After winning the World Series in 2016, the Chicago Cubs were primed for success for years to come. That run ended up lasting two seasons as they finished second in the National League Central in 2018 and third in 2019.
The fall from grace cost manager Joe Maddon his job and left fans wondering what is next for the North Siders. In 2020, the National League Central is much improved, and with a condensed schedule, it might be tough for the Cubs to get back to the top of the division.
Chicago Cubs 2019 Results
The 2019 season was a rollercoaster for the Chicago Cubs and their fans. The Cubs were the fifth-best home team in all of baseball with a 51-30 record at Wrigley Field. On the other hand, they were the eighth-worst road team in all of baseball with a dismal 32-48 record away from the Friendly Confines.
The result was a third-place finish, seven games behind the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cubs missed the postseason for the first time since 2014, and Theo Epstein decided to relieve Maddon of the managing duties.
Chicago was 19-27 in one-run games and had trouble closing out games. The Cubs saved only 38 games, 16th in the majors.
The Cubs led the NL Central at the All-Star break but finished the second half two games over .500. Chicago spent 77 days in first place in 2019, but its biggest lead was 3.5 games at any time.
The Central Division was bunched up at the top for most of the season before the Cubs faltered to a record of 11-16 in September.
Chicago Cubs Key Additions
Possibly the biggest addition the Cubs made in the 2019 offseason was in the dugout. Out is Joe Maddon, and the Cubs replaced him with fan favorite and former clubhouse leader David Ross.
Ross was a backup catcher on the 2016 world championship team and was respected in the clubhouse. The caveat to this move is that Ross has no managerial experience or coaching experience for that matter.
Steven Souza Jr. was signed in the offseason to help bolster the outfield defense. Souza Jr. has not played a major league game since 2018 when he appeared in 72 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Souza Jr. is a former 30-home-run hitter who accomplished the feat in 2017 as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. He did not play in 2019 after tearing his left ACL and LCL.
Souza Jr. is a candidate to play right field where he is best defensively, accumulating a mark of six defensive runs saved. He also adds pop to the lineup — an area where the team struggled at times a season ago.
Jeremy Jeffress was signed to bolster the bullpen. Without a clear closing option last season with Craig Kimbrel’s inconsistencies, the Cubs signed Jeffress, a former closer with the Milwaukee Brewers. Jeffress was an All-Star as a setup man to Josh Hader in Milwaukee, so look for him to fill that role in Chicago.
Chicago Cubs Big Losses
The biggest loss to the Cubs’ lineup was rightfielder Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos was acquired by the Cubs at the trade deadline and immediately became fan favorite in Chicago.
He hit .321 for the Cubs and hit 16 home runs while driving in 36 runs in 51 games and was signed a four-year, $64 million deal with division foe Cincinnati.
Starting pitcher Cole Hamels was solid in the rotation for the Cubs. He started 27 games, going 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA. Hamels signed a free-agent deal with the Atlanta Braves for $18 million this offseason.
Reliever Brandon Kintzler was 3-3 with an ERA of 2.68. He was acquired in the 2018 season by Chicago in a trade deadline deal with the Washington Nationals.
Kintzler was a solid setup option in the bullpen. He signed a free-agent deal with the Miami Marlins for one year and 3.25 million dollars.
Chicago Cubs Pitching
The Chicago Cubs have some questions regarding their starting rotation. Will Yu Darvish be healthy? Will Jon Lester bounce back? Is Kyle Hendricks really a No. 1 starter?
Hendricks had a solid 2019, going 11-10 with a 3.46 ERA, making 30 starts and striking out 150 hitters. At Wrigley Field, Hendricks was outstanding, going 6-2 with a 2.04 ERA. However, away from home, Hendricks struggled along with the rest of the team, going 5-8 with an ERA of 5.02.
Next up in the rotation is right-hander Darvish, who is in the third season of a huge six-year contract that pays him $126 million.The return that the Cubs have gotten so far is unimpressive.
