The MLB playoffs have been nothing short of exhilarating.
The playoffs in both American and National Leagues have not disappointed. We now have two teams who have not won since the biblical times squaring off in the NLCS.
This year both the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets have been the unlikely contenders and much of it has been because of pitching. The interesting thing is that neither of these teams at the beginning of the season were what people were expecting; however, the fans now have something to watch and that is cheering the underdog.
The million dollar question still remains (even though many of the player playing make more than that), who will win the NLCS? Well, as I break down the numbers, you will be very surprised to see results of who would win statically.
Before I throw stats at you, it should be noted home-field advantage is going to the New York Mets, so that must be taken into account.
The New York Mets have captured the imagination of New York fans, both Yankee and Mets alike, primarily because they haven't won in so long. Assuming that crowd noise does not affect the players, because they’re machines of course (sarcasm), lets break down the three categories of pitching, offense, and defense.
Pitching is most likely where this game will be won or lost. Both teams are highly revered and respected as being two of the best starting pitching staffs in baseball, and when the Fan-I graph gets pulled up it is not difficult to see why.
Side note: I love how the Fan-I Graph will put the red underline on names that aren’t common, it’s hilarious.
Those are some impressive numbers, but statically the advantage would go to the Mets.
While the Cubs have the most likely winner of the NL Cy Young in Arrieta, and an accomplished pitcher in Lester, the Mets have four guys who throw 95+ mph on their fastball and make it look easy. Also, after facing Arrieta and Lester, a team should be able to get through Hammel and Hendricks. This is not disrespect to those two pitchers because were solid this year, but they are not all world and are unfortunately the weak spots of the Rotation; however, the Cubs have two things going for them.
The first is experience and Jon Lester has plenty of it. The Mets pitchers are good but they are young, Lester on the other hand has two World Series titles. This not only helps his performance but he can share his knowledge. By osmosis alone, he should make the pitchers better.
The second is that no pitcher on the Cubs is going to go through any pitching restrictions. It is no secret that Harvey and the Mets Front office are in the midst of a stand-off about innings. Harvey is coming off of Tommy John surgery and has said he was told he was on an innings limit, and for his health, he is sticking to it. The problem is that, talent wise, he is the Mets second best pitcher, and the Mets need him to pitch. The reoccurring theme every time I see Harvey pitches is this; he will go out there, throw five solid innings, call it a day, bullpen gets lit up. This was no different in the playoffs. Even though the Mets won in his only outing during the postseason, the Bullpen gave up four runs after his solid five innings of work.
Side note #2: I am conflicted on the whole Matt Harvey thing. I see both sides and I really do not know who I agree with.
Regardless of what side you are on when it comes to this standoff, this will prove detrimental to the Mets if this keeps up. Ultimately, this gives the Cubs pitching staff an advantage because the Cubs may not throw as hard but the Cubs have experience and reliability. Nevertheless, the edge in starting pitching still goes to the Mets. The Mets have one ace and three extremely good number two type pitchers.
The advantage that the Cubs pitching staff will get is in the bullpen because the bullpen does not have to come out prematurely due to any innings limit; also the Mets bullpen can get a little spotty to the point where Bartolo Colon (A.K.A. the people champ of baseball) has to come out in relief of guys on a regular basis.
Pitching out of the bullpen is completely different than being a starter. I know it is a common practice in baseball, but to me it shows distrust in the bullpen. Let me explain it like this.
Imagine if you work at a firm, doing a specific job and you have been doing that job all year. Then suddenly, your boss hires a person who does a similar, but different, job at the firm to take your place because “the stakes are too high.”
As a professional that would hurt. I think the Blue Jays (I know I can see the rolling of the eyes already) are a good example of sticking to the bullpen guys. The Blue Jays only used a guy who was not part of the bullpen once and that was David Price and that’s was when the Jays were up by 6 runs. The Chicago Cubs are also a fantastic example of this.
Regular season starter, Dan Haren, was not used once in the Cubs' Series against the Cardinals because the bench boss, Jon Maddon, (who I think is a fantastic manager) trust his pieces. That would lead me to trust them too, mix that in with the Cubs not having to come out for 4 innings every time a certain pitcher starts (assuming he pitches well) and advantage Chicago in the bullpen department.
Hitting is interesting because, according to ESPN, both teams are ranked 16th (Chicago) and 17th (New York) respectively. This is misleading because while the rankings are very accurate, the main component we need to focus on is average and runs scored.
These two usually gives us the indication of which team’s offense will fare better when the long ball does not happen. Ironically, in the regular season both teams had a team average of .244. In the runs department, the Cubs scored 6 more runs than the Mets, which is not much at all; however in the postseason, it seems that the Cubs separated themselves from the Mets.
While the team average for the Cubs is a woeful .237 in the playoffs, the Mets is an abysmal .208 in the playoffs. Not only that, but the slugging percentage for the Cubs is .506 for the playoffs, while the Mets is at .377 for the playoffs, which means the Cubs have more power potential then the Mets at this point.
While this separation is not a celebration of the Cubs offense, it is an indictment on the Mets offense. Granted the Mets had to face Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw – but the Cubs had to face the Cardinals so excuses for the Mets woeful offense is not really acceptable -- thus if you are a believer in momentum and trends, offensively the Cubs are better right now, even though the Mets have Yoenis Cespedes.
Yoenis Cespedes might make the difference defensively. His arm is turning into the stuff of legend. While the big outfield assist does not happen often, his arm prevents runners from advancing in fear of getting tagged out.
This might very well be useful for the Mets as the Cubs have tended to be on the aggressive side when it comes to base running. Mix that in with the Mets leading the Cubs in double plays turned per game during the regular season by about 0.07 points, and statically, the Mets might be better at stopping base runners from advancing. Therefore for purposes of the Mets being able to stop runners advancing, the Mets have the edge defensively.
With all that information, this article in about 1500 words told you we have an even match. It should be stressed, immeasurable factors is what will make the game. What if for some reason Wilmer Flores is not on his A-game defensively or offensively? What happens if Arrieta is not pitching well? What if Cespedes is off his game and starts striking out instead of hitting home runs? These cases are unlikely but possible, and if those things happen it will be the team with mental toughness who wins.