How the Cubs match up against potential playoff opponents
How the Cubs match up against potential playoff opponents
Let's take a look at the Cubs versus each one of those teams, as well as some of their strengths and weaknesses.
While the NL Central is still a total toss-up, the Chicago Cubs are very close to clinching a playoff spot for the fourth consecutive season. They still hold a lead over the Brewers and Cardinals in their division, but the worst-case scenario appears to be Chicago playing in the one-game wild card. That wouldn't be ideal, so checking off the five games remaining on their magic number would make a lot of people a whole lot happier. Assuming the Cubs do get to the NLDS, there are only a small handful of teams that they could end up playing – the Brewers and Cardinals, in addition to the Colorado Rockies. Should the Cubs advance to the NLCS, they would be taking on either the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers. Let's take a look at the Cubs versus each one of those teams, as well as some of their strengths and weaknesses. ## Colorado Rockies __2018 vs. Cubs:__ 3-3 __The Cub Killer:__ Charlie Blackmon (.350/.536/.650, 2 HR in 28 PA) __vs. the Rockies:__ Kyle Schwarber (.429/.500/.786 1 HR, 1 3B in 16 PA) __September record:__ 14-8 __Potential rotation:__ Kyle Freeland*, German Márquez, Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela It's notable that while these two teams split their six games this season, the season series wrapped on May 2. For some perspective, Yu Darvish started that game and Brian Duensing tossed 2/3 of an inning to keep his ERA at a sparkling 0.00. That's all to say, it's been a while. Head-to-head records generally don't mean anything for the postseason (see NLCS, 2015), but definitely throw out anything matchup-related between these two teams in regards to the 2018 season. Kyle Freeland is the ace of the Rockies' staff, but it's unlikely that he would be starting Game 1 of an NLDS series against the Cubs. Colorado's best chance at the postseason is by passing the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild card race (they're 0.5 games back at the start of play on Tuesday), and Freeland would be their ideal starter for a one-game playoff. Antonio Senzatela probably gets the nod over Tyler Anderson and Chad Bettis as a potential Game 4 starter, thanks to his 3.10 ERA over his most recent five starts. On the offensive side, the Rockies can boast such stars as Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon. In the 'pen, they have former Cubs reliever Wade Davis closing out games. No team is a slam dunk for the Cubs, who have struggled with an extremely inconsistent offense in the second half of the season, but the Rockies might be their best matchup. Chicago wouldn't need to see Freeland until a potential Game 3, and the rest of the Rockies' rotation isn't exactly intimidating. However, for this to happen the Rockies need to keep winning and the Cubs need to help them out by beating the Cardinals. ## St. Louis Cardinals __2018 vs. Cubs:__ Cards lead 9-7 __The Cub Killer:__ Matt Carpenter (.304/.409/.804, 8 HR in 66 PA) __vs. the Cardinals:__ Ben Zobrist (.415/.432/.537, 1 HR in 44 PA) __September record:__ 11-11 __Potential rotation:__ Miles Mikolas*, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Draw Straws The possible playoff rotation for the Cardinals is just a massive guess. Miles Mikolas is the likely wild card starter, if applicable, and Jack Flaherty has earned a spot as well. But beyond that? Adam Wainwright is healthy again, so maybe there are sentimental reasons that he makes a playoff rotation – despite mediocre performances in two of his three September starts. For a possible Game 4, the Cards have youngsters Austin Gomber, John Gant, and Daniel Poncedeleon to choose from. Carlos Martinez is in the St. Louis bullpen, so manager Mike Shildt has a lot of pitching options should his team advance. Also coming out of the 'pen will be 105-mph phenom Jordan Hicks, Dakota Hudson, John Brebbia and Bud “Play the Right Way” Norris. The matchup between the Cubs and the Cardinals is admittedly somewhat scary. The roles were reversed back in 2015, with the Cards being the team with all the expectations and the Cubs coming into the NLDS with nothing to lose. Chicago being knocked out by their biggest rival, a team that was left for dead at the All-Star break, would be embarrassing to say the least. The Cardinals have a flawed roster but they're right-handed heavy on the positional side, and that bodes poorly for the very left-handed Cubs rotation. ## Milwaukee Brewers __2018 vs. Cubs:__ 8-11 __The Cub Killer:__ Jhoulys Chacín (4 starts, 22 2/3 innings, 1.59 ERA and 27 strikeouts) __vs. the Brewers:__ José Quintana (6 starts, 37 1/3 innings, 2.17 ERA and 33 strikeouts0 __September record:__ 14-7 __Potential rotation:__ Jhoulys Chacín, Wade Miley, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies/Gio González I didn't throw in an asterisk, because who knows what the Brewers are thinking for a potential wild card game? Maybe Chacín? A bullpen game? Milwaukee has a deep group of starting pitchers, with Zach Davies, Freddy Peralta, and Junior Guerra not even making the cut, but they also have no top-of-the-rotation standout. It's more of a collection of No. 3 and No. 4 starters. That said, Chacín has absolutely destroyed the Cubs this year. Davies has only started 12 games in total and three of them have been against the Cubs. His ERA on the season is 4.65, but against the Cubs it's 2.16 and against everyone else it's 5.64. The Brewers in general have been really good against the Cubs despite going just 8-11, allowing just 51 earned runs over the course of those 19 games (2.7 ER per game). What the Brewers lack in great starting pitching they make up for in bullpen depth. If their starter can get through five innings with a lead in the playoffs, the Cubs would be staring down the barrel of Cory Knebel, Dan Jennings, Jeremy Jeffress, and Josh Hader to close things out. For all those reasons, this might be the scariest possible NLDS matchup for the Cubs. The Brewers have been playing well in September and just don't want to go away, having cut the division lead down to 1.5 games with only a handful remaining on the schedule. ## Atlanta Braves __2018 vs. Cubs:__ 3-3 __The Cub Killer:__ Ozzie Albies (.462/.500/.962, 2 HR in 28 PA) __vs. the Braves:__ Albert Almora (.429/.500/.929, 2 HR in 16 PA) __September record:__ 14-8 __Potential rotation:__ Mike Foltynewicz, Aníbal Sánchez, Kevin Gausman, Julio Teheran/Sean Newcomb The bad news is that the Braves have the deepest and probably the best four-man starting rotation of any team in the National League playoff race. The good news is that the Cubs won't have to face them until the NLCS, if at all. Mike Foltynewicz throws hard and has really broken out in 2018, posting a 2.88 ERA in 178 innings with 193 strikeouts. The ghost of Aníbal Sánchez has been surprisingly outstanding, while Kevin Gausman has revitalized his young career since coming over in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. The only real rotation question is whether the Braves go with veteran Julio Teheran or left-hander Sean Newcomb as their fourth starter. Given that Teheran has been better over his last eight starts than Newcomb (2.94 ERA vs. 6.52 ERA), the 27-year-old right-hander probably gets the nod. In the bullpen, Atlanta has the fireballing former Cub Arodys Vizcaino along with Brad Brach, A.J. Minter, Jesse Biddle, and various others, which could include prospects like Max Fried and Touki Toussaint. On the offensive side the Braves are the third-best run-scoring team in the NL, and while they don't hit a lot of home runs collectively, pretty much everyone in their lineup is a threat. Atlanta has nine different players who have hit at least 10 home runs on the season, with 20-year-old rookie Ronald Acuña Jr. leading the way with 26 in just 105 games played. With their excellent rotation and young positional talent, the Braves might be a sneaky World Series pick. ## Los Angeles Dodgers __2018 vs. Cubs:__ 3-4 __The Cub Killer:__ Max Muncy (.286/.531/.619, 2 HR in 32 PA) __vs. the Dodgers:__ Javy Báez (.538/.536/1.038, 2 HR, 5 2B in 28 PA) __September record:__ 15-7 __Potential rotation:__ Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill/Alex Wood The Dodgers, like the Brewers, have a ton of starting pitching candidates for a postseason series. The difference is that Los Angeles can boast at least three pitchers that are better than anyone Milwaukee can throw out there. After trailing pretty much all year in the NL West, the Dodgers have overcome their opponents with a hot September and are poised to likely take on the Braves in the NLDS this year. If they can indeed get past the Atlanta, and assuming the Cubs make it out of the NLDS (which is no sure thing), it'll be the third straight season in which these two teams have played in the NLCS. Los Angeles has a deep bullpen, with Josh Fields, Dylan Floro, Kenley Jansen, and others teaming up with lurking starting pitchers such as Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling. In the power department, the Dodgers are the undisputed No. 1 in the NL. They have 10 players with at least 13 home runs, and two of those players with exactly 13 (Manny Machado and Justin Turner) played only part of the regular season. Seven players have hit 20 or more homers for the Dodgers this year. Would the Cubs' pitching staff be up to the task in the NLCS? We may not even see both teams make it that far, but if they do the favorite would almost certainly be the Dodgers.2018-09-25T22:18:41.835Z2018-09-25T15:00-07:00