It wasn't easy for the defending champs to get back to the playoffs after they headed to the All-Star break two games under .500. But only the Indians had a better record after the break, and no team scored more runs in the second half than the Cubs.
Where They Stand
World Series Odds
Odds to beat
Are the Cubs playing with house money? The curse is over, so the pressure this year shifts to the Dodgers and Nationals. The strategic showdown between Joe Maddon and Dusty Baker will be fascinating, as both managers have deep benches to play with. The Nationals have the starting pitching edge, so Maddon might have quick hooks and rely on his bullpen.
The Cubs' cumulative WAR for each of their five units.
|Starting Pitching (Top 4)
Good news if they play ... the Diamondbacks.The Cubs particularly destroyed righties in the second half, hitting .273/.357/.475. The Diamondbacks have just one lefty starter in Robbie Ray (Patrick Corbin is unlikely to start), and the key relievers are all right-handed.
Bad news if they play ... the Dodgers.The Cubs went 2-4 against the Dodgers, scoring just 11 runs in the six games, though those series came in April and May, before the Chicago offense turned it on. Still, facing the Dodgers means Kyle Schwarber, who had a big second half, likely goes to the bench against Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Alex Wood.
starting pitcher rankings
Scale of 1-32 based on top four starters for each postseason team.
The Cubs had a historically great rotation last year, but it hasn't been as dominant this season, with the ERA climbing from 2.96 to 4.05 in 2017. The hottest pitcher of late has been NLDS Game 1 starter Kyle Hendricks, who had a 2.19 ERA after his return from a DL stint in late July.
Jon Lester, SP
Lester's rate of home runs allowed per nine innings is his highest since 2007, as he has surrendered a career-high 26 this season. He held opposing hitters to a .602 OPS last year, but that has risen to .750 this year.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
A pitcher he'd feast on:
Trevor Bauer, Indians
Rizzo likes to swing early in the count, with 20 of his home runs coming on 0-0, 1-0 or 1-1 counts. Bauer allowed a .415 batting average on those counts.
One who'd give him trouble:
Corey Kluber, Indians
Rizzo stands so close to the plate that it's difficult to pitch inside without hitting him (he was hit 24 times). He hit .187 on pitches on the inner third (and .197 last year), so you have to get him out inside. Kluber, with his curveball and cutter/slider, is one of the best at getting in on lefties, though Rizzo went 2-for-6 with two HBPs against him in last season's World Series.