The Rundown: Choose Chicago’s Experience Over Miami’s Youth, Cubs Had Tougher Schedule Than Expected, Enough with Bartman References

After a 60-game sprint with few days off, baseball gave us all a chance to catch our breath yesterday and it felt…slightly odd. With 16 teams in the playoffs, it almost feels like we are about to embark on a second season. Making it all the more surreal is the fact that the Stanley Cup just finished up last night — a normal NHL season usually starts in October — and the NBA Finals are getting underway tomorrow night.

Believe it or not, baseball is still on a normal schedule, even with the new postseason tournament. A World Series winner will be crowned in about a month and then it will be offseason business as usual. The most significant change for Cubs fans this winter will be a virtual Cubs Convention, which will be somewhat of a shame if the North Siders somehow manage to win it all.

I finished my tournament bracket last night and after careful consideration, I have the Cubs beating the Dodgers in the NLCS before losing to the A’s in the World Series. If anything, Billy Beane finally getting that elusive ring will be the feel-good story of the winter, am I right?

I believe navigating this season was harder for players, managers, and front offices this summer, so if anything, declaring a champion after the shortened season may be more of an accomplishment than during the regular season. There was simply no margin for error this year.

And for those of you who think the season is cheapened because two teams made the playoffs with sub-.500 marks, it’s entirely possible that the Brewers and Astros (both 29-31), may have finished a normal schedule well above .500. Both played tougher schedules than some of the teams that finished with better records. In addition to playing the teams in their own division, Houston had to play an interdivision schedule against the NL West. The Brewers are one of four teams that made the playoffs from the NL Central and still had to win games against the Twins, White Sox, Indians, and a surprising Tigers team. The Royals were no pushovers, either.

“This is the hardest baseball season anybody has had to go through,” David Ross said after Sunday’s game. “Whoever wins this year’s World Series should be extremely proud for overcoming all this adversity.”

If you’re interested in my playoff picks, let me lay them on you:

  • NL Wild Card winners: Dodgers, Cardinals, Braves, Cubs
  • AL Wild Card winners: Rays, Indians, Twins, A’s
  • NLDS winners: Dodgers and Cubs
  • ALDS Winners: Indians and A’s
  • NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers in seven
  • ALCS: A’s over Indians in six
  • World Series: A’s over Cubs in seven

You’ll notice I went with the teams who have the best combination of pitching and defense in their specific matchups. That the first two rounds consist of three- and five-game series favors those types of teams. As far as Cubs players, I expect that Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks will have outstanding Octobers. Look for Craig Kimbrel to play a big part in any success Chicago may have, too. I am worried that Javier Báez may continue to struggle offensively.

I love that there are no bye teams in this type of format. Whatever MLB comes up with for next season and beyond, I have no problem if the league and players decide that eliminating the extra two days of rest for the top two division champions is best for the game.

Cubs News & Notes

Odds & Sods

Juan Soto is good at baseball. It’s a shame that he and Mike Trout will be absent from the playoffs this year.

Apropos of Nothing

My all-Chicago breakout stars for the 2020 playoffs will be Ian Happ, Adbert Alzolay, Garrett Crochet, and Luis Robert.

Postseason News & Notes

As losers of eight of their last 10 games, the White Sox are really limping into the playoffs. As a result, they drew a tough first round opponent in the A’s.

Oakland announced on Monday that lefty Jesús Luzardo will make his first career postseason start in Game 1. The White Sox were 14-0 vs. lefties this season.

The Indians will start probable Cy Young winner Shane Bieber against Gerrit Cole of the Yankees tonight in the premier pitching matchup of this postseason. Cole won the coveted award last year while pitching for the Astros.

What do teams most need to succeed the 2020 postseason tournament? Start with a deep bullpen, especially because of the lack of off-days.

Umpire Rob Drake missed 27 calls on Sunday according to evaluators and it may have cost the Giants a shot at making the playoffs.

Extra Innings

I’ll never say no to Ernie Banks and Ron Santo references.

They Said It

  • “You’ve seen this lineup struggle. But no other team wants to see this lineup get going and see us in the playoffs, I’ll tell you that.” Jason Kipnis
  • “Every single day, you see guys with low averages come in and say, ‘Let’s go, let’s do this. We’re great.’ It’s easy to be good when you’re hitting .300, but when you’re hitting in the .200s and .100s when you normally don’t hit like that, but have that confidence to keep going, that’s great. This team does it very well.”Billy Hamilton
  • “We clearly have a group that’s talented and more than capable of having a productive offensive month in October. And I think we have a group with a real healthy mindset as we start this journey too.” – Theo Epstein

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Old Man by Neil Young – The postseason may be all about letting the kids play, but I think that veteran leadership and experience will help the Cubs maneuver their way to the World Series.

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