Andrew Perna. 25th September, 2008 - 4:25 pm
The Cubs have had the National League Central wrapped up for roughly a week now, which means postseason fun will be coming to Wrigley Field this October.
It doesn?t look like the entire NL playoff picture will be solidified until the final day of the season, but it?s not too early to start looking at how the Cubbies might fare against potential opponents next week.
Heading into Thursday?s action the Phillies, Mets, Brewers, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks were officially in the postseason race. Unfortunately for Arizona fans, the D?Backs are just one loss, or an L.A. victory, away from elimination.
Assuming L.A. joins Chicago in the NL playoffs, that leaves two berths for Philadelphia, New York, and Milwaukee to jostle for this weekend. Just 1.5 games separate the three teams heading into the regular season?s final four days.
While much will need to happen in order for the Cubs to end their century-long World Series title quest, Chicago will enter October with favorable positioning.
Chicago is 20-13 against the current playoff contenders this year, including a 10-4 mark in the second half of the season.
A majority of teams are crossing their fingers that they get matched up against the Mets next month, and the Cubs are no different.
They stand 4-1 against New York after Wednesday night?s win; pitcher Carlos Zambrano and hitters like Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome have excelled when battling the Metropolitans.
Zambrano and Ted Lilly have both thrown at least six innings of one-run ball in a wins this season. In addition, Ramirez is hitting .364 with one home run and two walks while Fukudome has a .538 average with two walks in thirteen at-bats versus New York this season.
The Cubs also have a winning record against the Dodgers, posting a 5-2 mark against the soon-to-be NL West champions.
Ryan Dempster, 1-0 with a 2.92 ERA in two starts, has been better against the now Manny Ramirez-led Dodgers than Zambrano, who is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in a pair of starts. Of course, it?s no secret that October baseball is a completely different animal. Their star hitters ? Derrek Lee (.192), Alfonso Soriano (.276 with 10 K?s), Ramirez (.217), and Fukudome (.250) ? haven?t fared very well against L.A.?s superb pitching.
The situations begins to get a little sticky for the Cubs when discussing the Phillies and Brewers. Chicago will finish the season against Milwaukee this weekend, which means that when it?s all said and done, the Brew Crew could have a winning record against the NL Central champs.
The Cubs are 8-6 against the Brewers so far this season, with the three aforementioned games this weekend pending.
Zambrano has been lights out against the division rivals this season, with a 1-0 record and minuscule 0.43 ERA in three starts. Dempster (4-0 with a 2.52 ERA and 24 strikeouts) and Harden (1-0 with a 1.50 ERA and 16 K?s) have been great, as well.
Ramirez and Fukudome have dominated Milwaukee pitching so far, and timely hitting will be needed should the Cubs face CC Sabathia at some point next month. Aramis is hitting .341 with three home runs and 10 RBI while Fukudome has blistered the Brewers with a .405 average and three stolen bases.
Lilly will need to chat with Zambrano and Dempster if Milwaukee comes to town because the left-hander is a dismal 0-1 with a 5.91 ERA in two appearances against them in 2008.
As close as the Brewers have played the Cubs this season, the Phillies could be an even tougher out for Chicago. Philadelphia is the only playoff contender with a winning record, a 4-3 mark, against The North Siders this year.
The Phillies shelled Zambrano in his lone start, five runs in six innings, and Harden is the only of the team?s top four starters with an ERA under 5.50.
Harden, who has started against Philly twice, is 1-0 with a sparkling 1.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in twelve innings. Harden won?t be able to take the mound in every potential game against the Phillies, which could make for a shootout between two of America?s most sports-crazed cities.
Lee (.423) and Geovany Soto (.333) are the only regulars who have hit well against Philadelphia. Want proof? Soriano, Fukudome, and Reed Johnson all have averages below .200 versus the Phils.
In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, the Cubs are 3-6 against teams in the American League playoff race in 2008. The North Siders have a 3-3 record against The South Siders and were swept by Tampa Bay in interleague play.
However, as any Cubs' fan will tell you, any potential World Series matchup seems light-years away.
Andrew Perna is a Senior Writer for RealGM. Please feel free to contact him via e-mail with comments or questions on this piece: Andrew.Perna@RealGM.com.