Here’s a sentence I didn’t think I would have to utter for a while. “The Chicago Cubs have won a post season series against the St. Louis Cardinals”. In all seriousness, the Cubs have proven that they are going to be contenders for the next couple years. Many experts thought that they wouldn’t be this competitive until at least next year. But they have shocked the entire baseball world and are waiting to see whom they will face in the National League Championship Series. How did the Cubs accomplish this? Well there are several key factors that go into it. 1) The emergence of Jake Arrieta as a perennial Cy Young candidate. 2) The young studs of the Cubs organization have been shining bright. 3) The ultimate wisdom of Joe Maddon. Lets get started.
First of all, none of the Cubs regular and post-season success would be possible without Jake Arrieta. Since his trade to the Cubs in 2013, he has gone 36-13 with a 2.26 ERA. All that has shown this past season when he went an incredible 22-6 with an ERA of 1.77. Many consider him to be the Cy Young winner, or at the very least the runner up. However it was his performance in the Wild Card game and the clinching game that shows the true spirit of Jake Arrieta. Before the Cubs could even play the Cardinals, they had to get past the Pittsburg Pirates in a one game playoff. Who do they start? Why Arrieta of course. All he did in that game was throw a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts and only allowing 4 hits in an eventual 4-0 Cubs win to knock Pittsburg out of the playoffs. He has supplemented himself as the ace of this staff, and will look to do something magical in the NLCS.
Secondly, this lineup has a bunch of former Cubs prospects that had scouts and analysts buzzing on how good they can be. Starting with Kris Bryant, he comes from the minor leagues and hits 26 home runs and drives in 99 runs to set Cubs rookie records. He has hit some moon shots at Wrigley Field and is set to be a force for years to come. Enter Kyle Schwarber. Many thought he wasn’t ready to play in the Majors after getting drafted in 2014. When he came up in early June, it was just so the Cubs could have an extra hitter when they entered some interleague play. Well all he did was play him into a starting role. That’s not even the story with him. His home runs in the five post-season games he’s played have been bombs, literally and figuratively. His home run hit the top of the scoreboard in right field, an estimated 419 feet. And the Cubs have decided that they were going to keep it there for the rest of the postseason. Talk about a reminder. Finally we have Javier Baez. He was a replacement for an injured Addison Russell, and he delivered one of the biggest blows to the Cardinals, a three-run homer to give the Cubs momentum and a 4-2 lead at the time. Say what you want, but these young Cubs are here to play.
Finally, and perhaps the biggest factor into this success has been Joe Maddon. He has done everything right to help nurture some of the younger guys on the roster and has turned a meager team into a powerhouse. Maddon has been here before, as he took a young Tampa Bay Rays team to the World Series in 2008. There is a difference however; these Cubs are determined not to lose. Everyone on this roster boasts about how much fun it is to play for Maddon, and he does whatever he can to keep the locker room loose. For crying out loud, he brought zoo animals to Wrigley Field! Sure some of his antics are funny, but he means business. Maddon may be one of the most underrated additions to this Cubs team. Bring on the NLCS!