At the beginning of the 2015 season, nobody expected the Chicago Cubs to make it to the National League Championship Series, but they did it. Although the Cubs made it that far, they still lost to the New York Mets.
Expectations are actually pretty high this year. Fans in Chicago are energized. Living in the Windy City gives me some experience on how much Cubs fans care about winning the World Series. After all, they haven’t won one in more than 100 years. Here are the three keys to the Cubs, who open the playoffs against the San Francisco Giants Friday night, winning it all this year
The Cubs need to bring their bats to the playoffs. Last year, Kris Bryant had a playoff batting average of .176, and Anthony Rizzo had a batting average of .188. Those players are Chicago’s best hitters this season, and if they go cold the Cubs will have problems on offense. The Cubs also have to put the ball into play, but they definitely can’t hit into double plays.
Last year Kyle Schwarber was the second-best playoff hitter for the Cubs, and now he is on the DL, so the Cubs really need to bring their A game in hitting. Lastly the Cubs have to drive in the runners that are in scoring position. The Cubs left more than seven runners on base per game on average. That can’t happen in the playoffs.
The Cubs need to have strong pitching throughout the postseason. They need their starting pitchers to play even better than they played in the regular season. The Cubs playoff pitching rotation in order is: Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and John Lackey. If these pitchers can last to the sixth inning or even longer, then have Aroldis Chapman close out the game, Chicago will be in good shape. The Cubs starting pitchers usually last from six to 6 ½ innings per game, which would accomplish this goal.
The Cubs also need to have great pitching from the bullpen: Pedro Strop, Travis Wood, Hector Rondon, Aroldis Chapman, and maybe Jason Hammel if the Cubs add him to the mix. As a closer, Hammel could be the deciding factor if the Cubs do pitch him because he has the skill of a starter. Chapman is one of the best closers in baseball, with an ERA of 2.01 and an opponent batting average of .179.
The Cubs need to have the same mentality they have kept all season. If they win, they’ll celebrate for a little, then get back to work. If they lose, they’ll be bummed for a little, then get back to work. The Cubs also have to stay calm throughout the playoffs and not get too cocky.
It is very hard to break a so-called curse. Just take a look at the Red Sox. They didn’t break the Curse of the Bambino until 86 years after it started. The Cubs just need to forget about the “curse,” and they need a full crowd to cheer them on. Since they have home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they can get into the heads of the other teams if Cubs fans cheer their heads off. The Cubs have some of the loudest and some of the best fans, and if they bring that to the playoffs, the players will feel at home no matter where they are.
Photographs by: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images (2)