Darvish has gone 7-11 in the two seasons with an ERA of nearly 4.50. Darvish made 31 starts in 2019, going 6-8 with an ERA of 3.98. He will have to be better for the Cubs to get back to the postseason and have success.
The third man up in the Cubs’ rotation is veteran left-hander Lester, who has been the anchor of the Cubs’ staff for the last five years. However, he struggled to go 13-10 with an ERA of 4.46.
He also tied his career-high of 26 home runs allowed in 171 2/3 innings pitched. This will be Lester’s 15th major league season.
Jose Quintana is the next, and he has not exactly lived up to his hype when he was traded to the Cubs from the White Sox in 2017. He has been good though, going 33-23 in his tenure with the Cubs.
Quintana has had his ups and downs. Last season, he went 13-9, which is good, but he had an ERA of 4.68, which is not great. The Cubs hope that he can be more consistent in the shortened season.
The fifth spot in the rotation, as of now, belongs to right-hander Tyler Chatwood. The Cubs acquired Chatwood as a free agent when they signed him in the 2017 offseason.
He appeared in 38 games in 2019, going 5-3 with a 3.76 ERA in 76 2/3 innings pitched. Chatwood made five starts in 2019 and appears to have won the fifth spot in the rotation for 2020.
Right-hander Alec Mills will be the sixth option should an opening arise in the rotation.
Chicago Cubs Offense
The Cubs were in the middle of the pack in 2019, hitting .252 as a team. The team is led by first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who hit .293 with 27 home runs and 94 RBI.
He had an OPS of .924 in 512 at-bats. Rizzo also won a Gold Glove in 2019 as the best defensive first baseman in the league.
Third baseman Kris Bryant hit .282 with 31 home runs and 77 RBI. Since his breakout season in 2016, where he hit 39 home runs and drove in 102 runs, Bryant has not had more than 77 RBI. With that being said, Bryant made the All-Star team in 2019, his second appearance in the Midsummer Classic.
Catcher Willson Contreras also made the All-Star Game in 2019, his first. He had a breakout year, hitting .272, with 24 home runs in 105 games.
Shortstop Javier Baez hit .281 with 29 home runs and drove in 81 runs in 2019. He will be counted on to be a key contributor in 2020.
Left fielder Kyle Schwarber had his breakout campaign as well, hitting .250 and blasting 38 home runs and driving in 92 runs.
Chicago Cubs Three Key Players
The most important player for the 2020 Chicago Cubs is Rizzo. He is the heart and soul of the Cubs, and his production is among the best compared to other first basemen in the league.
Bryant could play a huge role in the Cubs’ chances of making and being successful in the postseason. Bryant is at the stage of his career where free agency is around the corner — 2021 to be exact — and he would want to command top dollar in the open market. His production is crucial for the Cubs’ success
Darvish holds the key to the Cubs’ rotation. If he is healthy and throwing strikes, he is one of the best pitchers in the National League. However, he has had issues with both of those things in the past and will be scrutinized for his contract further if he does not produce in 2020.
Chicago Cubs Schedule Breakdown
Having 30 games against teams against which you will be competing for a division title can be both a blessing and a curse. For the Cubs, it means the difference in making the postseason and not.
St. Louis, Milwaukee, and upstart Cincinnati will all be competitive this season, and the Cubs cannot afford to have slip-ups. The Cubs went 8-11 against Cincinnati a year ago, and the Reds were not as good as they hope to be.
On the other hand, Chicago will have the privilege of playing Pittsburgh 10 times and Detroit, Kansas City, and the White Sox four times each. The Cubs have the 12th-easiest schedule based on opponents’ 2019 won-loss records.
According to Betus.com, the Cubs are in the top 10 as favorites to win the World Series with a money line of +2500. To win the National League pennant, Betus.com has the Cubs at a money line of +1200 to accomplish the feat.
In a shortened season, anything is possible, and it might hold some value to take the Cubs at +1200. Betus.com has the Cubs’ win total at 31.5 for the season at a money line of -115.