(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 27th of 30 at-bats for the upcoming 2018 major league baseball season. On deck Sunday, the Houston Astros.)
Yu Darvish threw Milwaukee, Minnesota and ESPN’s Buster Olney a curve by signing with the Chicago Cubs. Whether it’s a good move or not remains to be seen.
Darvish has done some traveling of late, let go by Texas and winding up with the LA Dodgers for the stretch run last season that didn’t exactly pan out. Now he gets a fresh start for the Cubs.
Darvish is the replacement for Jake Arrieta, who sought bigger bucks and signed with Philadelphia. Arrieta won 14 games but has not been the pitcher he was a few years back when he captured the Cy Young and helped lead the Cubs to the world championship.
So now the pressure is on Darvish, who is three years younger than Arrieta at 31, but off a terrible postseason with the Dodgers. Darvish has been mediocre this spring, but the Cubs are not concerned. And it’s really not like so goes Darvish, so go the Cubs. They are loaded and made few major moves in the offseason.
Manager Joe Maddon is back for his fourth season and last year’s 92-70 record was the worst of his first three. The Cubs are projected to win 93.5 games and an overwhelming 5/12 to win the NL Central. And while the Cubbies open up with nine games on the road, who wouldn’t want to face Miami and Cincinnati right off the bat.
Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant anchor that solid infield and Kyle Schwarber is having a nice spring with a .361 average. Jon Lester remains the ace as Darvish adjusts to life as a Cub. The bullpen is a bit of a concern. No Wade Davis as closer, but there are plenty worse bullpens in the majors.
The Cubs at 7-1 are currently the second choice in the National League to win the World Series, trailing only the Dodgers at 5-1. Houston, the defending champions, was 5-1 but has risen slightly to 6-1.
Chicago continues on its road trip to Milwaukee before opening at home against Pittsburgh on April 9. There’s no reason to think the Cubs should be at least 6-4 when facing the Pirates and more likely 7-3 or better. If they come back 4-6 or worse, worry a little.
Cubs fans always do.
Encore: For those who pay attention to spring training stats, the Cubs are 17-11 in the Cactus League, second only to the Brewers. San Diego is third.
2017 record: 92-70
2016 record: 103-58
2015 record: 97-65
World Series win odds: 7-1
Odds to win NL Central: 5/12, 1st
2018 season win total: 93.5