Back to the Future II calling the Cubs winning the World Series in 2015 has been a fun joke on their fanbase for many years. The joke might be on us now. The Cubbies are firmly entrenched as the second wild card team. Their closest competition are the Giants who are currently 3.5 games back.
Chicago looked like they were going to hit but they've actually been winning games based on their pitching staff. By FanGraphs WAR metric the Cubs have enjoyed the 5th best pitching staff (3.42 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 14.6 fWAR) in baseball this year. That combines their rotation and bullpen. Their rotation (3.40 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 11.7 fWAR) by itself ranks 7th and their bullpen (3.44 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 2.9 fWAR) 11th.
Their position players have ranked closer to average. Their combined 14.7 fWAR ranks 12th in baseball. Their 91 wRC+ however is in the bottom third of baseball (22nd). That's pretty surprising considering all their big time prospects are position players (Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, etc).
Don't engage in schadenfreude yet though. It usually takes time for young players to come into their own at the major league level. Most people expected the Cubs were another year or, more conservatively, two years away from competing. But here they are in a solid position to make the postseason. And they're not even clicking on all cylinders...
Kris Bryant took all the headlines in the early part of the season and he's been quite good. But I fee like Kyle Schwarber was somewhat overlooked outside of the Windy City. He's only logged 105 plate appearances so small sample size applies but he's hitting 341/429/604 with 6 home runs. He's not going to keep hitting like that, but he is going to continue to hit well. If he can stay at catcher (which is by no means a guarantee) he's going to be a huge star.
Tuesday August 11, 7:05 pm CST: Taylor Jungmann vs Dan Haren
Dan Haren spent most of the season with the Marlins but was traded to the Cubs recently to help shore up the back-end of their rotation.
Haren: 134 IP, 16.6 K%, 4.9 BB%, .239 BAA, 1.12 WHIP, 1.54 HR/9, 31.2 GB%, 3.49 ERA, 4.73 FIP
He throws a fastball (85-87), cutter, curveball, and split-fingered fastball.
Wednesday August 12, 7:05 pm CST: Matt Garza vs Jason Hammel
The Brewers have often struggled against Hammel. That includes their recent start against him where they did drive him from the game early (5.2 IP) but only scored one run.
Hammel: 122.0 IP, 24.3 K%, 5.3 BB%, .220 BAA, 1.05 WHIP, 1.03 HR/9, 37.7 GB%, 3.17 ERA, 3.36 FIP
He throws a fastball (92-93), slider, curveball, and change-up.
Thursday August 13, 1:20 pm CST: Tyler Cravy vs Jon Lester (LHP)
The rough start to the season for Jon Lester has been completely erased by now. He's pitching like the guy they thought they were signing.
Lester: 139.2 IP, 24.3 K%, 6.0 BB%, .242 BAA, 1.17 WHIP, 0.71 HR/9, 49.7 GB%, 3.22 ERA, 2.95 FIP
He throws a fastball (91-92), cutter, curveball, change-up.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs