When the MLB season started, the Chicago Cubs were seen by many as the clear favorites to win the World Series. They were favored despite the fact that they have not won a World Series since 1908 and have not even been to one since 1945. They were favored because of their breakout season last year and having the best offseason in the league. The Cubs put together a young team last year and expectations were that it would take at least a year before they would blossom into true contenders. The Cubs then proceeded to go all the way to the National League Championship series, where they eventually lost to the New York Mets. In the off-season, they were able to pull off a last minute deal to keep center-fielder Dexter Fowler. They also added Jason Heyward and John Lackey, the top position player and the top pitcher from their biggest division rival the St. Louis Cardinals.
All eyes have been on the cubs since the beginning of the season. Manager Joe Maddon has embraced these higher expectations rather than shying away. His young squad has responded.
They have jumped out to a 25-6 start and have done so in dominating fashion. The Cubs currently have three pitchers in the top four leaders in ERA in the National League, but what is most impressive is their run differential. They have both scored the most and allowed the least amount of runs earning them to a run differential of +103. For comparison, the next closest team’s run differential is +47. The Cubs have many believing that this could be the year, and so far they have given no reason to doubt them.
There must be something in the air in Chicago because the next best team in the majors are the Chicago White Sox. Currently 23-11, they have gotten there behind the pitching dominance from Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. They are also being powered at the plate behind slugger Todd Frazier. They were not projected to be in the spot they are now, and while I believe that they will eventually cool down they are a dangerous team in a playoff series. Another team to watch out for are the New York Mets. They are currently the defending National League champions, and while their good start was expected, they have not received a lot of attention due to the Chicago teams dominating the headlines. Yoennis Cespedes has hit the ground running this season with 11 home runs so far and their deep pitching rotation was on full display during the playoffs last year and have not slowed down.
The Kansas City Royals are another team to be on the lookout for. They have struggled early on and many have written them off. But I think a lot of this has to be a post World Series hangover effect. It is a long season, and I expect them to find their way and be in the playoff hunt when it is all said and done.