Chicago Cubs: Prescription for a World Series appearance

Aug 23, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; The Chicago Cubs celebrate a 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 23, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; The Chicago Cubs celebrate a 5-3 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The magical 2015 season ended with brooms out in the NLCS. With a playoff run in the near future, the Chicago Cubs needs to plan now to avoid a similar fate in 2016.

There is no mistaking it. The 2016 Chicago Cubs will be in the playoffs. Sure, it is not official yet, but with a 16.5 game lead in the National League Central Division, it is simply a matter of time. A collapse and run of epic proportions – the largest in baseball history – would change things in the division.

The Cubs would need to go 10-16 the rest of the way, with the St. Louis Cardinals winning all 27 games. That is challenging.

But, are the Cubs truly prepared to change history? Are they ready to make their first appearance in the World Series since 1945? One thing that we know is that anything can happen in the playoffs. The team with the most wins in their leagues rarely make the World Series.

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Last year, the 90 win New York Mets, the least amount of wins of NL playoff teams, won the NLCS. The Kansas City Royals were the American Leagues top team.  The previous year, two wild card teams in the San Francisco Giants and the Royals played in the World Series.

During the last ten seasons, the top teams in either league made the World Series six-time: 2015 Royals, 2013 Cardinals and Boston Red Sox, 2009 New York Yankees, and the 2007 Red Sox (tied) and Colorado Rockies (tied). Hence, the Cubs must follow a simple plan to make it to the series.

What will it take to make the World Series this year?

  1. Be the Cubs of 2016.

That is it. Expect something more? We really do not need more. The team needs to be themselves.

“But, Corey,” you say, “the stats say…” It doesn’t matter what the stats say! (In my best Dwayne Johnson voice).

We do not need to skew numbers; we know the Chicago Cubs have the best starting rotation and overall pitching staff in the MLB. The stats have said that since the year started. It is not even close. And, they hold the best marks in defensive runs saved and defensive efficiency.

Sure the fielding percentage is middle of the pack, but all of the MLB is between .978 and .988. That is a 1% difference and, therefore, negligible. Even when runners swipe bases or errors are made, the defense steps it up more times than not.

The 2015 Chicago Cubs won more one-run games that this year’s team. The records between the two in extra innings are similar as well. The current version has more blowout wins. But, in watching the playoffs last year, I seriously believe the team thought a trip to the World Series was just going to happen.

Second Half Surge

They second half was magical, Kyle Schwarber lifted the offense at clutch times, and they rolled past the Cardinals at the end of the year and in the NLDS. It was just going to happen. Then, it fell apart. The Cubs were shell-shocked. It was on their faces at the plate and in the dugout. The magic ended.

Now, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, and Dexter Fowler know that nothing is set in stone. Only their best effort will work. For John Lackey, Jon Lester, and Ben Zobrist, they have been through the fires and, as a result, can help steady the ship.

Even Manager Joe Maddon knows what has to happen. They must execute and play 2016 Chicago Cubs baseball. Have fun, play hard, and enjoy being around the players on the team. When called upon, they must move runners over and make quality pitches.

Next: Heyward puts team on back in walk-off win

The prescription is easy to write, the medicine hard to take when in the heat of battle. The media will hype it. The fans will buy into it. The Chicago Cubs must play as the 2016 team. Not 2015. Nor 2008, 2003, 1998, 1989, 1984, 1945, or 1908.

If the Cubs do that, there will be no more “next year.” But, in the playoffs, anything can happen.