Next year is this year

The Chicago Cubs have come a long way from being the laughingstock of the MLB. After its regular season and postseason success last year and hot start to this season, one could argue the team is currently the gold standard of the league.

Looking at the stats, one might even call the Cubs bullies.

Through the first 19 games, the Cubs have outscored their opponents 119-48 on the way to their 14 wins. That is the largest run differential in the league. Not only are they beating teams, but they are basically blowing them out.

The first assumption one could make about this huge run differential is that the Cubs’ loaded lineup has been doing what everyone expected them to do: knock the crap out of the ball.

But when looking closer at the Cubs’ early success, it is evident that it isn’t the lineup to credit, but the pitching. In fact, the Cubs aren’t hitting as well as a lot of people thought they would.

The Cubs are leading the league in runs scored and RBIs. People would expect the team with the most runs scored to be the best-hitting team and to have many individual hitters among the top hitters in the league. But, the Cubs are only 10th in team batting average at .256 and only seventh in home runs at 26.

Also, they only have two top-100 hitters in the league in terms of batting average. Centerfielder Dexter Fowler is second in the league in batting average at .385, but after that, the next Cubs hitter, Kris Bryant, is 73rd in the league at .278.

This tells me two things: First, the Cubs’ hits have been timely and meaningful. Second, the Cubs’ hitting still has a lot of room for improvement.

The pitching, however, has been stellar. The North-Siders are third in the league in team ERA (they were first all year before giving up 13 runs to the Reds last weekend). They also lead the MLB in runs allowed, hits allowed, opponent batting average and, the trendiest statistic lately, WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). The starters, led by Cy Young winner and no-hitter-expert Jake Arrieta, have pitched more innings than any other starting staff in the league, which has been a huge relief for the bullpen.

With the pitching staff dealing, it’s up to the offense to fulfill their part of the bargain for the Cubs to be the unanimous World Series favorite. The meat of the Cubs’ lineup is underachieving by its own standards to start the year, including Ben Zobrist (.246), Jason Heyward (.244), Anthony Rizzo (.205), Jorge Soler (.185) and Addison Russell (.234).

In a 162-game season, 19 games is a small sample size. The lineup has plenty of time to settle in and start raking. By pointing out where the Cubs aren’t playing up to their capability, I don’t intend to create negative storylines in a positive season or instill worry, but rather, I intend to point out that this young, top-tier Cubs team isn’t even at its peak.

Yet.

And when the Cubs do start to fire on all cylinders …

Well … Let’s just say October can’t come soon enough.