By: Edward Egros

chicago

Go Cubs Go

Pasted GraphicIn just a few days, Wrigley Field's iconic scoreboard will showcase a World Series for the first time in more than seven decades. A franchise with questionable management and horrible luck has finally come within four wins of its first world championship in more than a century.

The Cubs have fielded formidable teams that have made the postseason, but never have they won the NLCS until this year. Often postseason baseball can be so unpredictable that it is difficult to explain why the Cubs could not reach the World Series until now. But there are some trends that predict success in playoff baseball, that does not have as great an impact in regular-season baseball.

While I have written a paper about this and have applied those lessons to the Texas Rangers in a previous post, I would like to look at alternative research. In the book "Baseball Between the Numbers", three qualities are listed that best determine postseason success:

  • Pitcher Strikeout Rate
  • Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA)
  • Closer Expected Wins Over Replacement Pitcher (WXRL)

The Cubs finished 3rd in the majors in strikeout percentage and strikeouts per nine innings (the Dodgers finished first in both categories, the team Chicago beat in the NLCS). Fangraphs uses a metric called
Ultimate Zone Rating to calculate fielding, and listed the Cubs as the best fielding team this season. Lastly, the Cubs finished 19th in reliever Wins Above Replacement, but keep in mind, the team traded for Aroldis Chapman late in the season.

It is also worth nothing, the Indians had high rankings in all three of these categories as well (5th, 4th and 7th, respectively). While the matchup should make for a fantastic World Series, given how the Cubs have properly built this team for a postseason run, it should not come as a surprise if they can end this 108-year streak.