By Eugene McIntosh
Cubs Beat Reporter
WRIGLEY FIELD- Will the Cubs win 99 games? Probably not (insert the Kevin Garnett "Anything Is Possible" meme) but their 6-5 start has them on pace to win the most games since they raised the World Series banner in 2016. Manager David Ross's managerial expertise will be put to the test this season as Jed Hoyer & the Cubs front office begin to assemble the "next great Cubs team."
With the additions of starting pitchers Marcus Stroman & Wade Miley, veteran catcher Yan Gomes, utility infielder Jonathan Villar, ex White Sox Nick Madrigal (coming off of right hamstring surgery) & the $85 million dollar man Seiya Suzuki to add to the mix of the last of the Mohicans (Jason Heyward, Willson Contreras & Kyle Hendricks) along with guys trying to prove they belong (Rafael Ortega, Frank Schwindel, #PWizzy Patrick Wisdom & Michael Hermosillo), this will be an interesting season for Cubs nation. Let's look at the stars of the first 2 weeks!
For a team that's relied on the long ball in the past, they're exercising a change in offensive philosophy. Ross wants his guys to stay in the zone, put the ball in play & keep the train moving for the next man. Look no further than Suzuki. He had a 9 game hitting streak & in 9 of his 10 starts he's reached base at least twice. He was named NL Player of the Week, he's hitting .414 with 4 HRs, 11 RBIs, 11 walks & has scored 9 times. David Ross said he's looking to put Suzuki's speed on display soon. "I haven't asked him to steal a lot of bases yet. I think that's a weapon we can try to use a little bit later on." Ross also gave Suzuki his stamp of approval moving him up in the lineup from 6th to 2nd and it paid dividends last night as Suzuki didn't record a hit but did draw 3 walks.
Schwindel has an 8 game hitting streak, Ian Happ has reached safely in 8 of 10 games & Villar is hitting .400 in 29 plate appearances.
The Cubs are 3rd in the league in batting average (..266) 2nd in OBP (.349) 3rd in OPS (.786) 4th in doubles (25) & 4th in SLG (.437).
The Cubs have committed only 1 error in 399 total chances which ranks 3rd best in the league. Defensive baseball is won up the middle and the Nico Hoerner/Madrigal tandem has been solid. With Suzuki taking over the duties in right field, 5 time Gold Glove winner #JHey Jason Heyward is holding it down in center and #ILLWILL Willson Contreras continues to be the Ironman behind the dish. How long he'll be there is another question. (That Gomes deal doesn't have "back up catcher" $$ attached to it)
Cubs relievers have been really good so far with a 4-1 record, 5 saves & 49 Ks in 48.2 IP. With the starters still ramping up, Keegan Thompson & David Robertson (both 0.00 ERAs) have been lights out & Mychal Givens, Jesse Chavez & Rowan Wick give David Ross some much needed depth in a staff that's missing Adbert Alzolay (right shoulder strain) Codi Heuer (Tommy John surgery) Alec Mills (lower back strain) Wade Miley (left elbow inflammation) & Brad Wieck (left elbow strain).
In his 9th big league season, #PoetryInMotion Kyle Hendricks will continue to be Mr. Consistency for the Cubs as he looks to make 30 starts for the sixth straight year. Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Wade Miley (upon his return) & Drew Smyly must hold their own while waiting on the return of Alec Mills & Adbert Alzolay for this team to have any chance at finishing the year strong.