It’s Oct. 1st: the leaves are going to start to change, Halloween is near and someone has to wake up Green Day. More importantly, playoff baseball has arrived. Postseason starts on Oct. 6th and 7th with the wild card games, and picks up full speed on the 8th. Some teams have already clinched their divisions, including the Dodgers in the NL West, and the Mets in NL East. Other teams like Toronto have yet to clinch, but still face the opportunity depending on their success this week, as well as the Yankees downfall. A lot of familiar teams will return to the playoffs once again, in addition to some unexpected franchises.
At the beginning of the season, the Chicago Cubs were heavily criticized for being too young, and having lack of experience. People were hopeful Chicago could make a run within the next few seasons, but not a chance this year. Forget how young the team is and remember the Cubs entered this season coming off of five consecutive losing seasons. Here we are on Oct. 1st, looking at a Chicago team with a .586 win percentage, and a pitching rotation with some of the best statistics in the league. The Cubs have a 3.49 team ERA, putting them at fourth in the league, and lead the league in WHIP (1.18) and team BAA (0.237). When people look at these stats two names probably come to mind -and reasonably so: the incredible duo of Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. The 29-year-old Arrieta was seen as a top pitcher coming into the 2015 Cubs season, but nobody could predict what came next. Arrieta leads the MLB in most wins at 21, combined with his 1.82 ERA, 229 strikeouts and a 4.77 K/BB ratio. He has helped carry Chicago to where they are now, and fans hope to see him on Oct. 7th. Looking at Lester, his 3.43 ERA and .455 winning percentage, the 31-year-old would be a solid pick to fill in for Arrieta should he not be able to pitch the wild card game. Looking past that first game, the Cubs have a few options for post-season pitchers. Aside from Arrieta and Lester, Chicago can likely rely on Jason Hammell (3.86 ERA), Dan Haren (3.83) or Kyle Hendricks (4.23).
But is pitching enough to get Chicago its first World Series since 1908? Realistically, no. Going back to the criticism on the Cubs young offense, to me young= agility and strength. Players like Dexter Fowler have speed, and others such as Kris Bryant offer strength and versatility. Though most comfortable at third, Bryant has played in center, and also right for Chicago. Almost as important to their statistics is how well they’re meshing with Chicago veterans. The majority of the team may be young, but it seems to be working in their favor.
Many are criticizing the Cubs and their route to the playoffs, making the wild card game seem like the note some kid’s mom writes to the coach to get her son onto the team. Barstool Sports Chicago blogger Dan Katz defended his Cubs in a blog post last week.
“The Giants won the World Series last year from the one game playoff spot, is their title somehow less deserving? No,” Katz wrote. “If you say this doesn’t count in someway just admit you have a weird jealousy that the Cubs have a fun, young, successful team.”