With the first of October comes changing leaves, Halloween and most importantly, the beginning of playoff baseball. Postseason begins on Oct. 6 and 7 with the wild card games and picks up in full speed on the 8th. Some teams, including the Dodgers in the NL West, and the Mets in NL East, have already clinched their divisions.
Other teams, like Toronto, have yet to clinch, but still face the opportunity depending on both their successes this week and the Yankees downfall. A lot of familiar teams will return to the playoffs once again, in addition to some unexpected teams.
At the beginning of the season, the Chicago Cubs were heavily criticized for being a team that was too young and lacked experience. People were hopeful that Chicago could make a run within the next few seasons, but there was not a chance this year. Forget how young the team is and remember that the Cubs entered this season coming off of five consecutive losing seasons.
Here we are on Oct. 1, 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 first in 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 would come next. Arrieta leads the MLB with 21 wins, 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. 7.
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. In regards to the to the criticism of the Cubs young offense, I think that a young team represents agility and strength. Players like Dexter Fowler have speed, and others such as Kris Bryant offer strength and versatility. Though most comfortable at third base, Bryant has played in both center and right field for Chicago. Almost as important to their statistics is how well they are 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 the 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.”
Molly Burkhardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.