Cubs’ Potential Lineup in Wild Card Game

15-_DSC2491-toresizeToday, Cubs manager Joe Maddon spoke to the media in advance of Wednesday’s Wild Card game between the Cubs and Pirates, but would not reveal who he plans to start in the game. We all know Jake Arrieta will be taking the hill for the Cubs, but that’s about it. From there, there’s a lot of different options.

Here’s how I project the lineup to look Wednesday night:

  1. Fowler, CF
  2. Schwarber, RF
  3. Bryant, LF
  4. Rizzo, 1B
  5. Castro, 2B
  6. La Stella, 3B
  7. Montero, C
  8. Arrieta, P
  9. Russell, SS

With Gerrit Cole being named the starting pitcher for the Pirates, Maddon will likely want an extra left-handed bat in the lineup to counter Pittsburgh’s top righty. That’s where Tommy La Stella comes into play. La Stella has been one of the Cubs’ hottest hitters in recent weeks, and he does it from the left side. In a one game playoff like this, you’re going to want your best hitters in the game. That may mean leaving someone like Coghlan, Soler, or Baez out of the starting lineup, but in a situation like this, it is imperative to put your hottest bats in the lineup.

Another factor to take into account here when looking at that projected lineup is defense. This isn’t the Cubs’ best defensive lineup, but it’s not bad. With the outfield at PNC Park being one of the largest in baseball, Maddon will likely elect to play Kris Bryant in left field instead of Schwarber. Why? Because Bryant is more athletic and can cover more ground than Schwarber. Left field holds a lot more ground to cover at PNC than right field. If it were all about defense, Schwarber probably wouldn’t even be in the lineup, but his bat can become crucial in a game like this.

Speaking of which, the lineup that I have projected above is a pretty powerful one, minus La Stella. Basically every player in the order has serious potential to hit the ball out of the park at any time. This is the main reason why I believe Schwarber will be in the starting lineup. Against a pitcher like Gerrit Cole, who rarely makes mistakes with his pitches, you need a lineup going against him that is full of players who can capitalize on Cole’s mistake(s). Players like Schwarber, Bryant, Rizzo, Castro, Montero, and even Russell can do that.

In these one game playoffs, there’s usually one player that leaves a huge impact on the game outside of the starting pitchers. My pick for that player in Wednesday night’s game is Addison Russell. You may be asking why not a guy like Rizzo or Bryant? While those two can certainly play an enormous role in a game like this, I really like what I’ve been seeing from Russell lately. His defense has always been elite and could be pivotal Wednesday night, but his bat has come alive here over the last couple of weeks. With him likely to be hitting out of the number nine spot in the lineup, his ability to get on base and drive in runs from the bottom of the order could be big.

So there you have it. We’ll wait and see how Maddon elects to construct his starting lineup, but it’s a good bet it will be something similar to what I have listed above.

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The Problem With MLB’s Current Playoff Format

635651689308727878-GTY-470483912-72482586Now that the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season has come and gone, we can shift our focus to the playoffs, which begin Tuesday night in New York when the Yankees host the Astros for the AL Wild Card game. While this is always one of the best times of the year in sports, there is a glaring problem with the current MLB playoff format; one that hasn’t been quite as noticeable as it is now.

This year the Cardinals finished with the best record in baseball at 100-62. The Pirates came in at second with a record of 98-64, and the Cubs third at 97-65. All three teams come from the National League Central Division. Because the Pirates and Cubs finished with the second and third best records in the National League, they are this year’s two NL Wild Card teams, and they’ll square off in their one-game playoff on Wednesday night. The winner of that game will face the Cardinals in the NLDS.

Here’s the problem.

Of the three best teams in baseball this year (St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago), only one will make it to the NLCS, and one won’t even make it past the Wild Card game. If either Pittsburgh or Chicago happen to eliminate St. Louis in the NLDS, they won’t have home field advantage against the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers-New York Mets series. Why? Because they will be the Wild Card team.

Essentially, finishing as the second and third best teams in all of baseball this year will yield the Pirates and Cubs zero advantages in the postseason. Despite both of their records being better than those of the Dodgers and Mets, both Pittsburgh and/or Chicago will have to begin the NLCS on the road, if either team makes it that far. And if either team happens to win the NLCS, guess what? They won’t have home field advantage in the World Series either thanks to the ridiculous All Star Game rule (winning team/league gets home field for the World Series).

So here’s my proposal to Major League Baseball:

Do it like the NBA is now doing it. The team with the best regular season record gets home field advantage in each series. Period. Plain and simple. This would mean eliminating the All Star Game shenanigans that no one seems to like anyways. As it is right now, a team like Pittsburgh or Chicago gets no reward for their incredible season other than a berth into an instant elimination game.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this as a problem, and hopefully the MLB will catch on soon as well.

Pirates one win from NLCS

hi-res-182619146-jason-grilli-and-russell-martin-of-the-pittsburgh_crop_exactWith today’s win over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pirates moved to within one win from advancing to the National League Championship Series for the first time since 1992. And how fitting that they decided to wait 21 years until possibly making their return trip to the LCS. Any Pirate or Roberto Clemente fan understands what I mean.

