Bleeding Red, Bleeding Blue: Cardinals, Cubs begin battle of MLB’s best in quest for Series Title

By: Aaron Heimbuck and Ben Boezinger

After the Chicago Cubs stormed out of the All Star Break on MLB’s hottest streak culminating with a 4-0 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, Oct. 7, the two winningest teams in baseball are looking to rekindle an old rivalry this year by battling it out in the MLB National League Division Series.

The Cubs have quenched their thirst for a playoff berth this year by assembling an impressive squad of young players along with a new manager. They have high hopes of going the distance this year and are finally competition for the consistently impressive St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals hold the best record in baseball and are looking to bring it once again this postseason. For the first time in a long time, both teams are forces to be reckoned with. Ben and I have collaborated on this piece to bring you arguments from both perspectives as to who has the best chance of winning the World Series.

Starting Rotations

Aaron: The St. Louis Cardinals have a very deep rotation that can really last in a seven-game series. St. Louis is getting their ace, Adam Wainwright, right back into the rotation for the postseason, which will be a huge boost for the pitching staff. One of our top young pitchers, Carlos Martinez, is out for the playoffs, but we have plenty of depth to compensate. John Lackey has been a sleeper and a workhorse this year, boasting a 2.77 ERA. Michael Wacha earned a quiet 17 wins this season with an impressive 3.38 ERA. Jaime Garcia bounced back this season with a 2.43 ERA and held opposing batters to a mere .225 batting average. The best part about the Cardinals’ rotation is that there is no real weak link. Nobody stands out, but they all do their job well and are a huge threat to any team that they face. The Cubs do have two stars at the top of their rotation with Arrieta and Lackey, but they lack the pitching in order to survive a full series. It takes depth to last in the playoffs and the Cardinals have an abundance of it.

Ben: Leading the charge to mound this season so far has been underdog pitcher Jake Arrieta with a dominating second half ERA of a 0.75. His dominating slider prevents opposing teams from putting a good contact on the ball, much less actually touching the ball. When Arrieta has his best, he’s shown he’s capable of perfect games and no-hitters, but when Arrieta isn’t causing raucous on the mound, his powerful counterpart, Jon Lester, is able to keep the opposition at bay. Brought in during January, the old Boston Red Sox pitcher brings valuable playoff experience to a young roster and pitching staff. After his ace-like performance in the Red Sox 2013 World Series title, Lester is looking to cap of his improved second half starts with a dominant postseason performance.

Along with the Cub’s powerful one-two punch of Arrieta and Lester, the Cubs have a somewhat decent latter rotation. Jason Hammel has had a relatively inconsistent season with his ERA hovering above 3.00. While he has had an inferior September, many think that his status in the postseason rotation is questionable. Anchoring the starting rotation is Kyle Hendricks. His 3.95 season ERA is not quite what Hendricks, or the Cubs, were hoping to get out of him this season, but Hendricks could well be the dark horse of the starting rotation. His durability will not prove to be a problem, but if he is put into a pivotal situation deep in his outing, he could give away many runs and possibly throw the game. Comparing the Cardinals starting rotation to the Cubs, they are more balanced and have less star power, but this is the post season, and the Cubs’ top pitchers may only wait a few games to get back at it and dominate their way into the World Series.

Offenses

Aaron: The Cardinals offense is a lot like their pitching rotation. There aren’t really any stars, but everyone works together to get the job done. Matt Carpenter has shown a surprising surge of power this season with 28 home runs and a ton of extra base hits. Matt Holliday will provide plenty of power as well. We have a few impressive young players too, such as Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk who both provide some pop in the lineup. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta is a threat also, as he’s really shown that he’s still got it this year. Jason Heyward and Kolten Wong have both been demons on the basepaths this season, stealing a combined 38 bases. Heyward also boasts a .293 batting average. Last, but not least, Yadier Molina, despite his injuries, remains one of the toughest outs in baseball. The Cubs on the other hand have a few guys that can really hit the ball but have some weak links. They are more of an all or nothing type of offense. If their big bats aren’t hot, the rest aren’t either. The Cardinals don’t have a ton of star power, but they’re rock solid throughout their entire lineup.

Ben: The Cubs this season have proven that they have one of the most powerful offenses in the league. With the new entrance of rookie bats Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell, the balls have been flying out of Wrigley at an abundance. Bryant tied for the most rookie home run balls. Although he has proven to be one of the best power hitter rookies in the league, he has capitalized on many of his late game walk off chances. This could prove helpful to the Cubs in the many close games they will play in the upcoming postseason. Along with Bryant, rookies Schwarber and Russell look to bolster their club’s offense. While Schwarber has provided stifling offense mostly from the bench and left field with 16 home runs in 69 games played and a batting average of .242, contradicting those skills, Russell’s speed ability is most important to the late-lineup hitter. He is third in the rookie standings with 29 doubles and 13 home runs. Leading the offensive charge is 26-year-old NL MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs best in home runs and batting average. The Cubs’ success has been fueled by him, and his hot streak is keen to the Cubs advancing throughout the postseason. If Rizzo can continue his splurge of home runs, then all the Cubs would have to do is get men on base — a problem the Cubs have not had often this season. With the Cubs relying mostly on home runs and and walks this season, if they reach a cold streak, then that very well might diminish their chances of taking the series. The Cardinals do not heavily rely on one or two guys for their offense. Their heavily balanced offense could prove useful deep into series with a lack of pressure on the players.

