5 Biggest Takeaways from the First Month of the Chicago Cubs' Season
One month through the season, expectations are as high as ever on the North Side of Chicago. The Cubs are looking like a competitive team, and that's a breath of fresh air for baseball in the Windy City.
While it's still early, here are five takeaways from the beginning of the 2015 season for the Cubs.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
5. Cubs Are Serious About Winning Now
It's clear the Cubs are finally serious about winning in the now instead of the future due to a number of factors. One happened before this season and is paying major dividends, and one has happened during the course of the season and is paying off equally much.
- Team trades for catcher Miguel Montero
- Team signs Jon Lester to a six-year, $155 million deal
- Team trades for outfielder Dexter Fowler
There were several other moves the team made, but these highlighted the fact the Cubs want to win right now. Montero will only be in Chicago for the next two years at the most. Lester is the ace of the future and now but was also brought in to win this season. Fowler is essentially a one-year rental player.
Essentially, these moves, especially Fowler, were made to win this season. They certainly didn't sell the farm, but they went more in for this year than they have in quite some time.
- 3B Kris Bryant called up on April 17
- SS Addison Russell called up on April 21
While the team was expected to call up Bryant early, it called him up on the first day it could in order to keep him under team control for another season. Mike Olt's injury opened the door for Bryant, but the team may have made the move soon after anyway.
As for Russell, he wasn't expected up until at least June, but the team decided he needed to fill the hole the team had at second base. He hasn't been great so far, but calling him up early shows just how committed to winning the team is right now.
4. Kris Bryant Is as Good as Advertised
Kris Bryant hasn't hit a single home run this season, but he's still just as good as advertised. He is looking like a legitimate run producer already despite the lack of the long ball.
His patient, calm approach and clutch hitting have put him on the radar of potential All-Star Game reserves behind third baseman Matt Carpenter, who is tearing things up this year.
Here's a look at Bryant's production through a few weeks:
A lot of those 12 walks have come in potential RBI situations for Bryant, and he's resisted trying to do too much. More so than anything else, that mature approach has been the most impressive part of Bryant's game so far.
3. Much-Improved Plate Approach
Last season and in years past, the Cubs' poor plate approach was really a problem. Often, the free-swinging bunch would have no discipline, and other pitchers preyed on it for that. However, the Cubs have majorly bucked that trend, and now their plate approach is actually a major strength.
The mentality that these young hitters now have is going to pay off in the future just like it has already. They're seeing more pitches, getting into the bullpen earlier and, thus, are scoring more runs and winning more games.
While they've fallen from the top spot lately, through the first several weeks, the Cubs led baseball with a pitches per plate appearance of nearly four. Really, this refined approach at the plate has been at the heart of the Cubs' resurgence this season.
2. Grimm and Ramirez More Important Than We Thought
After they both had solid 2014 campaigns, people knew middle relievers Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez were valuable to the team, but it appears nobody had any idea just how valuable they really are. With both of them going down with injury this season, the team has been majorly inconsistent in the bullpen.
A lot of that is due to Brian Schlitter, who was called up because of the injuries and recorded a 9.53 ERA in seven appearances. More stability in the middle of the bullpen with Grimm and Ramirez means a more stable bridge from the rotation to the back end of the bullpen.
That will mean more W's.
1. If Season Ended Today, Cubs Would Make the Playoffs
At 13-10, the Cubs would make the playoffs as the first wild-card team if the season ended on May 4. Of course, there's plenty of season left to play, but it is encouraging that this team was already competitive in the season's first month.
It also could show that the team is ready to make a serious playoff run. Give all these talented young guys enough confidence, and there's no telling what they could accomplish.