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Chicago Cubs: Pitching, defense will take the Cubs deep into the playoffs

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Oct 8, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) makes a catch for the second out of the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants during game two of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) makes a catch for the second out of the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants during game two of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Chicago Cubs clearly proved they have one of, if not the best pitching staff in baseball. Boasting a major league-best 3.15 team ERA, they have carried that strong pitching right into the postseason.

They also have a stellar defense, who seldom makes mistakes. Pitching and defense win championships. Can the Chicago Cubs go all the way? these two factors could play a huge role in their success this October.

We’re only two games into the National League division series. But so far, the Cubs look very good, in all aspects. The bats can go cold, though, as we have seen at times. But their pitching and defense have been the two consistent aspects of their game all year.

Pitching

They have the most solid pitching staff statistically in the postseason. Led by Jon Lester, the rotation and bullpen have been lights out so far through the first two games of the series against the Giants. Jon Lester was stellar in game one against the Giants, throwing eight innings of shutout ball. Then they have arguably the most unhittable closer in all of baseball come in, Aroldis Chapman.

There’s a reason they had the lowest ERA in the bigs this season. They have some very talented pitchers on their roster. It’s the postseason, so they’re carrying a four-man rotation. That leaves another quality arm who started some games down the stretch for them, Mike Montgomery.  He looked great in his first postseason appearance in Game 2, shutting the Giants down over one a third innings pitched.

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The Cubs have a great rotation. It’s no secret. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey. Loads of talent and experience combined in those four. But a good rotation isn’t anything without a solid bullpen.

Travis Wood is my first example. He proved in game two that he can perform under the pressure. Wood tossed an inning and a third, striking out two. But he also hit for himself….and cranked a solo shot to left on the first pitch from Giants reliever George Kontos. But the thing that impressed me about him in game two was his velocity.

Changing It Up

He’s a great pitcher who can change speeds, and locate all pitches. But he usually doesn’t crank it up to 94. Last night he did. Seeing that velocity from him is  definitely a positive as one of the important lefty arms to come out of the pen in the playoffs, especially in lefty-lefty match-ups.

Carl Edwards Jr. looked stellar in his first postseason appearance in game two as well. The velocity and fastball command are huge for him. Then he throws his off-speed stuff in a pitcher’s count, it doesn’t give the batter much of a chance.

There are more guys like Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Pedro Strop. The velocity is there with pretty much every arm in their pen. But velocity isn’t anything without command. The majority of them have the fastball command and quality off-speed stuff.

All four of the Cubs starters have the ability to go say seven, or eight innings deep into a game. If that happens, and the Cubs are in a lead, who’s going to come in? Aroldis Chapman. He is untouchable. Even if say Jake Arrieta goes seven innings tomorrow.

You bring in Rondon, or Montgomery for an inning, then go to Chapman. It really makes it difficult for the opposing lineup when you have such a fundamentally sound pitching staff in all aspects.

They did it all season, and the pitching staff will continue to do it all the way to a World Series appearance. There’s a reason they had a 3.15 team ERA.

Defense

The Cubs are probably the best team defensively in the postseason. It helps when you have athletic guys at every position. They have the ability to move guys around to different positions just to keep their bats in the lineup, too. For example, Ben Zobrist. In game two he played left field where he made several nice plays. Javier Baez is such an amazing defensive asset at second, but Zobrist has an impact bat, so they can put him in left.

The versatility is very important. It gives them choices on where they want guys to play on any given day based on their defensive abilities. Jason Heyward has struggled this year with the bat, but his defense is so great in right field for them. If balls are hit in the gaps, they have fast and athletic enough outfielders to track them down. You have Dexter Fowler in center, then Heyward in right. Two guys who have the ability to eliminate extra bases.

The infield has the exact same impact role. Addison Russell at short is unbelievably athletic and makes some amazing plays. Kris Bryant is a great defender at the hot corner with a great arm across the diamond. Javier Baez has the ability to play all over the infield but is a great combination up the middle with Russell. Then Rizzo is a great first baseman who seldom makes mistake.

Next: Cubs the only dangerous team left?

The Cubs have two great catchers, which play a vital role in the success of their pitchers. Calling the right pitches is extremely important. Experience in David Ross, then young talent in Willson Contreras. they have the best of both worlds behind the plate. To boot, both of them have absolute cannons as arms to throw out guys.

Pitching and Defense win championships

The headline explains it. Pitching and Defense don’t go into slumps. The bats do. If the Cubs can keep up the strong pitching and stellar defense, they are going to go far in the 2016 postseason. The bats are rolling right now, but even if they do cool down a bit, it won’t be a worry if the other two aspects of the game stay consistent. They will still put up runs on the board because their lineup is too talented not to.

All they have to do is keep pitching and playing defense the way they have all year, and they could most certainly see themselves in the 2016 Fall classic.

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