Now that the postseason party is starting to fill up, it’s time to examine some of the names on the guest list.
The first team to accept its invite was the Chicago Cubs. They officially clinched the NL Central last Thursday thanks to a St. Louis Cardinals loss in San Francisco. Don’t worry though, the Cubs have continued taking care of business since. In fact, on Friday, they locked up home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
Their 98 wins entering play on Saturday are the franchise’s most since 1945, which happens to be the last time they reached the World Series. With two more wins, they’ll reach 100 for the first time since 1935.
Needless to say, this team is special. There are definitely more than five reasons why they could (and perhaps should) win their first World Series championship since 1908. It would take us all day and part of Sunday to list them all though, so we’ll limit it to five. That way the other postseason guests shouldn’t feel too overwhelmed.
On their own, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are a pair of All-Stars and MVP candidates. Collectively though, they’re baseball’s most notable bromance and Chicago’s most popular tag team. They even have the souvenir company to prove it.
Bryant should probably win the National League MVP going away. He’s the biggest difference maker in a lineup filled with impact hitters. He’s hitting a ridiculous .297/.388/.564. He has 38 homers and 99 RBIs. He can hit anywhere manager Joe Maddon needs him to in the lineup. Oh, and he can also play every position save for catcher and maybe pitcher. He’s basically an ultimate hybrid super-machine who everyone should fear.
Then there’s Rizzo, who many in Chicago and maybe even many of his teammates would tell is truly the team’s most important player. He’s hitting an equally absurd .295/.390/.553. He has 31 home runs and 105 RBIs. The differences being he belongs in one section of the order, that being the middle, and he only plays one position, first base. When you put them together, there’s no more fearsome twosome in any MLB lineup. When you put this deep Cubs lineup around them, it becomes impossible to picture any team beating them in the postseason.
HOME FIELD DOMINANCE
As noted, the Cubs will have home field advantage throughout the NL playoffs. They won’t, of course, in the World Series thanks to the AL’s win in the All-Star game. They’ll make up for that by simply adding a dynamic hitter who Maddon can’t find time for otherwise. Focusing on the home field though, Chicago has won a franchise best 56 games at home this season. Their 56-23 record is also the best in MLB this season. Opponents winning at Wrigley Field against this team is like opponents winning in Chicago Stadium or the United Center during Michael Jordan’s prime. It just doesn’t happen very often.
KYLE HENDRICKS GIVES THEM THREE ACES
Say hello to the Cubs Cy Young candidate. He’s not Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester. He’s breakout right-hander Kyle Hendricks. You know, the 15-game winner with a sparkling 2.06 ERA?
He’s just the latest player Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer struck gold with. There’s nothing flashy about Hendricks. There’s nothing that screams superstar. He’s just really steady, really consistent and really confident. Sometimes the latter is all it takes. Now with three pretty legit aces to go with this offense, the Cubs should have what it takes to go all the way.
THEY’LL WEAR OUT OPPONENTS
There’s no breather in this lineup. That’s even more true when Jake Arrieta is pitching. Not only is it a powerful lineup though, it’s also a patient lineup. They’re going to make the opposing pitcher work for outs. They’re going to extend at-bats and work walks. If and when they start cashing those runners in, it’s game over. Those big hits are what eluded them in last season’s NLCS. Those big hits eluding them again might be their opponents only hope.
Could it really be this simple? It’s just time, after 108 years? Probably not, but the stars are going to align right for someone this postseason. Why not the Cubs? Just being one of those teams means the Cubs “could” end the drought. That they’re the best team only enhances those chances.
PREVIOUSLY IN THIS SERIES:
– Texas Rangers
– Los Angeles Dodgers
– Washington Nationals
– New York Mets
– Cleveland Indians
– Boston Red Sox
– Baltimore Orioles
– Toronto Blue Jays
– San Francisco Giants
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