With only 60 games this season, getting off to a good start is imperative for any team's postseason chances. That sentiment is especially true for the Cubs, based on how their schedule lines up to start the season.
The Cubs and Cardinals have the second easiest schedules through Aug. 6, based on their opponents' 2019 winning percentages (.445). The Reds (.437) have the easiest schedule through that stretch.
In those 14 games the Cubs play the Brewers (three times), Reds (four), Pirates (three) and Royals (four). They then play St. Louis three times before their first scheduled day off (Aug. 10).
The context, of course, is Reds - a thorn in the Cubs' side last season - improved their roster immensely over the winter. Cincinnati added outfielder Nick Castellanos (Cubs) third baseman Mike Moustakas (Brewers), starter Wade Miley (Astros) and outfielder Shogo Akiyama (Japan) in free agency following a 75-87 2019 campaign. They also have a formidable rotation featuring Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray and Miley.
Besides Moustakas, Milwaukee lost another cog to their 2019 lineup to free agency in catcher Yasmani Grandal (White Sox). Also gone is first baseman Eric Thames (25 homers last season), who joined the Nationals in free agency.
As has been the case in recent seasons, there are questions about Milwaukee's starting rotation. They dealt Zach Davies to the Padres and Chase Anderson to the Blue Jays, adding Erik Lauer (trade with San Diego), and Josh Lindblom (Japan) and Brett Anderson (A's) in free agency.
Milwaukee is still a competitive rival and has proven doubters wrong by making back-to-back postseasons. Their bullpen is solid and they're still led by 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich.
Pittsburgh and Kansas City are still in rebuild mode, but lest we forget the Pirates were 44-45 at the All-Star break last season and in the thick of the NL Central race. A 60-game season is a crapshoot, and it would be foolish to take any opponent lightly.
No matter what any team did last season, 2020 is unique and unlike anything we've seen. Even with these factors, the Cubs need to get off to a good start to assert themselves in the race to October (should we get there, COVID-19 contingent).
Cubs early schedule is favorable, but watch out for divisional games originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago