The Chicago Cubs began the 2016 season as World Series favorites. This prediction was based upon a combination of their high performing, reliable lineup – including both intimidating sluggers and a formidable pitching rotation – as well as their timely success towards the end of the 2015 regular season, which propelled them into competing for their first NL pennant since 2003. They even beat their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals, in the NL Division Series that year. It is safe to say that 2015 was, by itself, a historic success. Little did we know how much more history would be made in the 2016 postseason.
The Chicago Cubs galloped through the 2016 regular season as you could imagine a thoroughbred race horse would. Not only did the Cubs have the best record (103-58) in all of Major League Baseball (MLB), but they also won the most games for the franchise since 1910. The team’s winning combination of clutch offense and MLB-leading pitching (.212 regular season ERA & 1.11 WHIP) put them in a great position to chase history.
To claim their first World Series appearance since 1945 (71 years ago) and then ultimately their first World Series win since 1908 (108 years ago) was a monumental feat to accomplish. How did the Cubs achieve this spectacular goal in the postseason? The Chicago Analytics Group has put together a report card style infographic displaying how the Chicago Cubs ditched the “lovable losers” nickname they endured for the last 108 years, and finally became the Lovable Winners, with a Remarkable 2016 Postseason.
Please enjoy this report card style infographic and be sure to share it with your friends, family, and even colleagues who enjoyed watching the Chicago Cubs achieve history in 2016! Below is the infographic in its entirety, and immediately following that is analysis for each section of the infographic. Enjoy!
The 2016 Chicago Cubs postseason was, by all means, a historic and remarkable sports success. While the team’s tremendous regular season pitching (leading the MLB in both ERA and WHIP) propelled them to a staggering 103 wins, it was the Cubs’ overall offense that needed to get kick started in the postseason for them to make a deep playoff run. Ultimately, their pitching showed up in clutch moments when they were facing elimination in the postseason, but their overall success was fueled by their postseason offensive production, as shown below:
In the postseason combined, the Chicago Cubs led all playoff teams in number of hits (137), RBI’s (73), walks (46), and stolen bases (11). Their total postseason hits were comprised of 82 singles, 31 doubles, 20 homeruns, and 3 triples. All of these types of hits were the best of all of the MLB postseason teams. Compared to their opponents, the Cubs held an advantage in batting average (.233 vs. .223), slugging percentage (.399 vs. .354), and OPS (.692 vs. .648), which is on-base percentage plus slugging percentage throughout the combined postseason.
While the Chicago Cubs were the best team in all of MLB at home (57-24) during the regular season, they actually played much better, on average, while playing on the road during the postseason. Interestingly enough, the Cubs were one of the worst teams in the postseason offensively at home in terms of both batting average (.198) and on-base percentage (.242); however, they more than made up for it by being the best team on the road in the postseason offensively with the best batting average (.260), best slugging percentage (.422), and best OPS (.752) during away games in the postseason.
Even though, on average, the Chicago Cubs offense fueled their postseason success, it did falter at times. Some of these occasions were early on during the National League Division Series matchup with the San Francisco Giants. Luckily for the Cubs, their pitching rotation stepped up in a major way to help them win the necessary 3 games to advance as shown below:
When the Chicago Cubs’ bats went cold during the National League Division Series, batting only .200 in the series with an on-base percentage of only .247, their pitching saved the series. Overall, the Chicago Cubs’ pitchers had a lower ERA (3.00 vs. 3.55), more saves (3 vs. 0), less homeruns allowed (0 vs. 5), and forced more ground outs (53 vs. 35) than the San Francisco Giants. This ultimately allowed the Cubs to win the NLDS, 3-1, and advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Having settled their postseason nerves and channeled their excitement enough to make it to their first NLCS since 2003, the Chicago Cubs came into their matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers focused and primed to achieve something historic: their first National League Pennant since 1945. Although the series did not start in favor of the Cubs (the Dodgers led after 3 games, 2-1), the Cubs quickly regained control both offensively and with their pitching as well. When the Cubs’ offense and their pitching were both efficient in the NLCS, they were dominant, as shown below:
After regaining control in game 4 of the NLCS to even the series at 2-2, the Chicago Cubs used an efficient combination of offense and pitching to gain the necessary momentum to ultimately win the series, and earn their first trip to the World Series in 71 years. They won this series with their pitching, showcased with a lower ERA (2.89 vs. 4.33) and lower WHIP (1.09 vs. 1.23); as well as their offense, highlighted by a greater batting average (.238 vs. .210) and OPS (.723 vs. .593) than the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Chicago Cubs were officially going to the World Series. They would even be the odds on favorites to win it, despite the Cleveland Indians having home field advantage (because the AL won the All-Star game earlier in the year). This was tremendous news for baseball fans on the North side of Chicago, as they had an opportunity to see their beloved “lovable losers” reverse the curse and win their first World Series since 1908.
