Through 13 games of the 2017 season, the Chicago Cubs are 6-7. They were 6-4 heading into Saturday’s home game against the Pirates, which I was lucky enough to attend:
It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. pic.twitter.com/8G1AffZHSX
— Jay Rigdon (@jayrigdon5) April 15, 2017
The new stadium updates are nicely done. The Cubs had just received their championship rings a few days prior, and when Kris Bryant mashed a monster home run off the left field video board (I had a great seat for that one) in the first inning, a certain kind of easily swayed baseball observer might have decided that the league may as well hand the Cubs their 2017 World Series rings too.
— MLB (@MLB) April 15, 2017
But that’d be silly. There was plenty of baseball left to be played, both on the day (the Cubs blew a lead and lost) and for the season. It’s always far too easy to draw early conclusions when it comes to team success. Baseball is a sport that requires a much bigger sample size in order to get a feel for the true talent level of each team.
And, based on that, and on the Cubs’ roster, and history of success, and resources for improving the team, and the strength of the rest of the division judged by those factors as well, I have no problem saying this, unequivocally: The Cubs, despite their slow start, will be fine.
The numbers agree with me as well. Here’s the latest update to the Fangraphs Playoff Odds, one of my favorite tools to follow throughout the season:
The Cubs haven’t even had that slow of a start, relative to the rest of the division. This despite substandard starts to the season for Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist, among a few others. The bullpen hasn’t performed well yet either, and though it’s fair to think that maybe Hector Rondon is never going to be what he once was, Wade Davis has been solid, and if there’s a team capable of shoring up middle relief on the fly, it’s the Cubs.
(The fans on Saturday booed Pedro Strop as he left the field after giving up a home run, despite Strop having entered with men on base and also despite the Cubs having, you know, won the World Series last year.)
Kyle Schwarber has struck out an awful lot, as well, but he’s also reached base at a .377 clip despite the swing-and-miss problems. It’s also important to remember that Schwarber was a late-season call-up in 2015 before missing most all of 2016.
He’s had playoff heroics both years, but the day-to-day performance and development that young hitters need is going to be felt this year. If he just cuts down the strikeouts a bit, he’ll be an elite performer. (Even if he held his line throughout the season, he’d remain a valuable player.)
This is a very long way of saying that there’s zero reason to panic. The Cubs may not have started as quickly as the 2o16 team did, but that doesn’t matter. It’s too early, and there’s still way, way too much evidence pointing at the Cubs being one of best teams, if not the very best team, in baseball once again.
Plus, it’s a really bad look to panic early in the season after winning a championship. Please stop doing that, Cubs fans.