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Cardinals vs. Cubs: 2015 NLDS Series Preview

Arguably the biggest rivalry in the National League gets its first postseason series...

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs have been a part of the National League since 1876 (though they were the White Stockings, Colts, and Orphans before adopting Cubs as their name in 1903). The St. Louis Cardinals were founded in 1882 (as the Brown Stockings, because stocking color was apparently the only system anyone had for naming a team back then; they were then the Browns and Perfectos before becoming the Cardinals in 1900) and joined the NL in 1892.

The two teams have been playing one another for 124 seasons, but they have never faced off in a postseason series until now.

The Cardinals finished 100-62 this season, best record in MLB. The Cubs finished 97-65, third-best in MLB. These are two very good teams.

Game Schedule (all games will be televised on TBS)

  • Friday, October 9 (@ St. Louis), 6:45 ET
  • Saturday, October 10 (@ St. Louis), 5:37 ET
  • Monday, October 12 (@ Chicago), TBD
  • Tuesday, October 13 (@ Chicago), TBD**
  • Thursday, October 15 (@ St. Louis), TBD**

**If necessary

The Cubs advanced to this series by defeating Pittsburgh in the Wild Card Game on the strength of a shutout from probable NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta, who has been incredible during the last three months, with a 0.75 ERA after the All-Star break (and that doesn't take his WC performance in account). The bad news is, Arrieta won't be available again until Game 3 of this series.

Cardinals starting pitchers:
Game Pitcher Handed ERA FIP K% BB%
1 John Lackey R 2.77 3.57 19.5 5.9
2 Jaime Garcia L 2.43 3.00 19.0 5.9
3 Michael Wacha R 3.38 3.87 20.1 7.6
4 Lance Lynn R 3.03 3.44 22.2 9.1
Cubs starting pitchers:
Game Pitcher Handed ERA FIP K% BB%
1 Jon Lester L 3.34 2.92 25.0 5.6
2 Kyle Hendricks R 3.95 3.36 22.6 5.8
3 Jake Arrieta R 1.77 2.35 27.1 5.5
4 Jason Hammel R 3.74 3.68 24.2 5.6

The Game 1 and 2 starters will all be on full rest if there is a Game 5, so mangers Mike Matheny and Joe Maddon would have options.

Arrieta is the best pitcher from either team, and Lester might be second, but St. Louis doesn't have any weak links; Hendricks and Hammel look like the worst starters either team will use this series.

The two teams' offense are evenly matched. St. Louis hit .253/.321/.394, with a wRC+ of 96. Chicago hit .244/.321/.398, also with a wRC+ of 96. Chicago has more speed, and graded out as the best base-running team in the National League according to FanGraphs, and also as the better defensive team, though both are good.

Matt Carpenter is probably the best hitter on the Cardinals, with Jason Heyward also very good. Matt Holiday missed much of the season, but is back now. For the Cubs, Anthony Rizzo and surefire-lock-to-be NL Rookie of the Year winner Kris Bryant are the biggest bat, with another rookie, Kyle Schwarber having some of the most impressive raw power in baseball. (He hit a ball out of the stadium in Pittsburgh Wednesday night.)

If you think experience matters, the Cardinals are probably your pick in this one, as they have more combined postseason experience than any of the other seven teams still playing. The Cubs were thought to be a year away when this season began, but things came together more quickly than expected, and they look positioned to be a strong contender for years to come.

In terms of former Indians, the Cardinals feature Jhonny Perlata, Mark Reynolds, and Brandon Moss. Given that only one of those players did much for the Tribe, I'm not sure how likely the trio is to gain St. Louis much Cleveland-area support.