With just 10 games left in the regular season, and the Cubs magic number is down to two, I’ve asked myself several times the past month, “Is this the year? Is this the year the Cubs make a run in the playoffs? Is this the year that the Cubs make it to the World Series for the first time since 1945? Is this the year that the Cubs win the World Series for the first time since 1908?” No matter how many times I ask myself those questions, I still don’t have an answer. I’d like to say yes to all, but I’m not certain. I’d like to say I could give you a definite answer and say no, too, but I’m not certain of that either. Here’s why.
1. The Madison Bumgarner Effect
Last year saw the San Francisco Giants win the World Series mainly based on Madison Bumgarner’s performance in the playoffs. Sure, he had some help along way with timely hitting, solid defense, and a bullpen led by Sergio Romo. At the end of the series, though, Bumgarner was the MVP as he dominated the Kansas City Royals. I can see a certain someone from Chicago doing something similar this fall. 20 game-winner Jake Arrieta put up that kind of regular season. At 20–6, and a 1.88 ERA, it’s hard not to envision Arrieta doing something to Bumgarner. I could see the Cubs winning games 1, 4, and 7 in either the the divisional championship, league championship, or World Series. I can see the Cubs riding Arrieta to victory in very Bumgarner–like fashion.
2. The Johnson/Schilling Stipulation
In 2000, the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series riding the arms of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling to the team’s first and only World Series championship. When it comes to the Cubs I can see the Cubs using Lester and Arrieta in such a fashion. I can truly see a scenario, or future, where these two take down 3 teams in 3 best of seven series.
I still think there are some concerns heading in the playoffs.
Right now, the Cubs’ bullpen is struggling a bit. Grimm seems to have some issues throwing strikes. Strop is up-and-down. The same is true for Rondon, Rodney, and Rodney. I’m hoping Neil Ramirez is the answer. In his two outings so far, Neil has looked amazing in relief. I’m not sure about anybody other than Travis Wood and Clayton Richards, who have been better in the long relief, but they’ve also have been very good as piggy back starters. Trevor Cahill has had a couple of good outings and Carl Edwards, Jr. and Tommy Hunter have pretty much disappeared. The Cubs are going to need more consistency from the pen, that’s clear.
2. The #3 and #4 starters
I never know what #3 or 4 starter is going to show up heading into the playoffs. If the Cubs make it out of the wildcard, Hammel and Hendricks are likely pitching in the first series. Hammel is the embodiment of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Hendrix has his moments but his leash will be short as well as Hamels. I’m actually more confident in Travis Wood and Clayton Richards starting games in the postseason than I am an Hammel and Hendricks.
#3 Anemic Offense at Times
When it comes to the offense, I don’t know who is going to show up there either. Sometimes the Cubs score enough to win. Sometimes they score 10 runs, and sometimes there’s nothing, as it was on Wednesday night. The bright point of the past week has been Jorge Soler coming off the DL and providing serious fireworks at the plate as he’s hit three home runs! Bryant and Rizzo seem to have found their stride and Kyle Schwarber is still searching since a rib injury caused him to miss about 10 days seems. And, Starlin Catsro es en fuego! Recently, it’s been fun watching the lineup work counts on pitchers the first two times through the lineup before striking for runs the third time. However, sometimes it is OK to be aggressive. The Cubs have to learn when to do so in the postseason.
The nice thing about this weekend is that the Cubs will likely clinch a wild card spot with more than a week to go and with some luck, that day is today. That will give them enough time to get hitters some rest, and get their pitching rotation set for the playoffs, a.k.a. Jake Arietta. It will allow Maddon and Bosio time to figure out the bullpen and to get those arms in prime condition.
Hopefully this is the year. If things can go as they have they have gone in July, August, and September, I think the Cubs can make a deep run into the playoffs. I think they can win the World Series. However things have to happen just right. They have to hit, the bullpen has to click, and the 3 and 4 starters have to keep them in the game. If that happens, this … could … be … the … year! That would be something! It really would.