Hey everyone! If you haven’t already, please check out our best of 2017 list. Hopefully we find the time and energy to produce something equally good or better in 2018.
New Year’s Eve is the wedding anniversary for me and the wife, and unfortunately we couldn’t go frolicking outside because global climate change has caused this holiday season to be ridiculously cold. No walks in the park, no snowmen, no ice skating until we find a suitable indoor rink. Grumble. But at least we are together, nice and warm indoors, watching bad football and waiting for baseball to return to us.
We have our own New Year’s resolutions, or at least a “try list” to go off of, and I’m sure the Cubs have their own as well. After a third straight trip to the NLCS, we can be fairly confident that the team, with its core intact, should be able to make it to the playoffs yet again. I think we can also be fairly confident that the Cubs are hungry to return to the glory they experienced in 2016. How to get back to that level? Well, I’m not crazy enough to guarantee that they’ll find their way back to the World Series because so many wacky things can happen in baseball. But I think they’re in good shape to at least get to the playoffs.
The first resolution should be to improve pitching. Having hired a new pitching coach and special assistant, and watching the top prospect list fill with intriguing arms, there is at least a puncher’s chance that the Cubs can develop some solid rotation and bullpen options from that group. The draft strategy in prior years under this front office has been to attack the pitching problem with volume, so with up to two extra picks on the first day, they should be able to add to their talent pool.
For the incumbent pitchers, their job is to throw more strikes, and get some help from Willson Contreras in framing their borderline pitches. Getting guys like Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson back on track would give the bullpen a boost on top of their recent off-season additions.
For the hitters, as they grow into their talent ceiling, their job is to put more balls in play. Would-be rallies were often snuffed out last year because of strikeouts and weak contact. We have seen plenty of evidence of players like Jason Heyward and Kyle Schwarber already working hard to rebuild their swings for 2018, so this isn’t a lack of effort. They just need the right adjustments, and it’s difficult to say how that adjustment period will pay off until we see them in game action. The mantra is to be selectively aggressive, always looking for that one pitch in each plate appearance that can be punished.
Defense may not ever get back to the level of 2016, but was still pretty good last year and has a chance to be at least as good in 2018. Playing behind ground ball pitchers means they will have to help their hurlers out by converting most of those into outs.
For fans, remember that in baseball, failure happens most of the time, especially on offense. Mistakes will happen. Losing streaks are expected. Just remember that the season is long, and this team is still expected to be very good. It will all work out in the long run, just like in our own lives. Stick with the guys you know have come through in the past, as they will more often than not do so for you in the future.
Enjoy your celebration as we look forward to the new season! Happy New Year to you all!