Entering the 2016 World Series, neither the Chicago Cubs nor the Cleveland Indians could have possibly predicted the wild and crazy series that was about to take place. Adding to the excitement and overall competitiveness of this year’s World Series was a match up of historic proportions. While the Chicago Cubs had not won a World Series for 108 years, the second longest World Series drought belonged to none other than Cleveland at 68 years. Both Cubs and Indians fans alike were ready and enthused to see one of their respective team make history.
In terms of excitement, the 2016 World Series delivered plenty to baseball fans around the world, most notably to the supporters of the Chicago Cubs, where the Cubs were able to eventually drag a beginning 3-1 deficit into forcing a decisive game 7 showdown for the ages. Even though we now know the outcome of this year’s thrilling World Series (and its unforgettable game 7), what led to the Cubs first World Series in 108 years was really a tale of 2 completely different looking Cubs teams. The first of which vastly underperformed vs. the competition, then when their backs were against the wall facing elimination; the second’s offense and pitching rose to the occasion to mark a remarkable and unforgettable comeback.
The 2016 World Series saw the Chicago Cubs become only the 6th team in MLB history to overcome a 3-1 WS beginning deficit, as shown below:
The Chicago Cubs did not start the 2016 World Series favorably, losing 3 out of the first 4 games to the Cleveland Indians. In these first 4 games, the Indians held advantages in both offense (.248 vs .204 batting average with a +8 run differential) and pitching (1.50 vs. 3.50 ERA). This put the Cubs in quite a bind. They would need to win the next 3 games, including a potential game 6 and decisive game 7 both on the road in Cleveland.
Only 5 teams had accomplished such a feat previously (’85 Royals, ’79 Pirates, ’68 Tigers, ’58 Yankees, and ’25 Pirates) in World Series history out of a total of 45 teams that had been down 3-1 in the World Series. This places the historical odds at about 11% (simply calculated by 5/45). But baseball, as loyal enthusiasts know, is a game of streaks. The Chicago Cubs really need to pull together a 3 game win streak in order to finally win the World Series their fans so very much coveted.
This was not completely out of the question, as the Cubs had put together win streaks of 3 games or greater 16 times during the regular season and their opponents, the Indians, had losing streaks of at least 3 games or greater 7 times during the regular season. However, that was the regular season, and this was the World Series, the postseason’s grandest stage.
How would the Chicago Cubs react to starting their first World Series appearance in 71 years off at a crippling 3-1 deficit? The answer to this lies in one of the greatest comebacks in professional sports history. The Chicago Cubs, with their backs against the wall, turned around both their offense and pitching in the next 3 games at a rate which was completely unparalleled to their performance in the first 4 games.
The Chicago Cubs increased their batting average by 50% (from .204 to .306) in the next 3 games compared to the first 4 games. This led to 186% more RBI’s (even when comparing the total RBI’s of 3 games vs. 4 games) and consequently a run differential of +8, this time in favor of the Cubs. Their .306 batting average over the next 3 games was far greater than Cleveland’s at .223.
The offense was not the only area where the Chicago Cubs improved over the course of the next 3 games. They also enhanced their pitching performance as well. The Cubs decreased their team’s ERA by -9% (from 3.50 to 3.21) in these 3 games compared to the first 4 games. Most importantly, the Cubs ERA over these final 3 games was half of what the Indians’ ERA was, giving them a substantial pitching advantage to close out the World Series.
