It is all but official. The Cubs will meet the Pirates in the Wild Card game. It's theoretical that the Cubs would play the Cardinals instead, but the chance that St. Louis takes the division is well over 90% at this point – 91.7% according to Baseball Prospectus. Since it's one game, anything can happen: we can win by 17, or lose by 6. That said, it's always nice to have the better team.
|PR||Florimon||Really Fast||Berry||Really Fast|
|*Pitcher stat is DRA.|
It sure seems like it. With the exception of down-ballot MVP candidate Cutch, the Cubs 1-5 has a higher wOBA than any of their Pittsburgh counterparts. Only Francisco Cervelli and McCutchen break into the Top 4, and Cervelli doesn't really have the type of power that is going to blow a game open. Cervelli is a nice catcher, and a revelation at the price Pittsburgh signed him to, but he is no true offensive force, especially with low-OBP types behind him.
Getting the Pirates' lineup is relatively straightforward; however, the Cubs one is very difficult. You could very easily replace Castro with La Stella, or Baez. You could but Soler in for Coghlan and move Cogs to LF. You could even put Bryant at RF, Schwarber at LF, Baez at 3B, and Castro at 2B. Almost no permutation of those players would surprise me. Putting Castro in is a feel thing for me; it also makes your bench more versatile defensively, as Baez and La Stella could go in for any infield position that isn't 1B while Castro can't.
The Cubs are slightly better offensively, and a lot of that is due to the Jung-ho Kang injury. Just as importantly, that means that the Pirates have a very, very thin bench. Morse has been good ever since the trade to the Pirates, but you don't really fear him or Harrison, really. Contrast that with Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Tommy La Stella (well, contrast that with Soler and Baez). Those are above-average bats, and both are very real threats to put one in the seats.
Defensively, the story is less rosy. The Cubs are a middling defensive team in the infield and a poor one in the outfield (both Schwarber and Coghlan are below-average out there, and Fowler is average on his best days). The Pirates, on the other hand, are a good defensive team, especially in the outfield. Random game-losing drops in right field aside, Polanco is a pretty good fielder by the eye test. McCutchen is an average CF, but thanks to Starling Marte, he doesn't need to be more. Marte is a gold-glove caliber left fielder. Kang was a good fielder, but Mercer is even a little better. Alvarez is an abyss at any position he plays, but 1B doesn't matter that much. Walker is average, and Ramirez can still get it from time to time.
Starter-wise, the Cubs have the clear advantage. That's not a knock on Gerrit Cole; Gerrit Cole is a bonafide #1 starter. What he is not is a Cy Young candidate this year, and Arrieta is. If Arrieta can't take the ball into the 8th, though, I like the Pirates chances. The Cubs have a hot mess in the bullpen that seems destined to give a game away in the playoffs. It might be this one. Meanwhile, the Pirates actually have a pretty nice pen.
When it's all said and done, I think the Cubs are the better team, and they have been for half the season. That isn't good for much on what is a glorified flip of the coin, but it IS something.