After collapsing during the second half of the season each of the last 2 years, the Pirates finally finished this regular season strong and clinched a birth into the National League Wild Card Game. There, they defeated the Cincinnati Reds in front of a sold out, electric crowd to advance to the NLDS against the Cardinals.

In Game 1 against St. Louis, A.J. Burnett had a tough outing and the Pirates lost 9-1. It looked like it may be a rough ending to Pittsburgh’s season. However, the Bucs came back in Game 2 and won 7-1, sending the series back to Pittsburgh dead-locked at 1 apiece.

In today’s Game 3 in front of the largest crowd ever at PNC Park, the Pirates won by a final score of 5-3 in what was a very close, nerve-racking game for any fan of either team. Game 4 will be played tomorrow afternoon, and with a win, the Pirates will advance to the NLCS.

Once the Pirates clinched a postseason birth, I have been pulling for them since. This is a team that had the fourth lowest payroll in baseball heading into the 2013 season, and they are full of scrappy, hard working players that just want to win. They aren’t the Yankees who buy their way to success every year, and they aren’t a team full of hot-headed players who only care about themselves. The Pirates are the definition of what a baseball team should be.

Marlon Byrd, who was acquired after the trade deadline by the Pirates, has turned out to be a huge acquisition for Pittsburgh. Since the All Star break, Byrd hit .318 with a .357 OBP and a .486 SLG percentage. Today, Byrd was 2-3 with 2 RBI, 1 walk, and 1 run scored.

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 10_51_05 AMRussell Martin, acquired last off season by the Pirates, could arguably be this team’s MVP up to this point in the playoffs. It was Martin who had the 2 home runs in the Wild Card game against Cincinnati, and it was Martin again who had 2 key RBI’s in today’s 5-3 victory.

A.J. Burnett will likely be tomorrow’s starter for the Pirates, and hopefully he’ll have a nice bounce-back game after his Game 1 meltdown. I would like nothing more than for the Pirates to clinch the NLDS in front of their home fans tomorrow. Pittsburgh fans are some of the most knowledgeable fans in baseball, and finally they have something to cheer about.

Top 10 MLB Jerseys

10. Minnesota Twins

I like the pin stripes on their home jerseys, and the navy blue and red go together very well on both tops.

9. Milwaukee Brewers

The colors are what make these jerseys as good as they are. The font that is used on the front of their jerseys is nothing unique, but it looks good.

8. Baltimore Orioles

A lot of teams have tried to pull off the orange and black look in sports (professional and collegiate), but the O’s own that look.

7. Cincinnati Reds

The thing with the Reds is that their logo has never really changed, and I like it a lot. I also like red and black together even though those are two prominent jersey colors throughout sports.

6. Detroit Tigers

The Tigers’ “D” logo is one of, if not the best, in baseball. It is a true classic logo. Their home jerseys have that old time, classic look to them that I love. The away jerseys aren’t bad either.

5. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are one of the oldest teams in baseball to wear pin stripes. It is a very original, neat, classic look. Their alternate blue jerseys are great as well. The logo on the alternates is one of the better secondary logos in baseball.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I really like the font that they used on their jerseys. The colors are very attention-grabbing. The collars on their jerseys are different than just about every other team in baseball in that they have a trim color.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

I love yellow and black together. The Pirates have been using those colors ever since day one, and for good reason. Their white home jerseys definitely have a throwback look to them, while their black ones also have a throwback look as well but with a modern logo.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

This is my favorite logo in the MLB. It hasn’t changed since they started using it decades and decades ago. Their color scheme is great as well.

1. New York Yankees

This is possibly the most recognizable logo in sports. Their home whites with the navy blue pin stripes are as classic that a jersey can get. Many players consider it the biggest honor in baseball to put on that jersey.

Pirates Make Surprising Move

As I was watching SportsCenter last night, it was announced that the Pittsburgh Pirates had resigned their all-star center fielder, Andrew McCutchen, to a 6-year deal worth $51.5 million. I couldn’t believe it.

Last year, McCutchen hit .259, with 23 home runs and 89 RBI’s. While those may not seem like great statistics, McCutchen’s potential is extremely high. He is only going to get better moving forward.

For the first time in a long time (I really couldn’t tell you how long), the Pirates have resigned one of their best players. Not only did they just resign him, they were able to sign him to a long-term deal worth over $50 million dollars. This has become somewhat of an unheard of move when talking about the Pirates over the last 15 years. The Pirates have acted as a type of “farm system” in recent years in which they would develop highly talented players, bring them to the big leagues (where they would succeed), and then be unable to resign them. This would result in the Pirates either trading these guys, or losing them during free agency. Some good examples of this in the past few years have been Jason Bay (traded to Boston), Nate McLouth (traded to Atlanta), and Nyjer Morgan (traded to Washington). They just haven’t been able to hang on to their best players for more than a couple of years at a time.

Signing Andrew McCutchen to a multi-year deal is a good sign for the Pirates. This is a team that has not had a winning record in 19 straight seasons, and they, plus their fans, are desperate for success. I’d say that keeping Andrew McCutchen on the roster is a decent start.