Chicago Cubs – The Chicago Cubs have had one of the best seasons in club history. They are the only team to reach 100 wins on the season. They haven’t won 100 games since the 1935 season. It’s been an unusual sight to see the Cubs performing so well this season. After being the clichéd club for not winning a World Series title in over 100 years, they look poised to change that this year. As hard as this is to believe, it’s hard to see anyone beating them in the National League. Their pitching has been dominant all season long, as they have the best ERA in the National League. Look for them to comfortably reach the NLCS this year, and don’t be surprised if they break the most cliched championship streak in professional sports.
Washington Nationals – The team that owns the second best ERA in the National League looks to be the Cubs biggest obstacle to the World Series. They have a matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round. An important note for this series is that the Nationals clinched home field advantage. The Dodgers have 53 home wins, second in the NL only to the Cubs. However, they won less than half of their road games this year, compared to the Nationals who won a majority of both home and road games this season. Look for the explosive middle of the lineup featuring Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Drew to give the pitching staff enough cushion to propel them into an NLCS matchup with the Cubs.
Los Angeles Dodgers – The final of the division winners for the National League, the Dodgers once again are in the playoffs. The pitching staff is going to have to carry this club if they wish to make a long playoff run, as they were middle-of-the-road in terms of offense this season. They also are entering the playoffs on a bit of a cold streak, dropping their final two series to a pair of division rivals, the Padres and the Giants. Staff ace Clayton Kershaw is going to have to break his history of struggling in the playoffs and shut down the Nationals lineup for the Dodgers to make it out of the first round.
New York Mets – The Mets ended up on top of a 3-way race for the two National League wild card spots, and await their matchup with either the San Francisco Giants or the St. Louis Cardinals. The Mets are another team that relied heavily on their pitching throughout the season, as they were in the bottom half of the NL in terms of runs scored. They have Noah Syndergaard slotted to start in the wild card game. He has had a quality season, with a 14-9 record and a 2.60 ERA. However, it’s hard to see the Mets moving past the divisional round if they win the wild card game, as runs will be especially hard to come by as they face the Cubs pitching staff.
San Francisco Giants – If you follow the trend of the 2010s, the Giants are poised to win the World Series. They have won each of the even years since 2010, so why should this year be any different? With the final wild card spot in the NL on the line, they have stepped up and played well against the Dodgers to try and stay ahead of the Cardinals. Additionally, their pitching staff has kept pace with the other pennant contenders in the National League. However, they are another team that has had a solid pitching staff with an unreliable offense, which seems to either explode or disappear unpredictably. The Giants are another wild card team that I can’t see getting past the Cubs pitching if they win the wild card came.
Saint Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals season has been a different story from the other two wild card contenders. Their offense, relying a lot on the long ball, has been more consistent than in years past. Different from recent years, though, they have struggled in the pitching department. Their usually reliable starters have faced injuries and inconsistency throughout the season. They entered the last game of the season needing a victory and a Giants loss to make the playoffs. Down the stretch, they have had some relievers pitch a lot of innings early on while the starters struggled with inconsistency, and I expect the pitching problems to prevent them from making it far in the postseason this year.
Note: At press time, the San Francisco Giants and Saint Louis Cardinals were still contending for the final National League Wild Card spot.