Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

clayton kershaw dodgersRookie catcher Kyle Schwarber recently commented that every game of late has a playoff feel to it. And frankly, nothing might represent more of a postseason-type atmosphere than the Cubs’ next two opponents.

The Cubs are slated to face Madison Bumgarner and Clayton Kershaw on back-to-back nights. Facing the reigning World Series MVP on a day game after a night game that also happens to be get-away day, followed by the reigning NL Cy Young and MVP one night later is no small order for the Cubs lineup.

However, it’s not as if the Cubs haven’t faced their fair share of aces this season.

In fact, the Cubs have faced 18 pitchers who rank in the top 30 of FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement. This list includes five of the game’s top 10 pitchers and nine of the top 15.

Here is the list with their fWAR rank in parentheses: Kershaw (1), Chris Sale (2), Corey Kluber (4), Max Scherzer (5), Zack Greinke (8), Gerritt Cole (12), Johnny Cueto (13), Jose Quintana (14), Jacob deGrom (15), Tyson Ross (17), Michael Wacha (19), Francisco Liriano (20), Cole Hamels (21), Matt Harvey (22), Shelby Miller (23), Lance Lynn (24), A.J. Burnett (27) and John Lackey (30).

The group features five hurlers who have started World Series games (Scherzer, Wacha, Hamels, Lynn and Lackey), four Cy Young winners (Kershaw, Kluber, Greinke and Scherzer) and 17 All-Stars (the only one not to make an All-Star team was Quintana).

And yet, surprisingly, the Cubs have persevered and succeeded against these pitchers more often than not this season.

As a team, the Cubs are 16-11 in games in which the opposing team has started one of the 30 best pitchers.

Not to say it has been pretty.  In fact, it has been far from it as the Cubs offense has scored 60 runs (53 earned runs) in their games against these top flight arms. That is an average of 2.07 runs per game. Obviously, runs are at a premium when these pitchers are on the mound and on top of their game.

Please see the chart below for more details.

One could cherry pick starts by Sale, Hamels or Kluber and point out their struggles against high-end arms. On the other hand, one could counter with the team’s successes against deGrom, Ross and Miller.

All in all, games like today and Friday provide the Cubs offense with a bit of a litmus test as they head down the stretch in preparation for a slew of challenging games moving forward.

Kershaw0 – 131 – 0
Sale2 – 010 – 2
Kluber0 – 011 – 0
Scherzer1 – 000 – 1
Greinke0 – 001 – 0
Cole1 – 131 – 1
Cueto0 – 040 – 1
Quintana0 – 262 – 0
deGrom0 – 282 – 0
Ross0 – 162 – 0
Wacha1 – 060 – 2
Liriano0 – 131 – 0
Hamels1 – 000 – 1
Harvey0 – 001 – 0
Miller0 – 282 – 0
Lynn0 – 272 – 0
Burnett1 – 010 – 1
Lackey2 – 030 – 2
TOTALS9 – 126016 – 11

[Ed. – An earlier version of this article indicated the Cubs’ record in these games was 17-12, but that was merely a miscounting. The record has been corrected … and it’s technically even better!]

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