Point: The Cubs will run away with NL pennant and take World Series crown
It’s been over a century since the last time the North Siders hoisted the World Series trophy, a short 108 years to be exact. Many die-hards believe this will be the year that the Cubbies break the curse and prevail as world champs, and here’s why I agree.
The 2016 Chicago Cubs wrapped up one of the most dominant seasons in MLB history with a 7-4 win last against the Cincinnati Reds, giving them an MLB-best record of 103-58. En-route to the league-best 103 wins, the Cubs compiled some gaudy numbers. The Cubs offense is loaded with young talent and the pitching staff was the best in the majors with a 3.15 ERA (an even better 2.96 for the starters). When you pair that with an offense that scored the third most runs in the league, you get a team with a +252 run differential, best in the league by a mind-blowing 68 runs as the Red Sox were second best with a run differential of +184.
The Cubs’ historic season was a complete team effort, as manager Joe Maddon is known for changing batting lineups from game to game possibly more than any other manager in the MLB. Despite the versatility and large number of contributors for the Cubs, the North Siders could quite possibly have the league’s Cy Young Award winner for the second straight season and the league’s MVP. Cubs third baseman and outfielder Kris Bryant, the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, will presumably earn a promotion to NL MVP after leading the National League in runs scored with 121. Bryant posted a .292 batting average and belted 39 home runs with 102 RBIs, firmly making his case for NL MVP honors.
The Cubs have two starting pitchers who have made a case for Cy Young honors. Will voters prefer the league-low 2.13 ERA of Kyle Hendricks and his amazing second half, or will they cast their votes to the likes of teammate Jon Lester who went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and 197 strikeouts? Regardless of who voters prefer, one thing is certain: the Cubs dominant rotation is poised and ready to carry their success into October and roll through the postseason.
2015 Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta may not have pitched at the same level of dominance he did a year ago, but you won’t find a No. 3 postseason starter with an 18-8 record and 3.10 ERA anywhere else. The dominant bats and starting pitching of the Cubs are not to be overshadowed by the bullpen or defense, which are nearly as impressive. The Cubs made the move to acquire flame-throwing phenom Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees before the trade deadline in an attempt to bolster their bullpen for October.
A year ago, the Cubs accomplished nearly everything they set out to do but came up just short after being swept by the Mets in the NLCS. This year, they won’t go home empty handed. The 2016 Cubs are too good to become victim to the curse. They have the dominant starting pitching. They have the offensive firepower. They have the best manager in baseball, who it seems was destined to coach this youthful team. The youth, depth and versatility that the Cubs have displayed all year will carry them through October. This team was built for October, built to break the 108-year curse and capture a World Series title.
Counterpoint: The Cubs have too many challenges to win it all
Although the Cubs have been the best team in the league, they face too many hurdles in October to win the World Series. The postseason is made up eight teams, and Chicago has to beat three of them. The three will be the Giants, either the Dodgers or the Nationals and the American League representative. I’ll make a case for each team and why they could win, and I’ll talk about the reasons the North Siders are not going to win the World Series.
San Francisco Giants: Well, folks, it’s an even year. This means it’s the Giants time to shine. Behind ace Madison Bumgarner, the Giants are poised to take their fourth consecutive even-yeared championship.
Washington Nationals: The Nationals have had a premier pitching staff that complements the electric Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer gives Washington the ace it needs to compete in the postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The playoffs are all about pitching, and Los Angeles has arguably the best pitcher in the league. Clayton Kershaw has been dominant since the day he entered the league. The Dodgers offense also has the potency to outscore any team.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers had one of the best lineups in baseball before the trade deadline, and it got better after the Aug. 1 deadline. Texas added catcher Jonathan Lucroy and designated hitter Carlos Beltran. If the Rangers can pitch, even at a decent level, they can win it all.
Toronto Blue Jays: This lineup is loaded with sluggers. As it was once described, this lineup looks like “a beer league softball team.” Toronto beat the Rangers last postseason, but the pitching staff has been depleted since. The Blue Jays can slug their way to a title if need be.
Cleveland Indians: The Indians ran away with the AL Central. They won their division over the Tigers by seven games. Cleveland’s pitching has been phenomenal, and its offense has been equally as effective.
Boston Red Sox: Boston started out hotter than any team, and has only cooled off a tad. David Ortiz has led the way for the Red Sox in his final season. Boston bolstered its rotation for 2016, adding ace David Price. This team is made for the playoffs.
Chicago Cubs: This team has been known to shoot themselves in the foot. Last year, the Cubs were favorites to make a playoff run, but they got bumped before reaching the World Series. The Cubs’ roster is full of young, inexperienced players, and the experienced players that are there are on the downside of their career. Chicago doesn’t know what October and November baseball feels like, and that could hinder its ability to succeed this postseason.