Defenses

Aaron: The Cardinals have not usually been known as a defensive team, excluding Molina behind the plate, but this year they’ve improved quite a bit in that category. In the offseason St. Louis picked up the best defensive right fielder in the game, Heyward, who has lived up to his standard with a .990 fielding percentage and only three errors. Second baseman Wong is blossoming into a fantastic defensive man, and Grichuk and Piscotty have both made some incredible plays this season too. Jhonny Peralta is very underrated in the defense department and really holds his own at shortstop. And of course there’s Molina, who is a defensive presence behind the plate and is still regarded as the hardest catcher to steal on in the game. The Cubs have out-performed defensively this year as well. With a lot of young players many would think they would struggle, but they haven’t. There’s not much I can argue when it comes to Chicago defense, but I do know the Cards can hold up defensively against any MLB team.

Ben: Even though the Cubs have one of the best offenses of the league, Joe Maddon has preached to his players that defense wins championships. With so many rookies throughout the infield and outfield, you’d think that there would be many holes spread out along the diamond. With rookie Russell playing shortstop, Starlin Castro playing his new position at second base, Bryant playing his first season in the majors at third base, Schwarber spreading his below-average talents at catcher to left field and no real defensive gem in the outfield along with Dexter Fowler, many think that this could pose a problem for the Cubs, but it really hasn’t been this season. With the pitching keeping the balls routine, any player could take over anywhere in the Cubs’ defense. Bryant and Russell both have the speed and arm accuracy to make close plays and riveting plays to prevent balls rolling into the outfield for a possible extra base, which can prove pivotal in a close postseason game. The Cardinals have a strong infield, and catcher in Molina, the errors will be limited, giving few easy bases to the Cubs. With the way the Cubs’ offense is played, the Cardinals’ defense will limit the easy runs scored, and if the Cubs don’t play to their full potential, the defense might win the series for the Cards.

Bullpens

Aaron: The St. Louis Cardinals have put together a very good bullpen again this season. They have one of the best closers in baseball in Trevor Rosenthal. He sometimes shows a lack of consistency but still has electric stuff. He recorded the second most saves in baseball this year with 48. He also has a 2.10 ERA and held opponents to a .238 batting average. Besides our closer, the Redbirds also have an outstanding supporting cast. LHP Kevin Siegrist has been lights out this year as a setup man. Veterans such as Randy Choate and Jonathan Broxton have been a big influence on the younger guys. The Cubs bullpen is an area of concern with yet another lack of depth. I think the Cards definitely have the advantage in this department. We have a really good mix in the bullpen and are looking to back up our starters throughout the playoff run.

Ben: The Cubs’ bullpen might not be the best in the league, but they have some pivotal experience that will prove extremely useful in their World Series push. Their go to guy for relief pitching is Pedro Stropp. While sporting a nifty 2.91 ERA and 81 strikeouts, the righty from Dominican Republic will look to lighten the load of starting pitchers like Lester and Arietta. Having one of his best seasons so far, Justin Grimm’s ERA of 1.99 puts him 58th among his peers. The only problem with Grimm in the playoffs is his lack of experience. If he’s put in a clutch situation late in the game, his performance might lack because of the situation. I think Travis Wood, the veteran starter turned reliever, will be the dark horse of the Cubs’ pitching. With something to prove after being demoted, he could very well be an unsung hero several times this offseason. The closer for the Cubs is Hector Rondon, who is 10th in the NL with 30 saves. While he is down towards the bottom in saves, this is mostly because of injuries and the Cubs trying out others for the closing job. With another impressive ERA, the Cubs’ bullpen is one of their most underrated parts in their clubhouse. The Cardinals have 50 percent of their bullpen over a 4.00 ERA, and with their closer Trevor Rosenthal probably one of the only bright spots in their bullpen right now, I think the Cubs have the advantage

Both the Cubs and the Cardinals are looking to show this postseason. The Cubs bring a lot of energy and young star power to the table and are looking to stay hot. The Cardinals are looking to do what they do best and use their depth to their advantage. Both teams have a lot of strengths and will be tough opponents to anyone they face. Both teams are led by two of the best managers in the game and have some of the best talent to go along with it. Ben and I are definitely eager to see who has what it takes to go the distance.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply