Tha Sports Junkies 101

Best of the Best – 2016 Chicago Cubs

2016 Chicago Cubs beisbolsinaloa via


Favorites at the beginning of the year, the 2016 Chicago Cubs proved why so many fans put faith in them

By now, everyone in the world knows what the 2016 Chicago Cubs did on Wednesday night in Cleveland. For those of you who live under a rock, here is a rundown of exactly what they did.

This Cubs team ended a century of suffering for one of the biggest fan bases in all of professional sports. It took the Cubs seventy-one years just to win a Pennant, let alone a World Series title. After the game tying home run by Rajai Davis in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series, many Cubs fans had flashbacks to 2003 and all the other years that the Cubs choked in the playoffs. The only difference between all those past teams and the 2016 Chicago Cubs: pure talent from the top of the lineup to the bottom.

Yes, there have been great Cubs teams throughout the years but none like this team. To prove that statement, all you have to do is look at the 2016 NL All-Stars. Seven Cubs that included Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell were chosen to represent the National League in the All-Star Game. For seven players from one team to be picked to represent a whole league really shows the true talent on the Cubs roster in 2016.

Even before the 2016 season, many experts and fans of baseball knew that the Cubs were probably going to win the NL Central. Chicago missed a division title in 2015 by three games to the St. Louis Cardinals. Last years Cubs team was not supposed to win 97 games, but behind a Rookie of the Year season by Kris Bryant, the North Siders overachieved.

With many young stars entering their second year in the majors in 2016, the Cubs front office knew that they needed veteran leadership. Jon Lester was already with the team but more was needed. So the front office got to work and brought in John Lackey, Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward. Both Lackey and Heyward were part of the NL Central Champion Cardinals in 2015 while Zobrist was coming off a World Series title with the Kansas City Royals. With this veteran core in place, the Cubs where ready to start a historic season.

The month of April that the Cubs had in 2016 planted the seed of hope in the minds of many Cubs fans across the country. Chicago went 17-5 in the month of April behind a 5-0 start by Jake Arrieta. One of those wins picked up by Arrieta was a 16-0 no-hitter of the Cincinnati Reds on April 21st. Fans would not know it at the time, but that would prove to be the only no-hitter in the major leagues in 2016.

By June 1st, Arrieta was still unbeaten and the Cubs were 35-15. Arrieta had an ERA of 1.56 and Bryant already had 11 of his 39 home runs and was batting .280. Newly acquired Ben Zobrist was hitting .345 and looking like an MVP candidate. The Cubs easily had the best record in baseball and were starting to excite the city of Chicago.

June was yet another great month for the Cubs who pushed their record to 51-27. Arrieta suffered his first two losses of the 2016 season and finally looked human with a June ERA of 3.54. By this time, Cubs number five starter Kyle Hendricks was starting to look like a star in the rotation. His 2.50 June ERA drove is overall season ERA down to 2.76. Zobrist cooled off, hitting only .221 during the month but he still maintained a .301 average with ten home runs.

Another newly acquired Cub proved his worth during the month of June. John Lackey pitched to the tone of a 3.47 ERA in the month of June. Following a stellar May, Lackey was settling into his number three spot in the Chicago rotation.

The first half of the 2016 Chicago Cubs season drew to an end on July 10th with a 6-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. With that win, the Cubs record moved to 53-35. That would prove to be just the Cubs second win in the first ten games of July. This slump that the Cubs experienced in July almost perfectly corresponds to a hamstring injury suffered by Dexter Fowler. Fowler left a game against the Pirates on June 18th with the injury and would be placed on the 15-day DL. His injury would actually take the Cubs center fielder and leadoff man 28 games to recover from. During that stretch without Fowler, the Cubs went 11-17. While that may not seem like a big deal, that slump would be enough for some Cubs fans to jump off the deep end.

Luckily, the Cubs righted the ship with two wins over the Texas Rangers to start the second half of the season.

On July 31st, the Cubs played the Seattle Mariners in the finale of a five game home stand. After getting down six runs, the Cubs stormed back to score three times in the 9th to tie the game at six. The score would remain locked at six until the 12th inning when Cubs pitcher Jon Lester stepped to the plate. Lester executed a perfect bunt to score Jason Heyward from third giving the Cubs a 7-6 win. That win would be the Cubs 63rd of the season and would spark an eleven game win streak from the North Siders. The streak would be the main reason the Cubs would go 22-6 in the month of August to push their record to 85-47.

As the dog days turned into playoff push baseball, a stud was emerging in the Cubs rotation. After posting a 1.07 ERA in the month of July, Kyle Hendricks followed it up by posting a 1.28 ERA in the month of August. Hendricks sustained success drove away any thoughts of short-term success and cemented Kyle into the Cy Young Award talks.

Hendricks was not the only Cubs player to tear up the month of August. Kris Bryant hit .383 with 10 home runs and 22 RBI’s during the month to push his home run total to 36 for the season.

After finishing the month of August on fire, Chicago sat their sights on the NL Central title. It would take exactly half of September for the Cubs to become the first team in 2016 to clinch a division title. On September 15th, the Cubs lost 5-4 to the Milwaukee Brewers but still clinched the division due to a Cardinal loss. It would not take long for the Cubs to get back in the win column as they beat the Brewers the following day in extra innings. With the win, the Cubs could finally celebrate their first division title since 2008.

Even after clinching the division, the Cubs still managed to go 10-5 to close out the season with a record of 103-58-1.

Jake Arrieta finished the season with 18 wins and an ERA of 3.10. While he started out the season as the ace of the Cubs pitching staff, Arrieta ended the season more like the number three starter.

Kyle Hendricks would finish the season strong, and end up capturing the National League ERA title with a 2.13 mark.

Behind Hendricks in the ERA title hunt would be his teammate Jon Lester. Lester finished the 2016 regular season with a 19-5 record and a 2.44 ERA.

Those marks would be good enough to force Cubs manager Joe Maddon to set up his postseason rotation with Lester starting Game 1 of the NLDS while Hendricks and Arrieta started Games 2 and 3 respectively.

New Cub Ben Zobrist finished the season with 18 home runs and a .272 batting average. That earned him the number five-spot in the Cubs lineup for most of the postseason. Zobrist’s stellar play throughout the postseason, especially during the World Series, earned him Would Series MVP honors for the second year in a row.

Fellow first year Cub Jason Heyward did not enjoy a good season like Zobrist. Heyward hit just .230 with 7 home runs and 49 RBI’s. His play was so bad that Maddon frequently replaced Heyward in the lineup during the postseason. Even though Heyward did not succeed in his first year in Cubbie blue does not mean he is doomed. He still has seven years left on his contract to turn his fortunes around.

John Lackey fit nicely into his role as he 3-4 starter in the Cubs rotation. Lackey worked to a 3.35 ERA and an 11-8 record in 2016. While there was room for improvement, it was still a good stat line for the 38-year old Texas native.

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, better known as “Bryzzo,” finished the season with 39 and 32 home runs respectively. These two finished with the exact same batting average (.292) and OBP (.385). It is only fitting that these two recorded the final out of the World Series when Bryant fielded a ground ball and threw it to Rizzo to secure the first Championship for the Cubs in over a century.

While these players where just a part of what the Cubs accomplished in 2016, the run that the Cubs went on would not have been possible without some key role players. Players like Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur, Albert Almora, and Tommy La Stella all chipped in to help this team succeed.

One player not mentioned in all of this was Kyle Schwarber. On April 7th, Schwarber tore his ACL after colliding with Dexter Fowler while running after a fly ball. Many believed that Schwarber’s season was over and counted out a return in 2016. Kyle proved everyone wrong when he appeared as a DH in Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 of the World Series. In 17 total at-bats during the postseason, Schwarber hit .412 with two RBI’s and a double.

It was a big lift for the Cubs to get Schwarber back in time for the World Series. He was instrumental in the Cubs success during the World Series.

There where many things that the Cubs had to overcome during the course of their historic season. Injuries, losing streaks and curses were not enough to break the spirit of a Cubs team that had one goal in mind since the beginning of the season. Win a World Series title.

The Cubs owned the best record in the major leagues practically the entire season. The exception was during the Fowler injury; right before the All-Star break when the San Francisco Giants would take over the best record in baseball. The Giants would go on to have an awful second half of the season and would eventually lose to the Cubs in the NLDS.

To many, the 2016 Chicago Cubs will go down as one of the best teams in the history of baseball. Without a World Series trophy, that would not have been the case because no matter how good you are, unless you bring home a ring, it does not matter.

I hope every Cubs fan in the world is soaking up this moment that we are living in right now. Cubs fans deserve time to cherish this feeling because it has been 108 years in the making.

The 2016 Chicago Cubs where a team that Cubs fans will tell their kids about 20 or more years from now as the team that finally broke all the curses and won a World Series title.

Now with the World Series trophy in hand, it is time for the Cubs to start defending their title in 2017.