Solid defense is key to Chicago Cubs repeat, Maddon says

MESA, Ariz. - The Cubs' pitching staff led major league baseball last year with a 3.15 ERA - 36 points better than the No. 2 team.

They also led the majors in turning balls in play into outs by a mile - 82 runs saved compared to 51 for the No. 2 team.

It doesn't take a Ph.D. in Sabermetrics to understand the magnitude of a group of fielders that saves a run every two games, or the impact that has on the quality of a pitching staff.

The question this spring, as manager Joe Maddon walks around camp in a "D-peat" T-shirt is not so much whether they can do it again but whether they can get even better at the often underrated catching-and-throwing part of the game.

"I think the amount of room that we have as far as grown on defense is pretty substantial," said shortstop Addison Russell, a Gold Glove finalist in his first full season in the majors last year. "I believe we're just scratching the surface as far as how good we can be."

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