Let me begin by saying, man am I glad baseball is back. With that being said, watching the Chicago Cubs these last two nights has been nothing short of what I expected this season to be. The hype surrounding the Cubs this season has been astronomical and people are already saying it’s either World Series or bust. While that may be true, people have to realize there is still 160 games to play and anything can happen. Lets take a look at my three biggest takeaways from the Cubs two game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels.
Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester look poised for big years
One night after Jake Arrieta absolutely dominated the Angels, Lester picked up right where he left off, throwing seven strong innings, while only giving up one run.
Some people say that Arrieta won’t be able to match last seasons success, and while that may be true based on the fact that his second half was historic, last night was not an indicator of it. Arrieta once again made it look easier than it should be, pitching seven masterful innings while only allowing three baserunners. I agree that it is going to be nearly impossible for Arrieta to repeat his success of last year, but would I be surprised if he wins 17 or 18 games while having an ERA in the mid 2’s? Not in the slightest, that’s how good I think he is.
And then there’s Jon Lester; kind of the forgotten man in the whole equation because of the way Arrieta pitched last season. Entering year 2 of his mega $155 million dollar contract, I (along with every other Cub fan in the country) am expecting a much better season. Not only does Lester look fully healthy, but he looks more comfortable around his teammates this time around. It’s never easy coming in as the person who is supposed to be “the guy” to bring a championship to a city who hasn’t had one in over a decade. Now that he has a year under his belt and has his BFF John Lackey by his side, I actually think Lester has a really good chance to lead the Cubs in wins.
These two are going to be fun to watch all season and if they continue pitching like they did in the first two games, watch out everyone.
Anthony Rizzo could win the NL MVP this year
Anthony Rizzo picked up right where he left off last season. In the Cubs opening game, he drove in the first run of the season with a sharp single up the middle and ended up finishing the game 1-3 with two walks and a run scored.
Last night was no different. Rizzo hit his first home run of the season, a towering two-run blast to straight away center that gave the Cubs a 4-0 lead, which was plenty for Jon Lester, who only gave up one run.
Now, while I think National League MVP is still Bryce Harper’s to lose, Rizzo shouldn’t be counted out. He finished fourth last year in MVP voting and I predict he will have an even better season this year because of the acquisitions the Cubs made in the offseason. Even if Rizzo doesn’t win the NL MVP, he is still arguably the MVP of the Cubs team and will need to play like one throughout the entire season if the Cubs have a shot at winning the World Series.
Dexter Fowler is on a tear
When I first found out Fowler would be returning to the Cubs this season, I actually let out a big “LETS GO!” as I was walking home from class. Fowler had a tremendous year last year for the Cubs and to get him back was the icing on the cake for the Cubs this offseason.
Not only is he a pretty decent center fielder, the bigger part of the acquisition was the fact that it would allow Jason Heyward to shift back to his natural position of right field, where he has won three Gold Glove awards.
In the first two games of the season, Fowler has gone 5-8, including a two-run homer in last night’s 6-1 win over the Angels.
Fowler is going to play a key role for the Cubs this season and will need to duplicate the success he had last year if the Cubs are going to make a deep run. Fowler is the all important lead-off hitter and as Joe Maddon puts it, “You go, we go” is ringing true for the first two games of the season.
If these first two games are any indication of how the rest of the season is going to play out for the Chicago Cubs, I can’t wait. The Chicago Cubs are finally relevant again and the rest of the NL better take notice.