It’s no secret that the Chicago Cubs aren’t going to sniff the playoffs this year. They’re currently 20 games under .500 with a record of 62–82. They have just under 20 games left to play this season. However, manager David Ross and his guys have been playing like a team in a Wild Card race as of late. They’re currently 27–25 since the All-Star break, and just recently swept the 90+ win New York Mets in a dominant fashion. This is clearly not the same Cubs team that started off the season so poorly.
Impact of Happ and Contreras
Just before the trade deadline, emotions were once again gloomy in the Cubs’ clubhouse, just as they were one year prior when the front office said goodbye to three fan favorites. But we need not discuss those trades again. As the end of July came to an end, it seemed absolutely inevitable that Ian Happ and Willson Contreras would be on the move as well. However, reports started to show that the Cubs had fairly high asking prices for these two players. Both of these 2022 All-Stars would end up staying on the North Side, for now at least.
The containing of these two core guys seemed to have a massive boost of morale for the Cubs. To start the second half of the season, they won five straight games, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in the process. While both Happ and Contreras have been key to the Cubs second half success, only Happ’s contributions have shown up in the box score. Since the midsummer classic, Happ has produced eight home runs, and 25 RBI with a slash line of .275/.318/.481 in 50 games. Contreras, however, has ran into some injury troubles. He currently is nursing an ankle injury, and is expected to be out another week or two. His second half stats are currently eight homers, 19 RBI, to go along with a .224/.309/.514 slash line in just 29 games.
Whether Happ and Contreras receive extensions is yet to be determined, but it’s clear that these two players are very crucial to the Cubs’ clubhouse.
Help From New Additions
Arguably the biggest story about the Cubs this season is the new look and fresh faces that they’ve brought in. A good amount of those players have stepped up to speed up this rebuild. Guys like Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Christopher Morel, Hayden Wesneski, Seiya Suzuki, Franmil Reyes, and Drew Smyly have all done their part to have this ball club take the next step to contending again. But let’s talk about arguably the most important piece of that group, Marcus Stroman.
Stroman’s former Mets teammate Jacob deGrom is the biggest example of how wins and losses don’t always tell the full story of a starting pitchers success. deGrom is the best pitcher in all of baseball, yet his two Cy Young award winning seasons came in 2018 and 2019 when he won 10 and 11 games respectively. An accomplishment that would normally be unheard of. Here in 2022, Stroman is a victim of a misleading win-loss record as well.
The 31 year old has been exactly what the Cubs were hoping for this season. In the second half, Stroman has a 2–2 record with a 2.95 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 45 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched. Stroman had a stellar July as well, when he went 1–0 with a 0.89 ERA in four starts. Opponents also had just a .213 batting average against him. If the Cubs are to contend for the NL Central title next season, Stroman will be a key contributor for their rotation.
Nico Hoerner is Special
Shortstop Nico Hoerner has been the biggest breakout player for the Cubbies this summer. The 25-year old showed that he is capable of this level of play. He just needed to show that he could stay healthy. Hoerner is doing just that. In 125 games so far, the former 2018 first round pick has nine home runs, 49 RBI, 18 stolen bases. He possesses a slash line of .291/.338/.421 while striking out only 51 times. He’s also made some incredibly flashy plays with his glove in the field. Don’t be surprised if Hoerner is selected to the All-Star game next July.
Work Still To Be Done
Unfortunately this exact roster is not playoff caliber. There are still moves that need to be made, and players that need to take next steps in their development. The Cubs could still look a lot different next season. Their #2 prospect Brennen Davis will most likely be called up. Top 30 prospects Jordan Wicks, Matt Mervis, Ryan Jensen, and Alexander Canario could see some time as well.
There have also been reports that the Cubs have mutual interest with two high profile pending free agents. They would be Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon. Look for the Cubs to start investing in high profile players once again this off season. Don’t worry Cubs fans, the sun will shine on the North Side soon enough.
Embed from Getty Images
David Ross, Ian Happ, Willson Contreras, Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Keegan Thompson, Christopher Morel, Hayden Wesneski, Seiya Suzuki, Franmil Reyes, Drew Smyly, Jacob deGrom, Nico Hoerner, Brennen Davis, Jordan Wicks, Matt Mervis, Ryan Jensen, Alexander Canario, Trea Turner, Carlos Rodon