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Coming off a third consecutive series win, including the first at Dodgers Stadium since 2014, the Chicago Cubs are starting to gather some national attention. 

Granted, they still aren’t being mentioned as one of the top teams in the league, at least by most observers. But many of the updated Power Rankings now seem to view the Cubs as a middle-of-the-road, potential Wild Card type of team. Of course, these Power Rankings can be more fickle than Sean Barber’s strike zone in the Cubs-Dodgers’ Sunday match-up, but it is further confirmation that people are seeing positive things on the North Side. 

The most optimistic view comes from Fox Sports’ Ben Verlander, who has slated the Cubs at #10 in his most recent Power Rankings:


Other Power Rankings for the Cubs include #14 from The Athletic (#22 previously), #18 from MLB.com (#21), #14 from CBS Sports (#18), #18 from USA Today (#20), and #17 from theScore (#21).

So how have the Cubs gotten to this point? Well, due to the nature of how this team was built, there really isn’t any one thing to point at, but rather the mixture of several things working together that has resulted in a promising start to an important season for the future of Cubs baseball. 

  1. Pitching - especially the starting rotation. Cubs starters currently hold an ERA of 3.11, which is tied for third best in the MLB. This is even more impressive when you consider the lackluster performance so far from Hayden Wesneski. Relief pitching hasn’t been quite as strong with an overall ERA of 4.22, coming in at 18th in the MLB. However, there has been some strong, timely performances, with the headliner being Mark Leiter. Over his 7 appearances, he has pitched 6.1 innings and allowed zero earned runs, including 12 strikeouts, 3 walks, and 3 hits. His signature pitch - the splitter - has resulted in a whiff rate of 52.9 percent, tied 26th best in the MLB. This has led to Leiter striking out 46.2 percent of the batter’s he’s faced. This pitching, aided by a stout defense, has kept the Cubs competitive in most games this season. Pitching will likely be the primarily component for whether or not the Cubs can stay in the mix for a Wild Card spot this season. 
  2. Offensive over-performance? The Cubs offense was one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. We’ve seen moments showing why that was the case, but overall the offense has produced at a high level. The club’s 5.21 runs per game ranks 7th in the MLB, which is aided by a team average of .274 (5th in the MLB), .336 OBP (10), and .765 OPS (8). The Cubs have also been a benefactor of timidly hitting, averaging .315 with runners in scoring position (4th best in the MLB). As an offensive unit, the Cubs have a wRC+ of 1.07. There are some questions regarding the sustainability of this from some players, but so far the offense has given the Cubs all they could have asked for heading into the season. 
  3. Good, smart baseball. This one is simple. The Cubs may not have the most talented roster, but they have guys who are playing smart baseball. It’s a mixture of pitching that produces ground balls, while having a strong defense behind them; it’s good situational hitting; it’s making the little plays that need to be made to limit runs or push one across that could decide the game. This may sound over-simplified, but sometimes baseball is a simple game, if you allow it to be. 

Despite the promising start, there are still many unknowns regarding the remainder of the season. Can the starting pitching maintain? Will Wesneski come into form? How will Hendricks look once he’s a part of the rotation? Can Dansby Swanson and Patrick Wisdom keep up a similar pace moving forward? Which form of Bellinger will the Cubs get moving forward? Will some of the lackluster performances from Hosmer and Mancini hurt the Cubs? Does it force the Cubs to call up Mervis (and Morel for other positions)? How will they perform?

It's been an exciting start to the season for the Chicago Cubs, but a large amount of uncertain still remains moving forward.

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8 hours ago, Tim said:

They were obviously underranked.

Possibly, though I can’t necessarily blame people for where they started the season. There were, and still are, a lot of uncertainties with this team. 

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5 hours ago, Cubs2023 said:

Possibly, though I can’t necessarily blame people for where they started the season. There were, and still are, a lot of uncertainties with this team. 

I was actually reacting to last night's game (jokingly) and saying that they're still underrated.

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