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2023 Cubs Heroes and Goats: Games 1-37

A quick check-in on the Cubs so far in 2023.

Miami Marlins v Chicago Cubs Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

I introduced a feature letting you weigh in on glass half empty/glass half full and then didn’t go back to it. Life is a scramble, so sometimes it’s a hustle just to put together the regular story. I’m a dork, so I gave up some of my off day to check in with you guys. Where is your glass right now?

The Cubs are 18-19 so far. Not half bad. If you were in my boat and you thought they’d win 75, then they are actually ahead of the game. If you thought they were going to be much better than .500, then you might be a little disappointed.

If you read into expected win-loss records, they have the Cubs at 24-13. That would suggest the Cubs underachieved. By a lot. Sadly, right now I think it tells you what we know. If the game was lopsided, the Cubs were almost certainly the winning team. If the game was close, they were often the losing team. More than anything, it tells you the Cubs have been good at run prevention. Only the ungodly hot Rays have allowed fewer than the Cubs. I will not spike the football that the two teams I follow with any frequency are really good at run prevention.

But the Cubs still show up as pretty good at scoring. Only the Braves, Dodgers and Diamondbacks have more runs scored than the Cubs. And this is the time where I ask you if we knew the Diamondbacks were going to be good. That seems unusual to me.

The Cubs are 10-12 against teams with winning records. 11-11 at home. 7-8 on the road, despite a really strong start there. One bad trip really spoiled that. The Cubs are 9-10 during the day. Day baseball expands just around the corner. The Cubs have a 7-2 record in interleague play. They have an 8-4 record against lefthanded starters.

So it’s been a mixed bag. They aren’t flat out elite at anything other than run production. But yeah, that’s a really good thing to be good at. The teams that allowed fewer than 600 runs in 2022 were the best teams in baseball (Yankees, Astros, Dodgers). The teams under 650 runs all made the playoffs. The teams between 650 and 700 were a mixed bag of playoff teams and near misses. The Twins and Angels were the only teams in that group that finished under .500. There’s a lot of baseball to be played, but the Cubs are on pace to allow 591 runs. That’s pretty rare air.

So I’m going to look at that pitching staff. Is it perfect? No. Certainly, Jameson Taillon has yet to find his groove. By default, that has ended up being the fifth starter spot. They dropped that spot to the back of the rotation after he got hurt in order to minimize the number of starts lost. The bullpen is far from settled. No one has emerged as a closer and none of have even fully emerged as the go to guy. Keegan Thompson has probably had the most effective innings, but he’s had some struggles of late.

Cody Bellinger and Yan Gomes have been the position player standouts. I think both are a little surprising, but Gomes is particularly so. At his age, having a standout offensive season is odd. So we can expect some regression at some point. But it sure has been fun to watch in the early going. Dansby Swanson, Ian Happ and Nico Hoerner are a trio at the top of the lineup who have been on base a ton. The rest of the lineup has struggled to consistently get them in after they get there.

Christopher Morel and Matt Mervis are here. Morel has had a quick start, Mervis not sp much. Patrick Wisdom is streaky. Seiya Suzuki has been disappointing. I don’t think I’m the only one who isn’t quite sure what to expect from Trey Mancini. He just hasn’t looked the part of an impressive player. But his stats actually show a pretty decent bounce after a rough start. So I think patience is definitely called for there. That said, I probably list Wisdom, Suzuki and Mancini in that order for staying in the lineup as the Cubs look for PT for Morel (I’d take the most from Mancini and the least from Wisdom).

So using just the run prevention stat which highly ties into the expected win-loss stat, this team has a chance to be special. Incidentally, the ex-W/L stat is exactly designed that way. Call it feature not bug. Scoring a lot of runs is good. Not allowing a lot of runs is better. Doing both is best. The 2016 Cubs were one of those teams obviously. This team needs to find more consistent offense.

My verdict? I can’t see the Cubs breaking out and being a really elite team. But, the stretch run of last year is proving to be no mirage. This team took a giant step forward in run prevention late in the season and they’ve carried it forward. Whatever changes were made around the trade deadline last year have carried forward. I know some have theories about that, but I’m looking forward, not backward.

So I still see a team on the rise. To that end, my glass is half full. When you add in some very positive vibes from reading Josh’s work every day, my glass is actually very full. After some time off, there are waves coming again. Including some very intriguing pieces that could add value later this year. If you aren’t following Josh, you are missing out. The future is coming and he’s here to cover it.


Where is your glass?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    Half full!
    (106 votes)
  • 11%
    Half empty.
    (14 votes)
120 votes total Vote Now

And we’ll leave you with an off day top/bottom 10 for the Rizzo Award standings:

  • Justin Steele +13
  • Marcus Stroman +11
  • Ian Happ +10
  • Mark Leiter Jr. +9.5
  • Dansby Swanson +4
  • Drew Smyly +4
  • Cody Bellinger +2
  • Hayden Wesneski +2
  • Nelson Velazquez +2
  • Brad Boxberger +2
  • Seiya Suzuki -3.5
  • Nick Madrigal -3.5
  • Eric Hosmer -4
  • Matt Mervis -4
  • Luis Torrens -4
  • Julian Merryweather -4.5
  • Jameson Taillon -5
  • Michael Fulmer -5
  • Nico Hoerner -6.5
  • Trey Mancini -8