Second-half forecasts for Cubs, Mets, Yankees, more of MLB's top stories

Verducci: Chicago Cubs 2016 midseason preview
1:25 | MLB
Verducci: Chicago Cubs 2016 midseason preview
Thursday July 14th, 2016

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This week, while the major leagues are off for the All-Star break, Sports Illustrated senior baseball writer Tom Verducci will be taking a look at the 10 biggest stories to date for the 2016 season and forecasting whether what we've seen so far is likely to continue. On Wednesday, he examined the return of the home run. On Friday, he will look at the historic farewell season of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

As I wrote yesterday, when the season began it looked like the three biggest questions would be, in order:

1. Can the Cubs win the World Series?
2. How great is the Mets' rotation?
3. Will a new generation of young sluggers continue the uptick in offense we saw in the second half of last season?

On Wednesday, I explored at length why the rise of the home run has become the biggest story of the year. Today, I'll dive into the Cubs and Mets, as well as six of the other biggest stories of the first half.

The Cubs

Yes, they are good enough to win the World Series, but it turns out they are not a super team. These are not the 1927 Yankees. Chicago inspired historic comparisons when it started the season with a 47–20 record—a 114-win pace—but it staggered to the break, going 6–15 to close the first half.

What happened? The trap door to the Cubs’ season always has been that they rely on older starting pitching: Jake Arrieta is 30, Jon Lester is 32, Jason Hammel is 33, and John Lackey is 37. No playoff team has relied on so many older starters to make regular turns since the 2004 Red Sox. Chicago's elders pitched exceptionally well in that 67-game start, but the four of them have combined to win only once in the team's past 21 games.

Manager Joe Maddon wedged Adam Warren, 28, into the rotation on July 6 to give his older starters extra rest. Warren gave up one run in five innings and didn't factor in the decision of the Cubs' 5–3 loss to the Pirates.

Forecast: Chicago's seven-game lead on the Cardinals in the NL Central is the biggest of any first-place team. The Cubs will easily will win division, but they won’t do so with more than 100 wins.