With a significant performance increase in both their offense and pitching from the first 4 games to the final 3 games, the Chicago Cubs were able to become only the 6th team in MLB history to overcome a 3-1 beginning deficit to win the World Series.
The Chicago Cubs gave their fans an unforgettable season, ending the longest running professional sports championship drought of any team in any major sport. This would not have been capable without the outstanding performances of their postseason team leaders.
The Chicago Cubs won their 1st World Series since 1908 with these postseason team leaders, as show below:
There were so many offensive stars in the Chicago Cubs postseason success that you could really highlight the majority of the team’s starting lineup at times. Kris Bryant was the leader of this postseason offense, batting an incredible .308 during the entirety of the postseason, with an on-base percentage of .400, slugging percentage of .523, and a .923 OPS. There is no wonder he won the 2016 NL Hank Aaron Award.
Ben Zobrist was a shining example of consistency throughout the World Series, hitting clutch RBI’s when his team needed it most. His batting avg. of .357 (with a team leading 10 hits) and OPS of .919 in the World Series earned him the WS MVP honors. Even more impressive, he increased both his batting average and OPS by more than 80% in the WS from the NLDS vs. the Giants, showing just how clutch he really is.
Addison Russell was the Chicago Cubs’ postseason team leader this year in RBI’s with a total of 13. It is important to note that his batting (including a 6 RBI game 6 in the World Series) was not the only part of his game that greatly aided the Cubs in their postseason success, he was also a great fielder as well.
The Chicago Cubs postseason highlights could not be complete without an addition of Kyle Schwarber to the list. Even without starting the vast majority of the regular season, nor the NLDS and NLCS of the postseason, Kyle Schwarber played all the away games (and had 1 AB in game 4) in the World Series, to allow him to be the designated hitter for the Cubs. The “Legend of Kyle Schwarber” was officially born, as he batted a staggering .412, had an on-base percentage of .500, and drove in 2 crucial runs when he was in the lineup.
In terms of pitching, Jon Lester was absolutely brilliant throughout the entire postseason. He led the Chicago Cubs in both lowest WHIP (.93) and most strikeouts (30) in the postseason. He was undoubtedly a main driver to their success.
Jake Arrieta was known for being able to pitch his way out of some pretty nasty situations. And in the 2016 postseason, he most certainly did that and then some. He held the Cubs lowest batting average for opposing batters at .205. He also was a great hitter himself, winning the NL Silver Slugger Award given to the best hitting pitcher in the National League.
Kyle Hendricks was not known for standing out in a crowd, other than his amazingly low 1.42 postseason ERA, which is the Cubs lowest. Although he was not the most boisterous member of the 2016 Cubs, his pitching spoke volumes about his supreme postseason performance.
Aroldis Chapman was acquired from the Yankees in order to boost the Cubs’ current relievers, and give the team a powerful, extremely fast-throwing option to close out games. In the postseason, he did not disappoint, with a team-leading 4 critical saves.
Although these aforementioned members of the 2016 Chicago Cubs are the team’s postseason leaders in the specific categories, it is important to note that everyone on the team, in some way, contributed and added to the historic World Series the Cubs won in 2016. A couple of hitters that need to be recognized are, of course, Anthony Rizzo, whose rock solid bat and defensive prowess, were irreplaceable. There is no wonder why he won the Golden Glove, Silver Slugger, and Platinum Glove Awards. He deserves them all. Javier Baez also needs to be recognized, as his batting continues to improve and provide crucial hits.
And last but not least, the entire Chicago Cubs staff needs to be thanked for their incredibly hard work in order to put together the right pieces, the right strategy, and the right people to have the Cubs win a World Series this year. This was a World Series which was not only one of the most anticipated and watched World Series of all time, but also produced the world’s largest sports celebration of all time at an estimated 5 million people.
Congratulations to the 2016 Chicago Cubs, from The Chicago Analytics Group!
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