It’s the first day of May and the Cubs are exactly where most people thought they’d be, atop the National League Central. Of course, not many people could’ve predicted that the team one game back would be the Milwaukee Brewers. The biggest question is: How long before the Cubs start to pull everything together and run away with the division?
The Cubs finished April with a 13-11 record. Compare that to 2016 when they ended April with a 17-5 record and it opens up a whole Pandora’s Box that we’d rather not have to delve into, or at least not this early into the season.
The fact is that things are taking longer to come together than they did last year. The Cubs scored 136 runs in the first month last year, or 6.18 runs per game. So far in 2017 they’ve scored 122 runs, or 5.08 per game. Don’t get me wrong, scoring over five runs a game is not a bad thing. I’ll leave the pitching stats for the section below but, needless to say, those numbers are much worse.
As the Cubs head into this series with the Phillies, it reminds me a lot of a series they played against them in July 2015. Remember that one? It felt like the Cubs were ready to turn the corner and run away with the division, and then the unthinkable happened. The Cubs got swept and no-hit at Wrigley and suddenly the sky was falling. Little did we know at the time, but that series provided the adversity the Cubs needed to build momentum and become the championship team we know today.
Sometimes things don’t happen exactly the way we’d have designed them. That’s the beauty of baseball.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Monday, May 1 at 7:05 CST on CSN+
- Tuesday, May 2 at 7:05 CST on CSN
- Wednesday, May 3 at 7:05 CST on CSN
- Thursday, May 4 at 1:20 CST on WGN
What to Watch For
The Cubs rotation holds a 4.28 ERA that ranks 23rd in the league. The starters have been quite generous so far this season, particularly early in games. Newcomer Brett Anderson actually leads the rotation with a 3.54 ERA. It’s hard to say what exactly has gone awry to cause the starters to be so inconsistent, but look for them to try and get back on track during this series.
Kyle Schwarber hasn’t been setting the world on fire quite yet from the leadoff position. It makes me wonder if or when Joe Maddon will start to tinker with the top spot. We know it’s not happening today (lineup here) but if Schwarber continues to struggle I wouldn’t be surprised to see Maddon slot someone else in there, at least occasionally. Last April, Dexter Fowler hit for a .457 wOBA. Schwarber had a .304 wOBA in April of this year. Of course, the Cubs have still scored plenty of runs so we’re all good, right?
The Cubs bullpen has been stellar all year. At 2.87 they’re sporting the fifth-best ERA in the league. If the starting pitchers can limit early damage in this series it could turn into a rout for the Cubs, especially if the bullpen continues to dominate. Just remember, they are human. Well, at least Koji Uehara is when he pitches on consecutive days. Read more about that in today’s Rundown.