It’s been an exciting week for Cub fans. The team went five and one is now 3 and 1/2 games up on San Francisco for the last wildcard spot. If you’re not enjoying the baseball that’s being played by the Cubs, there’s something wrong with you.
After Sunday’s game it got me thinking, “Who is the Cubs MVP this season?” Sunday it was Jake Arietta, Saturday it was Kris Bryant, and the two days before that it was Kyle Schwarber. When you stretch out the question for the whole season, a variety of names come into play. Could it be a pitcher? Could be a reliever? Could it be a rookie? Could be a veteran? Cases can be made for all of them based upon how each has carried the team.
The Cubs are 15 – 8 since Schwarber’s return after the All-Star break. In the last week, Schwarber’s hitting .385 with three home runs and nine RBIs to go along with his studly .484 on-base percentage. Schwarber’s move to the number two spot in the lineup has jumpstarted the Cubs offense and has propelled them to nine wins in the last 10 games, concluding with this weekend’s four-game sweep. The only problem with selecting Schwarber to be the team’s MVP is that he only has 91 at bats on the season.
Since his arrival on April 17, Bryant lengthened the Cubs lineup and added the ability to homer at ant time while providing a complement to Anthony Rizzo. I have been most impressed with Bryant’s arm, base running skills, and all around hustle every play. On the other hand, the .168 batting average in July was not anything to write home about, but Bryant has righted the ship. He’s looked good for the past seven days hitting a little over .280, and he is looking better in the field on most days. His presence in the lineup was strange at the number two hole, but I think he is much better suited to the five hole where he hits behind Rizzo and in front of Soler. He has protection on both sides. I really look forward to seeing what he can do in the five hole the rest of the year.
In most years, it would not be a competition for MVP with Rizzo’s performance this year. He’s hitting .295 with 21 homers and 63 RBIs. You can also add in that he’s stolen 15 bases. Finally, he takes his walks and has been hit by a pitch 22 times for an amazing .402 OBP. Throw in his glove work and how he protects those in front of him in behind him in the batting order. I think most people would vote for Rizzo for MVP. But this is not most years.
This guy’s been a beast on the mound. Currently he has a 2.38 ERA, Arrieta’s struck out 158 in 155.1 innings to go along with his 0.99 whip. On Sunday, he just took over the game. He didn’t have his best stuff, but he found a way to make the stuff he had work. San Francisco hitters, in addition to all hitters, could not keep up with the movement on his pitches. Whenever the Cubs need somebody to stop a losing streak, Arrieta has been there.
If I had to pick just one player for MVP for the Cubs this year, I would go with Rizzo. He sets the tone at the plate, in the field, and in the clubhouse. He’s the one player everyone else looks to set the spark.
I hate to eliminate Schwarber early, but I need more at bats. So he’s out for now. Bryant got a bit too cold, but can also make the [list]. Rizzo, this fella has been just completely solid and clutch. That being said, it’s Arrieta. He kept the team from getting a loss today when they could only manage 4 hits, one of them his.
When you look at the totality of all the contributions from this year’s team, you truly begin to see how much of it is as a team. While this list has only 4 players, it truly takes a 25 man roster each day for this team to win. Sometimes Coghlan comes up big, other days it Russell, Soler, or even Buckethead, Johnathan Herrera. Justin Grimm has been huge lately along with Hector Rondon in the bullpen, and Jon Lester has been lights out since July 1. It’s hard to pick just one. And to be honest, that’s the mark of a good team – everyone contributes, as they should.
It’s been an exciting two weeks as the Cubs have begun to take off. They have a chance to continue to do well as they get a much needed day off today. The Cubs have upcoming series against the Brewers, White Sox, Tigers, and Braves the next two weeks, with most of them at home (White Sox is away). It should be a great time to be a Cub fan.