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Chicago Cubs: Hot and Cold 2023

Dansby Swanson swings during a home game for the Chicago Cubs.

The Chicago Cubs headed into the season as a rebuilding team that both exceeded and failed in their goals.

The Chicago Cubs entered the 2023 season as a rebuilding team that exceeded preseason expectations but failed in their midseason goals. They had a pretty hot April followed by an ice-cold May and took to the second half to start becoming something. They finished 83-79 and second in the NL Central. Both are good enough to call it a successful season, but they lost five of their last six losing a wild card spot gifted to them. While there have been some moves to improve this team for the better, let’s talk about what went right and what went wrong.

Pitching Was Hit and Miss

The biggest problem that the Cubs had during the season was the starting pitching. This has been a problem since aces SPs Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta left. While two pitchers consistently came up clutch with ace SP Justin Steele and veteran SP Kyle Hendricks, the rest of the rotation didn’t fare better. While SP Marcus Stroman started hot, an injury led him to miss some time and when he came back, he wasn’t the same pitcher. After almost having a perfect game, SP Drew Smyly went south to where he became a long reliever in the bullpen. Lastly, SP Jameson Taillon had a rough 2023 season with a 4.84 ERA. It seems that the main free agent pitcher signing did not work well for them. Whenever the other three came in, the fans were begging them to play at least semi-decent. During the rest of the offseason, the Cubs should be looking to improve the pitchers that they have and start some of their new arms like SP Jordan Wicks, who became a solid fifth rotation guy.

Cody Bellinger and Nico Hoerner Blossomed

The two best hitters to come out of this season are OF Cody Bellinger and 2B Nico Hoerner. When they signed Bellinger, it was a low-risk, high-reward deal that benefitted the Cubs. Bellinger became a fan favorite quickly with his reliable bat, his stellar defense, and the 26 home runs he hit. While it is not OF Aaron Judge’s levels, it was more than enough for the people of Chicago to ask for an extension that they are still waiting for. Meanwhile, Nico Hoerner has become an underrated piece to the core of the team. Still being one of the younger guys at 26, he bats and fields like he is a 30-year-old veteran. Whenever he was up at the plate, he knew to make solid contact and not always go for the home run ball. In the field, he made a great duo with SS Dansby Swanson. Together they made an incredible stopgap in the middle, and both received Gold Glove nominations.  Hopefully, they do sign Bellinger, and Hoerner continues his amazing play.

Relievers Improved with Time

At the beginning of the season, the relievers started pretty slow, only having RPs Adbert Alzolay and Mark Leiter Jr. consistently produce. Then as time went by, some pitchers like RPs Julian Merryweather and Jose Cuas played better, and Cuas was a deadline acquisition. Sometimes when the starting pitchers got rattled, swing men like SP/RP Javier Assad or Smyly could fill in. Smyly was a better reliever than starter. Assad came to become a reliable long reliever. They did a good job at either keeping the lead or helping the offense by keeping the game close. While there should be a couple more arms to help with the workload, there is enough talent in there to at least give them some room to try out new guys while putting the old relievers out there to get the job done.

Lineup Inconsistency

While Bellinger and Hoerner delivered and Swanson came up big, most of the lineup did not keep up during the season. Players like OFs Ian Happ or Seiya Suzuki would have a hitting streak then a slump right after. UTL Christopher Morel is the new 2B Javier Baez where it is boom or bust with his hitting. A similar thing happened to 3B Patrick Wisdom. Most of the lineup was switched around a lot and had ton of players that did not produce at all, like 2B Miles Mastrobuoni. It seems like David Ross could not figure out how to get his top hitters to hit again and start some rookies like 1B Matt Mervis or OF Pete Crow-Armstrong. The lineup for this team has not been the same since the years of 2016 and 2017. They need another bat to lengthen the lineup and fill the need at third base and first base. At the very least, they could go full rebuild and try Mervis at first or new guy DH Michael Busch. It can at least give a sense of where the Cubs are at while developing the future.

While the past season was another hit and miss season, there is a bright future ahead. The Cubs hired Manager Craig Counsell and signed SP Shota Imanaga. If they continue to be active for the rest of the offseason, they can at least have some decent hitters, pitchers, and prospects. Time can only tell if the Cubs can finally return back to the playoffs and be winners again.

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