Some will look at tonight’s Cubs vs. Pirates game and grumble, with some justification, that the Wild Card system needs a tweak. The teams with the second- and third-best records in baseball are meeting in a one-game playoff, while lesser teams like the Mets and Rangers get a few extra days to rest and line up their rotations. Maybe it is time to do away with divisions and just seed the teams in each league.
But in the meantime, would you look at this pitching match-up?
At the age of 24, Gerrit Cole has established himself as the Pirates’ ace, and one of the best pitchers in the NL, finishing in the top ten in wins, ERA, WHiP, innings and strikeouts. And Cole was lights-out against the Cubs this year, striking out 32 in 25 ⅓ innings, with a 2.13 ERA. By all rights, the Pirates should be feeling pretty good about their chances. Unfortunately, they’re facing the hottest pitcher on the planet, Jake Arrieta.
Over his last 20 starts of 2015, Arrieta went 147 innings with 147 strikeouts, only 2 home runs allowed, an OPS of .410 and an ERA of 0.85, while becoming the first guy ever to finish a season with 20 consecutive Quality Starts. Oh, and Arrieta threw a no-hitter this season. Arrieta pitched so well down the stretch that he’s even managed to challenge the Dodgers Zack Greinke and for the Cy Young Award.
And as good as Cole’s been against the Cubbies, Arrieta’s been even better against the Pirates, striking out 33 in 36 innings with a 0.75 ERA and a .639 WHiP. Only Pirates centerfielder Andrew McCutchen has managed an OPS north of .600 against Arrieta, at .857.
Once you get past the starters, it’s almost bizarre how evenly matched these two teams. The Pirates won only 1 more game, scored 8 more runs and allowed 12 fewer, though Chicago won the season series 11-8. Hard to deny that both teams, as well as fans everywhere, would be better served by an epic 5-game series.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Watch the Chicago Cubs vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates at 8pm ET Wednesday on TBS.