The piece previewed here, written by BP Wrigleyville’s Editor-in-Chief Rian Watt, forms part of the main site’s comprehensive coverage of the playoffs, “Playoff Prospectus”. Additional series coverage, exclusive to BP Wrigleyville, can be found here, under the name “Second City October”.
The thing about the playoffs is that the best teams don’t always win. That’s what makes them fun. It’s also what makes them terrible. If we were interested in crowning the best team in 2016, we could’ve wrapped this season up two months ago. The Chicago Cubs (103-58-1) aren’t just the best team in this series, they’re the best team in baseball, by a long shot. That was clear as early as August, and you could make a good case that it was clear well before that, too.
But the point of the playoffs isn’t to affirm the record of the best team in baseball. The point of the playoffs is to take baseball all the way up to 11—to crush a game best understood and appreciated, by far, in the collective memory of a hundred hot summer evenings, into a five- or seven-game series, and see what stories come out the other end. The playoffs are great, and they’re awful. They bear little relation to the way the game is played, most of the year, but somehow manage to bring out its best qualities all the same.
Two teams. Two almighty narratives. No way to predict the outcome in advance, although we’ll try. Let’s pit the San Francisco Giants against the Chicago Cubs.
|CF-S Dexter Fowler(.276/.393/.447/.312)||CF-L Denard Span(.266/.331/.381/.263)|
|3B-R Kris Bryant(.292/.385/.554/.350)||1B-L Brandon Belt(.275/.394/.474/.316)|
|1B-L Anthony Rizzo(.292/.385/.544/.334)||C-R Buster Posey(.288/.362/.434/.289)|
|2B-S Ben Zobrist(.272/.386/.446/.306)||RF-R Hunter Pence(.289/.357/.451/.304)|
|LF-R Willson Contreras(.282/.357/.488/.302)||SS-L Brandon Crawford(.275/.342/.430/.280)|
|RF-L Jason Heyward(.230/.306/.325/.237)||CF-S Angel Pagan(.277/.331/.418/.274)|
|SS-R Addison Russell(.238/.321/.417/.275)||3B-R Eduardo Núñez (.269/.327/.418/.271)|
|C-L Miguel Montero(.216/.327/.357/.257)||2B-L Joe Panik (.239/.315/.379/.256)|
The big question, as far as these lineups are concerned, is what the Giants are going to do with Eduardo Núñez. He sat out San Francisco’s Wild Card victory over the Mets with a lingering hamstring injury, and it’s not yet clear whether he’ll be on the 25-man for this series. If he is—Wild Card results aside—the Giants are probably in a much better position than they would otherwise be. Núñez hasn’t been tremendous with the bat this year, but his inclusion improves the Giants’ depth significantly, by virtue of Conor Gillaspie’s shift to the bench and Ehire Adrianza’s likely exclusion from the roster.
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Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports.