Even though the Chicago Cubs (98-56) will have home field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs, that isn’t enough to guarantee them a spot in the Series.
The NL Wild Card race will be a determining factor in how easy the road will be for the Chicago. All three teams currently in the hunt for the final two spots have played the Cubs well this year.
Chicago has a winning record against the San Francisco Giants (81-73) and St. Louis Cardinals (80-73), but struggled mightily against the New York Mets (82-72). In their last 11 games, the Cubs are 2-9 against the Mets. This includes losing seven in a row after the 2015 NLCS.
Both the Giants and Cardinals are 17-16 this year against NL East teams. Head-to-head, the Mets are 7-6 against both clubs this year, averaging just over five runs per game in those match-ups. The Mets will be tough for either St. Louis or San Francisco in a one game series, even though they are a shell of the team they were last year.
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Facing New York may bring back bad omens for Cubs fans, but this is the best possible first-round outcome for the Cubs. The Mets outscored the Cubs 37-23 this year, but this New York team isn’t the same club that swept the Cubs out of the NLCS. Injuries to pitchers Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz give the Cubs a major advantage.
New York also parted ways with Daniel Murphy, who slashed .529/1.294/1.850 against the Cubs in the NLCS., He was the main component to New York’s offense, jacking four home runs in four games against the Cubs.
The Mets rank in the bottom three in the League for runs scored per game with a 3.99 average. They aren’t any better on the road than they are at home, which won’t help during the cold October games at Wrigley.
Chicago has both the best record in the League and the best record at home this year. The team is slashing .254/.419/.767 at Wrigley, with a run differential of +146.
Anthony Rizzo, Chris Coghlan, and Javier Baez lead the team in batting average at home this year. Rizzo has collected 81 hits in 77 games at Wrigley, though he’s driven in just 45 of his 105 RBI there. Baez’s OBP and OPS are both greater than 80 points higher at Wrigley.
As good as their offense has been at home, the Cubs’ pitching staff has been just as dominant. All of the team’s projected playoff starters have an ERA under three at Wrigley. Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester lead the way with a 1.32 and 1.86 respectively. Collectively, the Cubs team ERA is 2.66 at home, and they average just over nine K/9.
October baseball is always full of surprises, though they aren’t always welcomed by teams favored to win the championship. There is no better surprise for the Cubs than to see the Mets again in the Divisional Series.