’69? Yeah, that’s a nice narrative and all, but I would like it to die a slow and painful death over the next week or so. I’d like for the celluloid upon which the black cat was recorded to fuel a fire with heat enough to rival the sun in order that we might fire various taeks into it. No more miracles, no more jinxes. I’ve wanted the Cubs to play the Mets because I want to exorcise some demons. Or, at the very least, I’d like to give them a killer workout.
This matchup isn’t supposed to be happening though. We’re supposed to be watching either the Dodgers or Nationals ascend baseball’s summit. Instead, those teams — along with the Cardinals — are forced to watch at home as they brine in their own tears. I think that’s my favorite part of this NLCS too, that neither the Cubs nor Mets were expected to make much noise this season. Even as both teams hung around in the second half, most figured they were due to trip up sooner or later. Both just continued to stand taller and step faster.
I am also intrigued by the different approaches each organization has taken to reach this point. It’s as though each front office punched coordinates into a GPS and then took alternate routes. The Cubs have made a point of drafting bats, while the Mets have clearly valued arms. Setting allegiance aside, I’m not sure how any baseball fan could not salivate at the notion of seeing this much young talent on display, particularly when you’re going to have the various parties facing off directly. It’s unstoppable forces against immovable objects, over and over and over again.
The Mets have superheroes: Thor (Noah Syndergaard), the Dark Knight (Matt Harvey), and whatever Jacob deGrom wants to be called. I’d go with Rapunzel if was up to me, but it’s not. Besides, the Cubs have got the Disney princess thing on lock. That said, they’ve got some mythical creatures of their own, a herd of unicorns grazing at Wrigley Field. Even though they’ll be without Addison Russell, potentially the best defensive shortstop in the game, they’ve got Javy Baez, who’s still got more potential than anyone on the team.
The Mets throw baseballs really hard…
Noah Syndergaard's regular season average fastball velocity was 96.99 MPH. His post season average fastball velocity is 98.71 MPH.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 16, 2015
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 15, 2015
The Cubs hit baseballs really hard…
Kris Bryant triple was 109 MPH off the bat… Tied for the 4th hardest ball he's hit this year. #Cubs hitting the ball hard.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 13, 2015
Kyle Schwarber's HR had an exit velocity of 113 MPH… Hardest hit HR of any #Cubs player this year.
— Daren Willman (@darenw) October 13, 2015
That is a recipe for some really exciting baseballing right there, folks. To see War Bear, Bryant, Javy, and Anthony Rizzo dig in against Harvey, Syndergaard, and deGrom is something I am very much looking forward to. And as a highly partial observer, I’m also very much looking forward to any member of that latter trio piping a heater. We’ve already seen what kind of damage the Cubs hitters can do to mistakes. Speaking of mistakes, it’d be a big one to preview this series as simply Mets pitchers vs. Cubs hitters.
Since the All-Star break, the Mets’ 373 runs are the most in the NL. The Cubs’ 354 are second. The Mets have the NL’s most home runs (102) in that time, while the Cubs (94) have — you guessed it — the second most. Both teams have identical OBP figures (.328) and are very close in various other offensive metrics. The Cubs strike out and walk more, and are far more aggressive on the basepaths (38 stolen bases vs. 18), but the Mets have the advantage when it comes to batting average and power. This Mets team is not the same group that soiled the bed against the Cubs as a result of an inferior offense.
On the flip side, the two teams find themselves in pretty close quarters pitching-wise as well. The Cubs have a 3.36/3.30/3.37 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash and the Mets a 3.45/3.53/3.60 line. The Cubs strike out and walk more batters, the Mets give up more home runs. Both are generally among the top handful of teams in the league, though the Cubs have the overall advantage, statistically speaking. Huh, it’s almost as though the really good pitchers vs. really good hitters narrative isn’t holding up very well. Strange that we’d see something that like bearing out, I know.
What this tells me is that we’re talking about two very evenly-matched teams that have really come into their own down the stretch. Like I said, this is going to be really fun. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at a few ancillary factors to see which of these teams really has the upper hand.
If the series comes down to Joe Maddon vs. Terry Collins, the Cubs win in 4. Maybe 5. Perhaps that’s unfair to say, given that I’ve not scrutinized the Metropolitans’ skipper to the degree I have his counterpart, but the Maddon touch has been as valuable as Midas’s. Well, except for the whole turning things into inanimate lumps of precious metal.
The Mets have the flowing locks of deGrom and Syndergaard, the Cubs have Fernando Rodney’s peroxided pelt and a variety of faux-hawked mullets.
Jake Arrieta’s facial fleece trumps all, mainly because he’s Jake Arrieta and no one else is Jake Arrieta, which means that his beard is better than anyone else’s.
The Mets have Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock showing everyone their Yo-face in response to a Cespedes home run…
— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 14, 2015
The Cubs have John Cusack and Jim Belushi fellating themselves on the field after the Cubs took down the Cardinals…
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) October 14, 2015
I’m guessing, however, that the Mets will balance the coolness above with innumerable B-level schlubs who have put away their Yankees caps for the week. The Cubs have got Bill Murray and Eddie Vedder, so that’s cool.
I’m not even going to dignify this with an explanation.
I wrote a bit earlier about the methods to both teams’ madness and it’s clear both have borne a good deal of fruit. But given the fickle nature of pitching, I think you’ve got to lean toward offense here. Not to mention the Cubs, as we saw above, actually have the better overall pitching. Bats > arms.
The proliferation of blogs and various other forms of online media have given more discerning fans much better access to a wide spectrum of voices, but there’s no denying the larger outlets still tend to pander to the lowest common denominator. That said, the easy narrative is that which I’m sure will be on full display during this tilt. The Cubs are the jinxed and jilted lovable losers, the Mets the lone East Coast representative in the playoffs.
Final score: 4-2 Cubs
Scientific, right? Truth be told, Cubs in 6 is what I believe will happen anyway. I just see this team and their camaraderie and I don’t think it’s going to end here. I don’t want it to end here. Mets fans probably feel the same way about their team; they should anyway. But this Cubs team has exceeded expectations from the jump and they seem unburdened by the growing pressure that has come from the increasing importance of the games they’ve played throughout the season.
As I’ve been saying throughout this whole process, though, I’m not a bit nervous for this upcoming series. As a Cubs fan, I’m interested to see how they approach the new challenge. As a baseball fan, I’m intrigued by a matchup no one saw coming. This should be some really good stuff, though I’d even happier with a 4-0 boat race. Well, as long as it’s the Cubs on the throttle.