ESPN

2016: History.
2017: Dynasty?

It happened. After 108 years of heartache, the Cubs enter a new season as reigning World Series champions for the first time since 1909. But 2017 isn't about looking back. It's a chance to add to what they've started on the North Side. Here's what separates them from the rest of baseball and how they stack up to MLB dynasties.

Youthful Cubs

Best young core in baseball

25.8

Young players, of course, are less likely to decline, get injured or regress than old players. According to FanGraphs WAR, the Cubs had the most WAR from position players 26 and younger in 2016 (second place: Red Sox, 19.3).


Historic start at the hot corner

In Kris Bryant, the Cubs potentially have an all-time great at third base. According to Baseball-Reference.com, no position player has accumulated more wins above replacement in his first two big league seasons than Bryant.

1ST SEASON
2ND SEASON

Youngest champs in decades

27.2

The Cubs haven't let inexperience stop them from dominating. Using Baseball-Reference's formula (weighted for plate appearances and games played), the Cubs had the youngest average age of position players of any champion since the 1969 Mets (26.0 years old).


New leadoff question will test Chicago

Last year's leadoff hitter, Dexter Fowler, reached base 216 times. Now that Fowler is in St. Louis, Chicago's projected leadoff hitter is Kyle Schwarber. Want to guess how many times he reached base during the 2016 regular season?

Pitching

Best starting pitching ERA in baseball

2.96

The Cubs became the first World Series champions since the 2003 Marlins to have a better ERA from their rotation than their bullpen (Cubs relievers had a 3.56 ERA). The Cubs' rotation ERA was well ahead of No. 2 Washington's 3.60 mark in 2016.


Big four battle-tested in big innings

1,759.1

That's the number of innings the Cubs' top four starters have thrown the past two seasons, including postseason play. To keep the toll from hurting them, expect Joe Maddon to find ways to give his starters a break throughout 2017.


New closer might be on the decline

With Aroldis Chapman gone, Chicago's ninth innings are in new hands this season. Wade Davis has a 1.18 ERA the past three seasons, but he has become slightly less dominant in his peripheral stats and had two trips to the DL in 2016.

Strikeout Rate

OPS Allowed

Defense

Defense saves more runs than anyone else

Strong pitching wasn't the only reason Chicago allowed 56 fewer runs than any other team in 2016. Terrific defense across the diamond helped set the Cubs apart. Defensive runs saved show us who starred in the field.

HOVER FOR DETAILS

Is a DRS decline coming?

Sticking with the defensive runs saved metric, recent history suggests to expect a drop. The five previous leaders in DRS averaged 49 fewer runs saved the next year, highlighted by the Diamondbacks' drop from 69 DRS in 2015 to minus-12 the following season.

DECREASE IN DRS


Versatility is the key to the formula

A secret to Chicago's success? Options. At every spot on the diamond, the Cubs have at least three players capable of playing the position. This chart shows where each projected position player has played in the past three seasons.

Dynasty?

Back-to-back champs?

7

Seven franchises, including the Cubs in 1907 and '08, have won consecutive World Series. Nobody has done so more than the Yankees, who have won five straight, four straight, three straight and two straight (three times) in their storied history.


Are the Cubs the next Yankees?

The last team to win back-to-back titles was the 1998-2000 Yankees, who won three in a row. Here's how the 2017 Cubs compare to the 1999 Yankees, the second team of that run in terms of WAR at key positions (with age and projected WAR from FanGraphs used for the Cubs and Baseball-Reference WAR used for the Yankees' 1999 season).

HOVER FOR DETAILS
'17 CUBS
'99 YANKEES

Catcher

First Base

Second Base

Third Base

Shortstop

Left Field

Center Field

Right Field

Top Aces


Hitting 100 wins again won't be easy

Winning 100 games is difficult because so many things need to go right for it to happen. Winning 100 twice in a row is even rarer. Can the Cubs avoid a troubling trend?

HOVER FOR DETAILS

Run differential spells out dominance

252

The Cubs aren't just a great team; they're a historically dominant group. Last year, they became the 31st team with a regular-season run differential of at least plus-250. Of those teams, 19 won the World Series. Seven won the World Series the next season too.


Can they finally clinch a title at Wrigley?

0

Winning it all is nice, but the Cubs have never closed out a World Series at Wrigley Field. Will this be the year?


Research and writing by ESPN.com's Dan Mullen, Bradford Doolittle and David Schoenfield.

More Stories