NLCS Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets
Game 1:  Saturday, 8:00 pm ET in New York, TBS
Game 2:  Sunday, 8:00 pm ET in New York, TBS
Game 3:  Tuesday, 8:00 pm ET in Chicago, TBS
Game 4:  Wednesday, 8:00 pm ET in Chicago, TBS
Game 5:  Thursday, 8:00 pm ET in Chicago, TBS
Game 6:  October 24, 4:00 pm ET in New York, TBS
Game 7:  October 25, 8:00 pm ET in New York, TBS

Two teams who haven’t played much postseason baseball recently are playing for the right to play more of it–in the World Series.  The Cubs are in the postseason for the first time since 2008, and the NLCS for the first time since infamous 2003 edition (including the “Steve Bartman Game”), trying for their first NL pennant since 1945, and first World Series title since 1908.  The Mets are also trying to break a title drought, as 1986 was their last world championship, as well as their last NL title, as they return to the NLCS for the first time since 2006, which was also their last playoff appearance.  The Mets host the first two games of this series, after winning Game 5 on the road to eliminate the Dodgers, while the Cubs eliminated the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, marking their first postseason series clinch at the friendly confines on the North side.

Starting rotation:
The Cubs have the better rotation ERA, but not by much, as theirs is 3.36 to the Mets’ 3.44 (both those marks are outstanding).  The Mets do have a slightly better starter’s ERA in the postseason so far, but not enough to give them an obvious advantage.  Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA) for the Mets and Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA) for the Cubs will be the key starters in the series.
Advantage: even

Bullpen:
Like their starters, both teams’ bullpens are very statistically even, with the Cubs having an bullpen ERA of 3.38, with the Mets at 3.48.  The Mets have struggled to a 4.30 ERA so far in the postseason, while the Cubs, whose bullpen’s core consists of pitchers who began their careers as starters but have found their niche in the ‘pen, have been solid, even without consisting of too many overwhelming names.
Advantage: Cubs (barely)

Lineup:
These offenses statistically are very even and very similar in runs (Cubs 689, Mets 683), batting average (both teams at .244), home runs (Mets 177, Cubs 171), an OPS (.719 for Cubs, .712 for Mets).  In the postseason, the Cubs are hitting .237 to the Mets’ .208, and while the run total is similar (Cubs 24, Mets 22), the Cubs are outpacing the Mets in homers (Cubs 12, Mets 7) and OPS (Cubs .823, Mets .650).  I don’t generally rely as heavily on postseason stats, but the offenses were so even all year, that’s the only way to give either side an advantage, but the Cubs clearly have the hotter hand (hotter because both offenses are hot).
Advantage: Cubs (barely)

Atmosphere:
Both cities have waited years for this series, and strutted their stuff for their team’s NLDS home games.  Citi Field in New York and Wrigley Field in Chicago will both have extraordinary atmospheres for this series, as two incredibly passionate and hungry fan bases will be boisterous as they try to will their respective teams into the World Series.
Advantage: even

Experience:
Both of these rosters are centered around strong young talent which has never had the opportunity both of these teams have in this series.  Both teams do have a few veterans to solidify the experience factor and lead their younger teammates through the postseason gauntlet.
Advantage: even

Managers:
The managerial matchup is what such a matchup in the NLCS should be, as the two leading candidates for NL Manager of the Year, Joe Maddon of the Cubs and Terry Collins of the Mets, do battle.  Both led young teams to the playoffs for the first time this decade, despite not being favored to do so.  Maddon was Collins’ bench coach with the Angels in the late 1990’s.
Advantage: even

As you can see above, this series is between two incredibly even teams that practically mirror each other.  Because of that, this should be an excellent series, as everything one team does, the other can easily counter to even things up.  The Cubs have the slight edge, and in the Year of the Goat in the Chinese calendar, will return for the World Series to end the “Curse of the Billy Goat”.

The Cubs will win the series, four games to three.

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