Shockingly, MLB managed to make it to the end of the season without things falling all the way apart, though it looked like a close one for a while. As a reminder, this first round of the playoffs is a three-game series at the home park of the higher seeded team, before things move to a neutral site/bubble for the rest of the tournament. For the NL, this will mean that advancing teams head to Texas. Since the Cubs won the division, they thankfully are on the opposite side of the bracket as the Los Angeles
The Cubs draw the surprising Marlins in the first round, who went from 100+ losses last year to the playoffs. Luckily andcounting did my research for me on their season this year, which I will lazily quote below:
Pythagorean standings are pretty much likewise rendered useless by the absence of divisional overlap, but the basic results show that the Marlins were the luckiest team in baseball. They were 5 games above what you’d expect by their run differential. So that’s mildly encouraging as much as it pertains to a 3-game crapshoot.
Here’s the usual breakdown:
- OBP: Miguel Rojas (.392)
- ISO: Garrett Cooper (.217)
- HR: Brian Anderson (11)
- R+RBI: Anderson / Jesus Aguilar (65)
- wRC+: Rojas (142)
- BSR: Jon Berti (2.3)
- Defense: Rojas (5.3)
- SP K/9: Trevor Rogers (12.54)
- SP BB/9: Elieser Hernandes (1.75)
- SP ERA: Sandy Alcantara (3.00)
- RP K/9: James Hoyt (12.27)
- RP BB/9: Nick Neidert (2.16)
- RP ERA: Yimi Garcia (0.60)
- WAR: Rojas (1.6)
- OBP: Heyward (.392)
- ISO: Happ (.247)
- HR: Happ (12)
- R+RBI: Contreras (63)
- wRC+: Happ (131)
- BSR: Heyward (1.9)
- Defense: Contreras (4.6)
- SP K/9: Darvish (11.01)
- SP BB/9: Cyle (0.89)
- SP ERA: Darvish (2.01)
- RP K/9: Kimbrel (16.43)
- RP BB/9: Rea (0.00)
- RP ERA: Jeffress (1.53)
- WAR: Darvish (3.0)
The Marlins have a couple of guys in the hospital wing. Cubs punching bag Jose Urena broke his arm on Sunday and is out for the playoffs. Cubs nemesis Francisco Cervelli is also done for the year. SP Elieser Hernandez is out for the rest of the year with a lat injury, and CF Starling Marte is day to day after taking a pitch to the head a few days back.
We all know more or less where things are on the Cubs side. The only thing I missed was Ildemaro Vargas (who?) hitting the IL with a hamstring injury last week. The bigger question marks are how Quintana and and Chafin are going to look coming back from their recent IL stints – so far they’ve looked good. Happ has also been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, so hopefully these days off have helped him get back to 100%.
2020 K/9, BB/9, ERA, projected ERA listed for all starters
Wednesday: Sandy Alcantara, RHP (8.36, 3.21, 3.00, 4.50) vs Cyle Hendricks, RHP (7.08, 0.89, 2.88, 3.71), 1:08 PM CT
Alcantara is a ground ball machine, which might make things tough on the Cubs already-struggling right handers like Bryant and Baez. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few lineup changes in this one, including possible a Billy Hamilton appearance? Somehow though I think that Ross is going to go with the guys who (were supposed to have) got them here.
He also throws really hard – a 97 MPH fastball and an absurd 96 MPH sinker according to Fangraphs pitch type info. He also throws an occasional slider or change but they aren’t his best pitches by a long shot. The Cubs are great fastball hitters, but are also great GIDP hitters, so we could be in for a long night.
I don’t think any of us need any info on Cyle (dying laughing). You may have heard that he’s had a few pretty good starts in the playoffs. His peripherals look as good or better than the past few seasons.
Thursday: Sixto Sanchez, RHP (7.62, 2.54, 3.46, 4.38) vs Yu Darvish, RHP (11.01, 1.66, 2.01, 3.63), 1:08 PM CT
Darvish has a legit shot at winning the Cy Young this year, and is probably my favorite player on the team right now. He’s certainly done enough and then some to erase the rocky introduction that he had with the team following his signing, and I look forward to many more years with this character.
Sanchez is a rookie, and what do you know, he’s another hard throwing, worm killing machine. His best pitch is a change up, so I wouldn’t expect big games from Javy or Bryant. It’s too bad that he’s not matched up with Hendricks – Sanchez’s change up is the same speed as Cyle’s fastball (dying laughing). Let’s hope that the long Cubs tradition of being baffled by rookies that they haven’t seen before doesn’t hold up in this one. At least they’ll have Darvish on the other side.
Friday: Pablo Lopez, RHP (9.26, 2.83, 3.61) vs Jon Lester?, LHP (6.20, 2.51, 5.16, 4.34), 1:08 PM CT
What do you know, the Marlins are throwing yet another sinkerballer against the Cubs. It’s like there’s a book on this team. Lopez doesn’t throw quite as hard as the other guys but might have the best sinker of the three. Hopefully this game won’t be necessary.
The Cubs haven’t announced a starter for Game 3, but I’m guessing that it’s going to be Lester once through the order combined with Alzolay and Quintana, depending on how much they are used in game 1 and 2. I was about to say that Lester pitched a little better in the final year of his contract than I might have predicted when it was signed, but woof his numbers are worse than I thought. He isn’t walking anyone at least, just getting hit super hard. He’ll probably get the nod for sentimental reasons, but I also don’t think that there’s that big of a gap between starting him and, say, Alzolay or Mills. No-hitter notwithstanding (dying laughing)
Random parting shots
This series is going to come down to whether the Cubs hot and cold offense gets hot. I’m not too worried about the pitching, beyond the possibility of Lester being left in for too many batters. Even the bullpen is….kinda ok? Kimbrel’s been good for a solid month, and I heard somewhere that the Cubs had the best bullpen in the month of September, though that was before the mess in garbage time in the finale.