Cubs Clinch 3rd NL Central Title in 5 Years After Cardinals Loss vs. Brewers

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2020

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Alec Mills is swarmed by teammates after throwing a no hitter at a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Milwaukee. The Cubs won 12-0. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

For the third time in the past five seasons and first time since 2017, the National League Central belongs to the Chicago Cubs as the St. Louis Cardinals fell to the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Cubs were already assured a spot in the postseason, but now, they are guaranteed the luxury of hosting a wild-card series at Wrigley Field. 

First-year manager David Ross has had to navigate a Cubs squad that has ridden a series of hot and cold streaks in 2020. They opened the year playing like perhaps the best team in Major League Baseball with a 13-3 record through 16 games. 

Since that hot start, though, the Cubs have played under .500 (20-22) and lost three of four games to the Pittsburgh Pirates leading into the final weekend of the regular season. 

Despite those difficult moments, the Cubs are set up well for a postseason series because of their starting pitching. Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, particularly, are a formidable duo capable of shutting down any lineup in the National League. 

Darvish ranks ahead of reigning two-time NL Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom for most FanGraphs wins above replacement among NL pitchers (3.0). He also ranks third in FIP (2.22) and second in ERA (2.01). 

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Hendricks isn't far behind Darvish with a 2.88 ERA and 3.53 FIP. The back of Chicago's bullpen also has the potential to dominate, with closer Jeremy Jeffress owning a 1.61 ERA, even though his 12 walks in 22.1 innings is more than you would like to see. 

Things have been puzzling on the offensive end due in part to injuries. Kris Bryant has only played 32 games due to thumb and oblique injuries. Javier Baez is having a shockingly bad year with the bat (.201/.238/.364). 

The Cubs are tied for 21st in runs scored and rank 25th with a .697 OPS. Players like Bryant, Baez, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have excellent track records. If they can find a rhythm in the playoffs to support Jason Heyward and Ian Happ, they can make a deep run in October.