The NLCS will pit the Chicago Cubs against the New York Mets. The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series in one, two, … 70 years (and haven’t won one in well over 100 years). It’s only been 15 years for the Mets since their last appearance in the Fall Classic, but they haven’t won the thing in nearly 30 years. One of these lengthy streaks will mercifully come to a close in a matchup that couldn’t have been predicted prior to the start of the season.
Two teams that hadn’t even been to the postseason in several seasons, the Mets and the Cubs were second fiddle to the teams in their respective divisions. The NL Central has belonged to the St. Louis Cardinals for what feels like forever, and with the Pittsburgh Pirates also in the way, nobody thought this Cubs team was ready to go this far in the playoffs yet, even if it did improve dramatically in the offseason. Of course, to show its doubters just how wrong they were, Chicago has defeated both the Pirates and the Cardinals to now reach the NLCS.
For the Mets, there was no way they were supposed to beat the Washington Nationals in the NL East. The annual “paper champions” of the MLB, Washington came into 2015 as the favorite to win it all. After a late summer sweep of their division rival though, the Mets owned the NL East in the second half to secure their place in the postseason. After a wild series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, someway, somehow, the Mets are four wins away from the World Series.
The storylines are set, and this could turn out to be one of the most memorable National League Championship Series in years. Who’s got the advantage to win the series though? For that, let’s break down the roster for each club and analyze some expected matchups to see who should come out on top.
For much of the season, the Mets and the Cubs were near the bottom of the league in runs scored. Their pitching was keeping them competitive and in the race, but it wasn’t until these teams started hitting better that they really took off.
New York’s lineup got a jolt when they traded for Yoenis Cespedes, who has been one of the best hitters in the game from August onward. Other guys like Daniel Murphy (see game five in the NLDS) and Lucas Duda have also found their grove at the plate. When this lineup is producing runs, the Mets are almost unbeatable because of how good they are on the mound.
Chicago too was better at the plate post All-Star break, and it really allowed them to secure that second wild-card spot. Anthony Rizzo is the life blood of the lineup, as he led the Cubs in just about every significant offensive category in the regular season. Rookie sensations Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber (who has been destroying the baseball in the postseason) are legit as can be as well.
Runs could be at a premium in this series, so it’s tough to predict which team has the advantage at the plate. The Cubs have more pop, but the Mets are also very clutch with the bat. You have to give the advantage to the Cubs because of their power, but both offenses are capable.
Where this series will be won (as with most postseason series) is on the mound, and these clubs own two of the best staffs the game has to offer. Chicago owns maybe the best pitcher in baseball in Jake Arrieta, who has been a huge part of the Cubs’ playoff surge. Jon Lester is another solid arm in that rotation, owning a bunch of postseason experience and success. In the pen, the Cubs have the relievers to shut things down late in games, but they have their problems as well. This is a team that wants to rely on its starters as much as possible, which could put the team at a disadvantage in the NLCS.
The Mets are loaded with arms in their rotation. Jacob deGrom really played a critical role in the team’s NLDS triumph, Noah Syndergaard proved he can even come out of the pen against the Dodgers, and Matt Harvey is as talented of a pitcher as their is in baseball. New York’s pitching greatness doesn’t end with its starters. If the Mets need their pen, closer Jeurys Familia has been one of the best closers in the game this season.
A great pitching staff is the cornerstone of a championship team. While both of those clubs boast highly effective staffs, the Mets hold the advantage because of their top to bottom strength.
Who’s moving on?
Two great staffs. Two offenses with the clutch gene. This NLCS matchup is going to be fun to watch. Seven games can be expected. Ultimately though, the New York Mets appear to have the slightest of advantages going into the series. This may be a surprise, seeing as the Cubs went an astonishing 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season, but these are two different teams playing now.
With the young talent on these rosters, this could become a regular matchup in the postseason. That’s a great thing for baseball: to have the “other” team in New York playing against the lovable losers in Chicago. So enjoy it because it may be only the beginning of a great run of success for the two clubs.