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Breaking Down the Curse-Breaking Season of the 2016 Chicago Cubs

The 2016 Chicago Cubs celebrating their Game 7 win over the Indians; CC by License 2.0

The 2016 Cubs are going down as one of the most historic and memorable teams ever. Despite being a die-hard Cardinals fan, this team has always been one of my favorites to look back on. During their incredible championship run, I was an 11-year-old falling in love with the game of baseball. I remember being fascinated with this team, their story, and everything the players and the fans went through to get that ring. Despite growing up hating the Cubs, it really felt good to see them win a ring.

Heading into 2016, the Cubs had sky-high expectations, coming off the 97-win 2015 season in which they lost in the NLCS. That playoff appearance was the Cubs’ first since 2007, their first NLCS appearance since 2003, and just their fifth playoff appearance since 1990. Chicago anticipated a playoff run in 2016, but to say they were under pressure would be an understatement. The Cubs had the longest championship drought in North American pro sports history and had not won a World Series since 1908. 2016 marked the 108th year of that infamous dry spell. However, this Cubs team felt different. They were charismatic and fun to watch, and it seemed like a World Series could finally return to the North Side.

The Cubs made several moves in the offseason leading up to 2016 to fill out their roster and bring the team together. They signed 2B Ben Zobrist, P John Lackey, and RF Jason Heyward while re-signing CF Dexter Fowler and P Trevor Cahill. Chicago also sent longtime middle infielder Starlin Castro to the Yankees, betting on the veteran Zobrist and young prospect Javier Baez to fill the hole Castro left.

The season opened up with a bang for the Cubs. They went 8-1 to start the year, outscoring their opponents by 43 runs and averaging 7 runs per game. They also got out to a 3-game lead in the division and would not relinquish that division lead for the entire season. Chicago finished April with a 17-5 record and a +79 run differential. They stayed hot through the All-Star break, holding a 53-35 record and a 7-game division lead at the Midsummer Classic.

The Lovable Losers were firing on all cylinders but still needed some bullpen depth. On July 20th, the Cubs added a bullpen arm, acquiring Mike Montgomery from the Mariners in exchange for future Oakland Athletic Paul Blackburn and Mets legend Daniel Vogelbach. Montgomery would go on to have a sub-3 ERA across 17 appearances and 5 starts for Chicago in the 2nd half. He proved to be a valuable piece but was not the only addition the Cubs made at the trade deadline. On July 25th, the Cubs traded Rashad Crawford, Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, and Adam Warren to the Yankees in exchange for elite closer Aroldis Chapman. This deal would put them over the top, as Chapman had a 1.01 ERA in the 2nd half and surrendered only 6 earned runs while striking out 21 across 15.2 postseason innings. The Cubs ended the year with a 103-58-1 record and won the division by 17.5 games.

Chicago faced the San Francisco Giants in the Divisional Series and won Game One 1-0 behind a dominant performance from Jonathan Lester. They then won Game Two on the back of 5.1 shutout innings from the bullpen and a two-hit night from Willson Contreas. Game Three would go to the Giants in extra innings, but the Cubs rebounded, winning Game Four due to a 4-run 9th inning and RBI hits from Contreras, Ben Zobrist, and Javier Baez. For the second consecutive season, the Cubs were heading to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, and were only four wins away from a World Series appearance.

Five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning propelled Chicago to a Game One win. However, they dropped games 2 and 3, setting up a must-win Game Four in LA. John Lackey allowed 2 runs through 4 innings, and the bullpen tossed 5 shutout innings. That proved to be plenty, as the offense exploded for 10 runs with a home run from Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo. They won game 5 as well and went back home up 3-2 for game 6. Rizzo and Contreas both hit HRs which was plenty of run support for the 7.1 innings of shutout ball from Kyle Hendricks and 1.2 innings from Chapman to win the game. The Cubs were back in the World Series for the first time since 1945. The Cubs got off to a rough start in the World Series falling behind 3-1. With the season on the line in game 5, Lester gave them 6 innings of two-run ball and then Chapman got a 2.2 inning save to win the game 3-2. The Cubs won game 6 to force a game 7 to break the curse. In one of the greatest games in MLB history, the Indians hit a game-tying home run in the 9th to send it to extras. Then in the top of the 10th, Zobrist and Miguel Montero both drove in runs and in the bottom of the 10th, trade deadline pickup Mike Montgomery got the last out the Cubs won it. They won the world series. After going through their season, we are gonna look back at their roster and analyze what made them so good.

Starting pitching

The starting staff was the strong suit of this team and was led by the 1-2-3 punch of Lester, Arrieta, and Hendricks. They all prevented the long ball and overall kept guys off the bases. Lester was a former World Series winner in Boston and he was the anchor of this staff. Arrieta is an odd piece of the rotation as he was a failed starter in Baltimore but found magic in Chicago and became one of the best pitchers in the NL late in his career. Hendricks was the young guy in rotation as this was just his 3rd full season, but had the best season compared to the other guys. This 1-2-3 punch was the anchor of this team that held it all together, however, Lackey and Hammel were very solid and consistent in the back of the rotation and were able to keep the team rolling in the season.


The bullpen for the Cubs was probably the weakest part of the team but was still a very solid unit. Rondon was the closer in the first half and had a solid year as a solid piece of the pen. Wood, Grimm, and Cahill all ate a lot of innings and had very good years for the team. Strop and Edwards would both go on to be longtime Cubs and had very solid years for this Cubs team. Montgomery came in at the trade deadline and made spot starts and came out of the pen and gave them a lot of solid innings. Chapman was elite for the Cubs and was one of the best relievers in baseball during this time. This bullpen was put together throughout the year and ended up putting together an amazing performance in the playoffs.


This lineup was one of the most deadly in baseball this year and a very fun lineup to look back on. It was dominated by the two young sluggers Rizzo and Bryant being just 24 and 26 respectively. Bryant won MVP this year and Rizzo was right there with him as one of the two of the best hitters in baseball this year. After them two, veterans Zobrist and Fowler provided stability and leadership in their lineup. Zobrist was the utility guy for them and Fowler locked down CF for the year. Young guys Russell, Solar, Baez, and Contreras provided youth and depth to the lineup. Russell stepped up big for this Cubs team and had a great season for them and Solar was very solid for the Cubs. Contreas and Baez were both electric and fun for this team and provided versatility for the team. Heyward had a disappointing season but still provided good defense in RF. Montero and Ross were the veteran catching duo who controlled the pitching staff and did their jobs.

This 2016 Cubs team was very memorable and fun to watch. As a lover of the game of baseball, it is important to remember these great teams and tell the story of them. I hope this article was able to bring back the great memories of this great team.

Sources: Baseball Reference

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