Last year, the Chicago Cubs just managed to sneak into the playoffs, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates in a decisive National League wild card game. Jake Arrieta tossed a complete game shutout for Chicago in a 1-0 win in Pittsburgh. This year, the Cubs are already three wins away from last year’s win total with 14 games still left to play.
The Cubs finished the 2015 season with a 97 and 65 record, which landed them in 3rd place in the National League Central behind both the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the St. Louis Cardinals. On this day a year ago, the Cards had a record of 92 and 65. That is a .630 winning percentage. How does that compare to the first place Cubs this year?
Let’s take a look. Chicago currently boasts a 94 and 53 record, which is a .639 winning percentage. So the Cubs this year have edged the Cardinals from last year by a small margin. But how much does that really matter?
We know that baseball is a game where anything can happen, especially in the playoffs. The Cubs beat the first-place Cardinals in the National League Division Series in five games, 3 to 1. They were definitely not expected to beat St. Louis, but they did.
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The Cubs are currently hitting .254 as a team with just over a dozen games left. But they have hit 207 home runs already. The 2015 Cubs only hit 171 in all 162 games. So they have hit 36 more home runs this season than last year, and the season isn’t even over. after game 162 last year, Chicago was hitting a minuscule .244, but still managed to get into the playoffs.
The pitching staff was a huge part of that.
So let’s look at that side of things. the 2015 Cubs had the best ERA in the regular season, at 3.36. That in itself is very impressive for a team ERA. But then you take a look at this season, and they have a team ERA of 3.07 to lead the majors. Every single one of their starters has an ERA below four. Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Arrieta, and Jason Hammel.
That’s a pretty solid rotation, and they have put up the numbers to back up that statement. Last year the Cubs also didn’t have John Lackey, whom they picked up in the off-season. He brings a ton of experience to the team, especially in the playoffs.
Back to the bats. So last year at this point, the Cubs looked good, but the Cardinals were even better. But as I already mentioned, that didn’t seem to matter in the playoffs. This season, the Cubs have received huge seasons from their corner infielders, in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Both players have 30 plus home runs and are in the running for the National League MVP. Adding the likes of Ben Zobrist to the roster has been a benefit this year, too. He’s a guy who can play all over which means you can keep his bat in the lineup.
what other players do they have this year, that they didn’t have last year? Jason Heyward is another big name that comes to mind. I know, he has really struggled this season at the plate, hitting just a dismal .228 with six homers.
But this guy has been around for quite a few years now and has played at an All-Star caliber in the past for the Braves. I believe he’s going to heat up in the playoffs and really contribute to the Cubs lineup.
One big blow to the Cubs lineup coming into playoff baseball this October would be Kyle Schwarber. He hit .333 with five homers in the postseason last year, including a couple huge home runs in big games in the playoffs. But they have gotten by without him this season, so I believe they should be okay.
What should we expect?
Statistically, the Cubs look stronger this year than last. Plus the additions of a few new players who have a lot of experience, it can’t do anything but help in the playoffs. The home run total, the team ERA, those are important stats to look at. The Cubs are the favorites to win it all, and that’s exactly why.
Pitching and defense win ball games, and they have received amazing performances in both those categories. They did go through a little bit of a slump with the bats at the start of September, but it didn’t last too long. They don’t boast an amazing team batting average, but thanks to all the extra base hits and homers, they manage to still win ball games.
The pitching staff keeps them in it every game, no matter who steps on the mound. When you have two Cy young candidates in Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta on your staff, and two MVP candidates in Bryant and Rizzo in your starting nine, you’re definitely going to win some ball games.
The Cubs have a chance to reach the 100 win mark, but maybe that’s not a great thing either. the 2001 Seattle Mariners won an astounding 116 games that season but were knocked out in the American League Division Series.
We know that anything can happen in October baseball. But compared to last year, all the same, talent is there, except for a couple new additions. They’ve experienced the playoffs, and they know what to expect now. The Cubs are the best team in baseball, and that title in itself is going to stick in their minds at all times when October baseball starts.
As ESPN’s Dan Shulman said to me in our interview, they have the perfect combination of young talent and veterans. But after the likes of Addison Russell, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler, and Kris Bryant all experienced the postseason last year, it has given the young guns a taste of what it’s like to almost be there.
I don’t think they are going to let a World Series appearance slip through their fingers this year. I guess we’ll see.