MLB: Is the Cubs Defense the Most Important Aspect of the Team?
The Cubs ended the longest World Series drought in history at the end of last season. This year, they’re wanting to make new history by going from the longest drought, straight into a back to back World Series win. Although the World Series is too early to call with any certainty, the Cubs have to be considered contenders. They started off the year slowly, but they have since developed into one of the strongest teams in the MLB, and both fans and bettors will be getting excited about what the Cubs Defense can produce when it comes to the Playoffs.
Is Cubs Defense the Priority on the Road to the Playoffs?
To make it through the playoffs and to get to the world series, a team needs both a solid defense and a strong offense. We’ve seen before how teams can falter in the playoff stages because they’re lacking in one area of the other, yet the Cubs were able to succeed last year with a defense that was arguably much better than their hitting game.If we look at the last post season, we can see why people would get this idea. Javier Baez, star infielder for the Cubs, spent almost every game of the post seasons starting on second base. Ben Zobrist played almost all of the post season games in the left field, despite having proven talent to start in 2B. Is this a sign that the team knows their defensive players and where they should be to get the best out of the team? Maybe… but it doesn’t necessarily mean that all they are thinking about is defense.When president Theo Epstein was quizzed about whether the focus for the team was on defense, he didn’t confirm or deny, but did indicate that defense did become the priority last year. He told the Daily Herald that “You can look at last year’s postseason and a lot of the decisions we made, you maybe slightly tilt that balance a little bit more heavily in favor of defense. It becomes increasingly important as you get deeper in the season, but not everything.” He elaborated saying that “You’re always weighing all the different variables, building your lineup for the opposing starting pitcher, for the ballpark, for the weather conditions, for your starting pitcher, the defensive alignment you want to have out there for how you anticipate late game strategy going, what you might want available on your bench, how you’re going to counteract the opponents bench.”So while their own team president won’t admit that defense is their strongest focus, they’re still one of the best defensive teams, and now with more depth and an expanding roster, they could be about to get even better.
Chicago Defense Proves Again Why It’s One of the Best in the MLB
Earlier this week, the Cubs completely disassembled the pirates to win 6 – 1 in their Monday night game. The win was carried by the excellent defense, and we saw Javier Baez playing a critical role. He’s clearly one of the integral parts of this defense, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him making important plays in the post season, and proving why he was selected for all of the most important post season games last year.Looking at how the team is run, it can be seen that it’s not just about keeping the players in the same positions, but also keeping them flexible. Coach Joe Maddon clearly sees flexibility in defensive roles as being important not just for development, but also for keeping the spirit of the team competitive. When asked about how they run such a flexible rotation, Maddon was straightforward with his response. In an interview with Sporting News he said that “They [the players] usually know the day before. I really think when you break guys in like that initially, they enjoy it and they like the idea of carrying several different gloves.”Despite what we saw in the playoffs last year with the star defensive players in their strongest positions, top players like Zobrist are still willing to do whatever it takes to achieve the kind of fully rounded defense that coach Maddon is looking for. Ben Zobrist is an example of a flexible defender, and he seems to like the way that Maddon runs things. He told the media that “Every three, four, five days to a week, you need to be hitting on certain things, to be ready for whatever happens in the game. You can kind of tell when you’re a little bit out of practice at different positions, whether it’s seeing the ball off the bat, or your first move in those positions.” Clarifying the demands of playing in different positions, Zobrist said that “I have to do more infield stuff than outfield. I have to make sure I get my ground ball stuff first. At second base, I work on turning the double play and things that are a little bit awkward and different and specific to that position. There’s the need to stretch the arm out because that’s two different kinds of throws.”So we have players that appreciate the need to master different positions on the field, and a coach who likes to rotate them to get the best out of them… and then a president that says defense is never the primary focus. Whether or not the team will admit that defense is their focus, it’s definitely the strongest asset they have. They’re currently ranked 7th in stats for defense in the MLB, and we saw last season that they are able to ramp up their performance in the post season.If you’re planning to bet on the Cubs through the playoffs, or if you’re simply a casual watcher, you can take confidence knowing that they have a strong and capable defense with players that can stand almost anywhere on the field and still be effective. As we saw with the Pirates earlier this week, when the Cubs defense is working, it can be difficult for even the best offensive hitters to make a difference.If the team does go all the way to the World Series this year, it’s safe to say that their progress will owe a lot to their defensive game.