Chicago Cubs 2016 Midseason Report

The 2016 MLB campaign has reached the All-Star break and the halfway point in the long season. The Chicago Cubs have had their ups and they’ve had their downs. Their high points have been higher than almost any team in any other season ever. Which has made fans believe their lows are unfathomable. Chicago has, as of late, been on a rough streak, but they still remain atop the NL Central. Here is a breakdown of how the first half has come about, along with what to look forward to in the second half, in the Chicago Cubs 2016 midseason report.

Cubs 2016 Midseason Report

Biggest Surprise

The historic start, or maybe the 6-15 stretch to end the first half could easily fall into this category. Those two items aren’t going to be discussed in depth here. Instead, the biggest surprise should be Kyle Hendricks.

Hendricks is currently the Cubs most consistent pitcher. He doesn’t have mind-blowing stats, or even devastating pitches. What he does have to offer is knowing almost exactly what you are going to get when he steps onto the mound. He is just over .500 when it comes to win-loss record, but that isn’t a good indicator of his season. He has pitched to a 2.55 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. He has almost reached his WAR from last season in half the games, which is 1.6. He is averaging six innings per start and has accumulated eight quality starts.

Again, Hendricks isn’t going to blow people out of the water with his numbers. He isn’t going to go out and throw nine shutout innings while striking out 15 batters. He is, however, very consistent. For a guy that was thought to have either moved to the bullpen, or even get traded during the off-season this is very valuable.

Biggest Disappointment

Jason Heyward is the unfortunate recipient of this “award”, but first defending his season. While most fans in “Cubs Nation” have torn Heyward apart, the fact of the matter is that he has never been a superstar hitter. Even with his .293 season with St. Louis last year, Heyward is just a .265 career hitter. His biggest strength has always been his defense, not his offense.

With that said, he does need to step it up at the plate. He’s hitting just .240 with the Cubs with just four long balls. He has also been below his norms in getting on base, which is a must for a guy like J-Hey. He has accumulated almost 100 stolen bases in his career, but only swiped seven bags for the Northsiders. His OPS is also over 100 points lower than his career average. So he’s getting on base less, while also hitting for less power.

Heyward’s defense, which again is his calling card and the reason the Cubs signed him, has been right where it’s been throughout his career. He has a +11 defensive runs saved above average. Heyward has room to improve slightly at the plate, but don’t expect him to have a .310 second half. As long as he stays good defensively and can improve even a small amount at the plate, he will be a value to this team.

Mid-season MVP

The mid-season MVP should be pretty obvious to most. Kris Bryant has been outstanding all year long. He is versatile, playing numerous positions this year. His bat has also been even better than last year, which is saying something as he won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2015. The 24-year-old has his batting average at .286 and is 5th in the NL with a whopping .962 OPS. He also leads the NL in homeruns and is three behind league leader, Mark Trumbo. Bryant is 5th in WAR, trailing only Josh Donaldson among 3rd baseman. Bryant’s name can be seen in the top of most offensive categories, especially if the search is refined to the NL.

Bryant has also been good defensively, and has played several position this season. He’s played mostly third  base and left field, but he’s also got innings in the other two outfield spots along with shortstop and first base. His versatility is greatly needed as this team has fallen victim to several key injuries.

Keep an eye on this young star. His name is already among the top of several voters lists for the top player in the NL. If he can continue his play into the second half, he may bring home the MVP hardware just 12 months after winning the Rookie of the Year award.

What to Watch For in the Second Half

The Cubs currently have a 92% chance of winning the division, and still have the best odds of winning the whole thing. This team has been a recent slump so this break is coming at the perfect time. Don’t count Joe Maddon out, he is going to get this team back to their winning ways. It’s just what he does.

This starting rotation, which has been arguably the best in baseball as they’ve had all starters in the top 20 at one point, needs to stay on point. Jake Arrieta has come slightly down to earth from last year. But, he still needs to make some improvement from his last few weeks of starts. Jon Lester has also been great, other than a few rocky starts as of late. If the rotation improves after the break they will surely improve as a team.

The biggest issue of all that needs to be looked at in the second half is the bullpen. In the last month and a half Maddon and management have shuffled arms around, trying to find a good combination of guys inside the organization. It seems to have improved slightly, but could still get better. If they don’t figure out how to be a dominate bullpen in the first 2-3 weeks of the second half, look for Theo Epstein to make a move for a dominate lefty. That could be someone like Andrew Miller from the Yankees, or a less expensive player like Fernando Abad from the Minnesota Twins.

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