is 156 and has an MLB leading 0.512 WHIP. More than likely this is not going to be the same rotation come July and August, but if by some chance it is and the quality starts continue to pile up, then Chicago could be a surprise this season.
#3 Bullpen, bullpen, bullpen. 2014 has been anything but pleasant to Jose Veras. His ERA+ is 36 and WHIP is 2.455. Needless to say, those numbers are not appealing to the eye for a ball club. In fact, Manager Rick Renteria has removed Veras from his closer position. Hector Rondon has absolutely been doing his job. Veras, James Russell, Pedro Strop, Brian Schlitter and Wesley Wright, however, have been a big reason why this team has the record it does. A good bullpen is vital perhaps more than anything else to this Cubs team. Rondon seems to have earned his shot at Veras’ old job the way he has pitched the first dozen games of the season. Bottom line, players like Castro and Rizzo and the starting rotation are all important. Not to mention the Cubs have many highly touted prospects many fans are excited to see. Even if those prospects produce and everything else goes well, if the Cubs’ bullpen woes continue, it’s going to be hard for them to go anywhere.