Are the Chicago Cubs This Year’s San Francisco Giants?


As the 2010, 2012, and 2014 San Francisco Giants have proven, you can’t predict baseball. It is safe to say that going into all three of the Giants’ World Series Championship winning seasons, they were not the favorites to take the Fall Classic. In fact, they most likely weren’t even in the picture. The Giants have always been statistical outliers, a team whose success can’t be quantified, and a team that has relied on chemistry and a perfect mixture of veterans and young stars along with incredibly gifted pitching staffs to get the job done.

While the Giants may not be in the postseason this year, another team is taking over the reigns of the unexpected contender: the Chicago Cubs. When the Giants won their first World Series as a San Francisco-based franchise in 2010, they ended a 56 year-long title drought and began a run of unprecedented postseason success.

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The Cubs are attempting this year to end a 107 year-long drought, the longest in all of Major League Baseball, after entering the season as a team whose main goal was to have a winning season, something they hadn’t done since 2009. Instead they find themselves in the NLCS with a serious shot at making the World Series, having mirrored the concept that the 2010 Giants managed so perfectly: defy the numbers.

This year’s Cubs have sported a team batting average of .244, which puts them 13th out of the 15 National League clubs. Their OBP is .321, placing them fifth in the National League, while their SLG of .398 and OPS of .719 rank seventh and sixth respectively. Those are not statistics that would speak to them getting to this point in the season.

The Giants of 2010 put together a team batting average of .257, which ranked seventh in the National League, along with an identical team OBP of .321, which ranked ninth in that league. Their SLG of .408 was sixth and their OPS of .729 was eighth. Again, average but not overwhelming.

However both teams can count pitching as a part of their success. The Cubs’ team win total of 97 games amongst their staff ranks third in the National League, and the Giants back in 2010 accumulated 92 wins, good enough for second in the League.

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Ironically both teams had identical ERAs of 3.36, though while that mark was the best in the National League back in 2010 for the Giants, it had the Cubs in third this year. They also accumulated eerily similar innings pitched amongst their staffs, with the Cubs’ hurlers amassing 1461.1 innings and the Giants throwing 1461.0, fifth and first in their respective years.

Looking at the rosters, both teams seem to value the same core principles: acquiring veterans to lead talented young players in a positive direction while relying on great pitching to guide them to baseball’s promised land. This year the Cubs have taken advantage of having some of the most highly-touted prospects in the game in Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Starlin Castro, and all have contributed down the stretch. But they also have veterans like David Ross, Dan Haren, Miguel Montero, Jason Motte, and Chris Denorfia to lead the way.

The Giants of yesteryear countered with then-rookies Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner along with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum who were both under twenty-seven years-old. They also had veterans like Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa, Aubrey Huff, and Edgar Renteria.

In addition, both the Cubs and Giants have been able to lean on one starter in particular who has carried their aspirations to new heights. In 2010 that man was Lincecum, who struck out 14 to throw a complete game two-hit shoutout in his postseason debut in game one of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. This season, it was the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta who struck out 11 and gave up just four hits en route to throwing his own complete game shutout debut against their division-rival Pittsburgh Pirates.

Lincecum would go on to go 4-1 with an additional appearance in relief in Game 6 of the NLCS, something that Arrieta may yet be called upon to do. Lincecum was also backed in the rotation by Cain, just as Arrieta has been backed by quality performances by Jon Lester, both down the stretch and in the postseason.

In 2010 the Giants defied expectations, statistics, and perceptions to break their lengthy World Series drought, and then continued that success in 2012 and 2014 by keeping their core players together. This year, the Cubs have the chance to do the same thing: winning with a young team, breaking a drought, and then beginning a prolonged period of success with their talented core.

Whether or not they win the Fall Classic, this season is a win for the Cubs, but who knows, maybe they will continue to stick to the trend that the Giants established back in 2010.

Next: Chase Utley: The 2010 NLCS And How He May Have Saved the Giants