The Chicago Cubs have solved their early-season woes and are a serious threat to repeat as World Series champions.
Well, they did it last year, so why can’t they repeat? You wouldn’t have expected that based on how the Cubs played in the first half, fighting through that World Series hangover and struggling to keep pace with the upstart Brewers. But Chicago looked like its champion self after the break, going 49–24 in the second half to dust Milwaukee and win a second straight NL Central crown. What changed? Led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, the offense perked up, going from 4.5 runs per game in the first half to 5.8 in the second.
The rotation, meanwhile, dropped its ERA from a terrible 4.66 before the break to 3.38 after, with Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta turning their seasons around after rough starts. The bullpen is shakier than manager Joe Maddon would like, even with Wade Davis looking near invincible all year long, and Jon Lester has been merely average. But with the offense clicking and the rotation doing better, would you want to bet against the same group that twice overcame series deficits en route to a title?