Our NL Chicago Cubs preview 2021 notes that, once again, this team will be competitive. In 2020, Chicago topped the NL Central, winning 34 games and losing 26. Their 162-game adjusted record came to 92-72. In each of five of the last six seasons, the Cubies have won 93 or more games. 2019 marked the only season over those six years where they did not make it into the playoffs. In 2016, they won the World Series. Last year, Chicago lost in the NLWC to the Miami Marlins two games to none. They exited in the same manner in 2018 when they lost to the Colorado Rockies in the NLWC game. This season, the Cubs will certainly be competitive. The major concern is that their last two early exits from the postseason are a harbinger of worse things to come.
NL Chicago Cubs Preview 2021 – Pitching
Last season, the Chicago bullpen was strong, as they notched 16 saves, which was the second-most in the league. The pitching staff’s 1.22 WHIP placed them fourth in the NL, while their 3.99 ERA ranked fifth. Teams hit .233 (5th) against Chicago. However, like three other NL teams, the Cubs did not post any quality starts. Their strikeout total of 523 ranked eighth, and the staff’s 182 BB were the third-lowest in the NL. Cub pitchers gave up 74 homeruns (8th).
Kyle Hendricks is not flashy or dominant, but he is consistent. He brings four pitches to the mound and ably works lineups while pitching deep into games. He has what many consider to be the best changeup in the National League. Zach Davies, who came to the Cubs this season through the Yu Darvish trade, also brings a fine changeup with him. In 2020 with the Padres, he put together a fine season, posting a 7-4 record over 12 starts and a 2.73 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
Three Through Five
In his 12th MLB season, Jake Arrieta arrives in Chicago from Philadelphia where he spent the last three seasons. Arrieta, who spent five productive seasons with the Cubs prior to going to the Phillies, has seen his game decline. He’ll try to find his 92mph sinker and 89mph slider, which are his most effective pitches. He also mixes in a change and curve. If he’s on his game this season, Arrieta could offer around 11 wins.
Trevor Williams, who comes to the Cubs from Pittsburgh where he spent his first five MLB seasons, has had one winning season. That was 2018 when he posted a record of 14-10 over 31 starts. He brings a ballooning ERA and WHIP. Adbert Alzolay, a young righty, has appeared in 10 MLB games over the first two seasons. Six of those games were starts. Last season, he started four games and posted a record of 1-1 with a 2.95 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. This Chicago Cubs preview 2021 observes that Alzolay, who has control issues, did show improvement last season. Can he sustain consistency and offer reliable performance through a full MLB season?
Rowan Wick is a right-handed setup man who continues to improve. Last season, in 19 appearances, he recorded five saves and four holds. He does allow too much hard contact. Brandon Workman and Andrew Chafin, both vets, offer additional support. Closer Craig Kimbrel comes into this season with 348 saves, a 2.16 ERA, and 0.96 ERA over 11 seasons. He uses two monster pitches, a 97mpg four-seam fastball and an 86mph curve using a knuckle curve grip.
Chicago Cubs Preview 2021 – Everyday Players
Chicago batters were anemic last season, as the team recorded a .220 BA, which ranked 13th. Also, they posted a .318 OBP (10th), .387 SLG% (12th), and .705 OPS (10th). They knocked in 248 runs (10th) and scored a total of 265 (10th). The Cubbies hit 74 homeruns (9th), which was the same number their pitching staff allowed, and hit 82 doubles (11th). Chicago batters struck out a total of 568 times, placing them third-highest in the NL, while their 229 walks tied them for third. They also stole 24 bases (8th).
Chicago – Infield
The middle infield has Javier Baez at short and David Bote at second, while the corners are occupied by Anthony Rizzo on the right and Kris Bryant on the left. Baez is considered to be the best defender at his position. However, last season, he bombed at the plate. Baez needs to rebound. Bote starts his fourth season with the Cubs. He’s been a utility guy but will start the season at second. The young player is an excellent defender but a subpar hitter. Eventually, he could end up at third.
Rizzo, a leader in the clubhouse, has been with Chicago 10 of his 11 MLB seasons. His production fell off last season. He’s normally a .300 hitter capable of hitting 30 homeruns and driving in 100 runs. Bryant is a .280 lifetime hitter. He’s got power and capable of smacking 30 round trippers. Catcher Willson Contreras has worked hard to improve his pitch-framing to the point where he’s better than average. He is an offensive force who smacks doubles and homers and drives in runs.
Centerfielder Ian Happ has fine offensive potential. However, our Chicago Cubs preview 2021 notes that he is inconsistent at the plate and often broadens his strike zone to his detriment. A good fielder, he’s better suited for left rather than center field. Joc Pederson starts in left and Jason Heyward in right. Pederson, a .230 lifetime hitter, comes to the Cubs this season after seven years with the Dodgers. Heyward is in his 12th MLB season with half of those being a Chicago Cub. He’s a solid defender who can also deliver on offense.
NL Chicago Cubs Preview 2021 – Final Word
Our NL Chicago Cubs preview 2021 observes that this club has some major holes as key players from the 2016 championship team have moved on. Plus, on November 20, 2020, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein decided to step down. Assistant Jed Hoyer now holds that spot. Manager David Ross starts his second season at the helm. He has talent with which to work, but the Chicago roster is thin, and in some areas, inadequate. Still, with the expanded playoff format, the 2021 Chicago Cubs could certainly qualify for the playoffs.
Summary – Chicago Cubs Preview
Record: 90-72 (Third-place NL Central)