Well, that NLCS was rough … although I'd say not as rough as 2003. If you'd told me in March that this 2015 Cubs club would make the NLCS, I would've jumped at the chance to see it, and it was a fun ride getting here.
No one was expecting this from a club starting four rookies for much of the season: Bryant, Russell, Schwarber, and Soler. The rotation was a question mark after Lester and Arrieta, and the bullpen was a question mark after (and some were saying including) Rondon and Strop.
Well, those four rookies combined for 65 home runs. That question mark of a bullpen had the fourth-lowest ERA in the NL, while the Cubs' starters had the third-lowest ERA in baseball.
- Chris Coghlan hit a career-high 16 HR.
- Anthony Rizzo drove in a career-high 101 runs.
- Starlin Castro hit .343 in August, September, and October … after being moved to 2B. His best defensive month? September, with 1 error.
- Kris Bryant lived up to the Rookie of the Year hype, hitting .275 with an OBP of .369, 26 HR, 99 RBI, and 13 SB.
- Kyle Schwarber launched 16 HR in only 69 games played.
- The Cubs' hitters led the NL in bases on balls.
- Dexter Fowler hit a career-high 17 HR (and that's saying something for a guy who played five seasons at Coors Field).
- Jorge Soler posted a .993 fielding percentage -- 1 error in 149 chances -- in Wrigley's toughest outfield spot.
- Travis Wood closed out the regular season on a roll: 1 ER in 16 IP with 23 K and only 4 BB in September and October.
- Jake Arrieta had a great start to the season, and was lights out in the second half, finishing with 22 wins (the highest win total since Fergie Jenkins used to take the Wrigley mound every 4th day) and these Cy Young Award worthy career-bests: a 1.77 ERA, 4 complete games (3 of them shutouts) and 236 strikeouts.
- They were the best team in MLB in August & September, winning 43 of their last 61 regular season games.
- They dominated the Pirates in the NL Wild Card game -- at PNC Park -- to advance to the NLDS.
- They beat the Cardinals in the NLDS, three games to one, in a series that all Cubs fans can savor for a long time.
So what happened in the NLCS?
Well, the Mets' pitchers were locked in, and took full advantage of the expanded strike zone being afforded by the postseason umpires. Daniel Murphy was ridiculous, channeling his inner Barry Bonds and apparently forgetting that he hit only 14 regular season homers. David Wright and several other Mets played stellar defense, and their offense came through with clutch hits and heads-up base running.
Not so much for the Cubs. They hit .158 as a team in the NLCS, nearly 90 points lower than in the NLDS. They hit 3 HR versus the 10 they hit in the NLDS. Why? Who knows, but it sure looked like they ran out of steam. Few on the roster have ever played even a 162-game season, let alone in MLB postseason action. Finally, their youth and inexperience showed. Several Cubs defenders are playing new positions (Schwarber, Castro) and they, among others (Bryant, Soler) don't yet have the defensive chops that the Mets' veterans do.
Good news: they'll be much more experienced next October.
We at CMN are looking forward to many more opportunities to #FlyTheW in 2016. New Cubs Magic Number to make the 2016 postseason: