Chicago Baseball Takes the MLB by Storm

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Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

Charlie Valentincic and Ryan Cassidy

It’s been 12 years since both the White Sox and Cubs have both been in first place. A 32-16 record puts the White Sox atop the AL Central, and the 29-20 Cubs find themselves in 1st place in the NL central. With 11 games left in the season for the Cubs and 12 for Sox, the best and most important baseball is ahead. A three-game set on the south side will mark the end of the regular season for both teams, and we can all anticipate the high playoff implications that series will have.  

Chicago White Sox

The American League Leading Chicago White Sox are scary, to say the least. 

Tim Anderson is batting .377 which makes him a contender for the American League batting title for the second year in a row. Luis Robert’s lethal combination of speed and power makes him a clear option for Rookie of the Year. A 23-game hitting streak earlier in the season and .328 average puts Jose Abreu right into American League MVP race. Two 2019 all-stars Yasmani Grandal and James McCann contribute both to the offense and behind the dish. Although not spectacular, a starting pitching staff headlined by Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel gets the job done. 

Luis Robert admires his two-run home run n the bottom of the eighth against the Detroit Tigers on an August night. (Associated Press)

All these factors have contributed to the White Sox’s hot start in 2020. Their 32-16 record gives them the best 48-game start since 2006. When they were hot off a 2005 world series win against the Houston Astros.  

The Sox have put up this record while persevering through many injuries. 3rd baseman, Yoan Moncada,  talented rookie 2nd baseman Nick Madrigal, powerful left fielder Eloy Jimenez, starting pitchers Carlos Rodon and Gio Gonzalez, MLB sensation Tim Anderson, and star reliever Aaron Bummer have all been on the IL at points during the season. 

The 2020 White Sox have depth all over the team, and that should help them in their upcoming playoff race.

The White Sox have 11 games left in the season, no more off days, and eight with their rival counterparts at the top of the American League Central. Coming off two huge wins against the Twins, the Sox have two more games against the Twins, three in Cincinnati, four in Cleveland, and then the very anticipated finale against the Cubs. 

A question to answer is, how will their pitching hold up? The bullpen has struggled lately for the Sox and typically gets them into some trouble in the late innings. Giving up leads in late innings could really cost them in this last 11 game stretch and into the playoffs. 

Although there may not be fans to experience these Sox in person, thousands of Sox fans throughout Chicago and the United States will watch eagerly. Waiting for games like Giolito’s non-no against the Pirates to unfold. The Sox are definitely one of the most fun teams to watch in baseball, the no-hitter and back to back to back to back home runs have already happened for the Sox this year. You never know what may be coming around the corner.

For the Sox to end the season strong and potentially make a run in the playoffs, a few things need to happen. To start, the offense has to keep firing on all cylinders. The long ball has been a factor for the Sox all year, they will have to continue hitting the ball out of the park. 

Second, starting pitching has to be consistent. Pitchers like Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel have been great this year, however, they will have to eliminate the bad starts each of them has had. 

Next, the defense has to be sharp. Errors have been a factor in the Sox’s last few games. Errors=Runs, if the White Sox continue to make errors, they will be eliminated. 

Finally, the bullpen needs improvement. Besides a few guys, pitching has been very inconsistent in the bullpen. Coming back in games where late runs were let up is very difficult. In general, the White Sox have had a great season. If they want to keep playing, they must clean up sloppy play. 

Chicago Cubs

Going into the season, the Cubs were expecting to rely on their core players of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber. Through the first two-thirds of the season, the core has not met their expectations for the season. None of the core players are having their best season with Contreras batting .244 and leading the group. 

Another disappointment for the Cubs has been the low production from all-star shortstop, Javy Baez. Baez is batting .208 with an OBP of .247 and a WAR of 0.3. All of these numbers are not what Cubs fans expected to see from the former MVP candidate.

By far the biggest surprise for the Cubs this year has been Centerfielder Ian Happ. Happ has emerged onto the scene as an MVP candidate as he is hitting .295 with 12 home runs, 24 RBI, and he has an OPS of 1.050. 

To go along with Happ, the Cubs have also seen great production from Rightfielder, Jason Heyward. 

Cubs surprise star center fielder Ian Happ hitting a home run against the Pirates in September. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

This year, Heyward is finally starting to play to his massive contract as he is hitting .300 with 5 home runs, 17 RBI, and an OPS of .955. The unexpected play from Happ and Heyward has carried this team so far and it does not look like the two are going to slow down anytime soon.

For the pitching rotation, the Cubs have seen consistent success Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. Darvish this year has been spectacular this year pitching to a 7-1 record with a 1.44 Earned Run Average. 

Darvish, who the Cubs also signed to a big deal a couple of years ago, is another guy playing up to his potential as he has been the Cubs best pitcher this whole season. 

Hendricks is another guy who has been solid for the Cubs this year. Hendricks is 5-4 with a 3.44 ERA but when he is on, he gets many comparisons to legend Greg Maddux. Hendricks and Darvish have WARs of 1.3 and 2.5 respectively. 

The Cubs are going to need at least one more starter to step it up if they want to make a deep postseason run. This is most likely going to come from Jon Lester who has pitched to a 2-2 record with a 5.80 ERA. One good thing about Lester though is that he has a lot of playoff experience which is something that the Cubs are going to need if they want to make a run at winning the World Series.

The “X-factor” going into the year for the Cubs was their bullpen. They signed all-star closer Craig Kimbrel and he has not performed to his expectations at all in the year-and-a-half that he’s been on the north side. Kimbrel has blown many saves and just has not been able to return to his old self since joining the club. 

The biggest bright spot for the bullpen has been the free-agent acquisition, Jeremy Jeffress. Jeffress has been the Cubs best reliever and has earned the closer position pitching to a 1.06 ERA and also has 6 saves on the year. There have been many instances in which Jeffress has had to bail out Kimbrel and he has earned the Cubs a handful of wins doing so.

The most important thing for the Cubs to make a deep run into the playoffs is going to have to be their bullpen. If the Cubs bullpen can be strong and not give up many runs, there is no reason why they should not be in the discussion for winning it all.

If the Cubs want to make a deep run in the playoffs this year, their star players are going to need to step it up. Heyward and Happ have put the team on their back for virtually the whole season and that is not going to hold up in the playoffs. 

The rotation is going to need one more solid arm likely coming from Jon Lester to go along with Hendricks and Darvish and the bullpen is going to have to step it up outside of Jeremy Jeffress. 

The Cubs definitely have the talent to win it all this year, it’s just a matter if they are able to play to their potential and if the stars can step it up while the unexpected players have started playing well.