Who would the Cubs want to face in the playoffs?
|Sunday, September 25, 2016, 12:48 PM- -|
CHICAGO -- Home field advantage will fly at Wrigley Field this October, as the Cubs will face the winner of the NL Wild Card Game in the NLDS. Assuming that there will not be an amazing run from the Pirates or Marlins, then Chicago will host the San Francisco Giants, the St. Louis Cardinals, or the New York Mets. The Cubs know all three of them well, and we are likely to see a rematch from last year. But who would the Cubs rather play to start the postseason? Which team would have a better chance to spoil the Cubs’ amazing 2016 season?
San Francisco Giants
Cubs record vs. Giants: 4-3
Why they will win the Wild Card: Because Madison Bumgarner will be starting.
Why the Cubs should play them: The Giants have been abysmal in the 2nd half of the season, as they are 24-40 after starting out 57-33. This is a team where offense can be a problem – Brandon Belt leads the team with just 16 home runs, and Buster Posey went more than a month without hitting one out. Granted, they are a team with a stronger defense than offense, but this is one of the weakest offensive performances in the last couple of seasons. Sergio Romo has just become a quick solution to their closer position, but they have struggled to find any consistence in the bullpen.
What could be HUGE is Johnny Cueto out for a groin injury, and if that persists, then the opening starter will be former Cub Jeff Samardzija. This team is heavily built on two main starters, and they could still have Bumgarner pitch two games. It is a team that is much better to play in a 5-game series than a 7-game series.
In general, this is a Giants team that has struggled during many points this year, and could finish with fewer wins than any of their previous World Series teams. Because they will have to use Bumgarner for the Wild Card Game, the Cubs will have a big advantage.
Why the Cubs should be concerned: Oh, the even year. A quick look at the Giants recent history: 2010 World Champions, 2012 World Champions, 2014 World Champions, and they did not make the playoffs in 2011, 2013, or 2015. In 2014, they came back from being down 2-0 against the Reds to win the next three. In the postseason, it is all about a few players stepping up and having good pitching, and the Giants are a team built for that.
St. Louis Cardinals
Cubs record vs. Cardinals: 9-8 (and continuing)
Why they will win the Wild Card: A strong outing from Adam Wainwright or Carlos Martinez and some clutch hitting will guide them to victory. They will have the weakest options for starting pitching compared to Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard, but Wainwright is always a solid option.
Why the Cubs should play them: In terms of defense and pitching, the Cardinals are the worst among the three teams. Last year’s Cardinals staff was much better, led by an amazing pitching staff and gold glovers (cough cough Jason Heyward). If it was not for rookie Seung-hwan Oh, the Cardinals would have the worst bullpens among the competing teams. Oh has become a solid closer after replacing Trevor Rosenthal, but has not been perfect since taking on the role.
If Adam Wainwright starts the Wild Card Game, then they will turn to Carlos Martinez for game 1. Martinez has been the best player on the team with a 5.1 WAR, but after facing Martinez, they do not have much to go against the Cubs. Mike Leake, Jaime Garcia, and Michael Wacha have ERA’s of 4.72, 4.59, and 4.56, respectively. Unless they have outstanding performances, they do not have enough firepower to go against the Cubs.
Why the Cubs should be concerned: A surprising stat, the Cardinals have hit the most home runs in the National League, and have Brandon Moss and Jedd Gyorko capable of leading the home run pack. As the Cubs hit a record six home runs against the Cardinals last postseason, now the tables have turned, and could surprise the Cubs if the wind is blowing out.
Earlier in the year, the Cubs were swept by the Cardinals at home. Granted, the Cubs were on a cold streak at that time, but it does show that the Cardinals can win on the road. In fact, they are so much better on the road than at home: 47-32 on the road, 33-41 at home.
Plus, they are the Cardinals.
New York Mets
Cubs record vs. Mets: 2-5
Why they will win the Wild Card: They currently have home-field advantage for the game, and a healthy Noah Syndergaard could give them the edge.
Why the Cubs should play them: For sweet revenge, and because they are limping their way into the postseason. Now that Jacob deGrom is out for the season, the Mets have only two of their starting five pitchers ready for October. If Syndergaard starts the Wild Card game, then the Cubs will face the fan-favorite 43-year old Bartolo Colon. After that, who knows! Logan Verrett and Seth Lugo might be the solutions, but they have had no experience starting in the postseason.
In terms of offense, they might be the worst among the three, with a team batting line of .242/.312/.414. That batting average and OBP is 13th in the National League. Especially after losing Neil Walker to injury, their offense has really revolved around Yoenis Cespedes. They added Jay Bruce at the Trade Deadline, but he has been terrible, batting .174/.252/.285. Jose Reyes was also added back to the team, and while his offensive numbers have been average, his defense has been well below par.
And remember: no more Daniel Murphy.
Why the Cubs should be concerned: The Mets have had the best success against the Cubs this season, and swept the Cubs in a four game series at Citi Field. That being said, the 2015 Cubs went 7-0 against the Mets. And despite all of these injuries, the Mets have not let up, as their month of September has been the best month for them since April. Recently, the Mets came back from the Phillies to hit a 2-run home run to tie it in the 9th, and then won it with a 3-run bomb (after being down 2) to win it in extras.
In terms of who I’d rather see the Cubs play, I would rather see them play the Mets because of their severe amount of injuries. The Cardinals are the weakest of the three, and I would rather play them if it is not the Mets. As for the Giants, I would not want to see them because of their strong pitching and postseason success. What do you think?
(Evan Boyd is a senior studying statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a writer and a data analyst, Evan is looking into sports analytics for a career. Evan also is the Station Manager at WSUM 91.7 FM Madison student radio. Feel free to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or for a resume, and follow him on Twitter @eboyd42)