While the Cubs have improved, this is the same team that the New York Mets swept in the NLCS last season. Let's take a look at why MLB odds makers think that the Cubbies are a frontrunner.
Good Pitching Wins Games
The Cubs are laced with good pitching, starting from last season's NL Cy Young Award Winner in Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) to the number 5 starter in Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA). Virtually, there are no weaknesses in this rotation which has a high upside if veterans such as Jon Lester and John Lackey have good seasons. One thing is for sure and that's the starters should receive and ample amount of run support. This is one of the better pitching staffs in the MLB.
Edging Out Zack Greinke
Jake Arrieta was having a good season, but came out of nowhere in the 2nd half of the season to snatch away the NL Cy Young Award from Zack Greinke as Greinke appeared to have it in the bag.
The 92.5 win projected win total will definitely rely on the pitching of Jake Arrieta. He pitched nearly perfect last season, but was a 34-32 pitcher before last season for his career. I happen to think that he's the real deal, but to repeat what he did last season, will be a tall order. All NLB
In 229 innings last season, Arrieta struck out 236 batters, allowed opposing hitters to a mere 10 home runs and a .185 batting average. Numbers like those will be difficult top.
Sophomore Slump or Superstar?
This will be the question for 3rd baseman and 2nd year player, Kris Bryant, as Bryant had a stellar rookie season with 26 HR, 99 RBI, and a .275 BA.Some people think that he can be the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, but Bryant has a long way to go.
One thing that he'll have to work on is his play away from Wrigley Field. On the road, he had just 5 HR, 40 RBI, and a .243 BA. While the batting average is poor, the lack of power really concerns me as all of his production came at home. I expect slight improvement from Bryant as he has some added bats for protection in the lineup this season.
The Cubs have to be pleased with the power displayed by Anthony Rizzo. They now know that they can count on Rizzo after a 30 HR, 100 RBI season and a .387 OBP.
At one point, Rizzo was a concern during his career, but last season along with Kris Bryant, have formed one of the deadliest 1-2 punches that the Chicago Cubs, who haven't won a World Series in over 100 years, have ever possessed! I look for these two players to have no dropoff with Bryant, as stated earlier, showing improvement in his sophomore campaign.
The Cubs are stacked with outfielders that are unproven, but can come up with clutch hits in Jorge Soler, Dexter Fowler, and Kyle Schwarber, but the big question to me is what kind of a season will Jason Heyward have? Is he enough to make the Cubs be one of the favorite MLB picks?
When Heyward was playing for Atlanta, he was hitting in the low .200's. Last season, he played on a much better team in the St. Louis Cardinals and everything went up except for his power numbers. Heyward finished up the season at 13 HR, 60 RBI, .293 BA, 23 SB. He also played well in the post-season, going 5 for 14 with a 1 HR and 2 RBI.
He's very inconsistent and I don't expect him to revert back to his Braves days when he was having a tough time, but I'm not totally sold on him. He's coming off of a good season, but if you look at this Cubs outfield, is this an outfield of a team that would have to win 93 games with an over 92.5 win bet? I don't think so.
There's no doubt that the Cubs are a post-season contender, but I don't think that they have the talent that the Mets do and they were already embarrassed by New York last season. After all of that, MLB odds boards don't even list the Mets at 90 wins. I think the odds makers are definitely off with the Chicago Cubs as this is not a 93 win regular season team at -130. The under is the definite bet to place.