WhatIfSports NLDS Cubs vs. Cardinals prediction: Chicago pulls off the upset

BY foxsports • October 9, 2015

The stakes have finally been raised in one of baseball's biggest rivalries. Surprisingly enough, the Cubs and Cardinals have never once met in the postseason. That changes now. 

The Cardinals will start the series at home with John Lackey taking the mound. Lackey went 13-10 with a 2.77 ERA on the season.

After Jake Arrieta pitched a gem in the Wild Card win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jon Lester will kick things off for the Cubs. Lester finished the season 11-12 with a 3.34 ERA.

In Game 2, the Cubs will trot out Kyle Hendricks (8-7, 3.95 ERA) to take on Jaime Garcia (10-6, 2.43 ERA). Arrieta (22-6, 1.77) is expected to go in Game 3 against Michael Wacha (17-7, 3.38). Game 4 should feature Jason Hammel (10-7, 3.74) against Lance Lynn (12-11, 3.03). 

The Cubs and Cardinals met 19 times during the regular season, with the Cardinals winning 11 of those games. The margin of victory, however, was pretty close. The Cardinals scored 84 runs, the Cubs scored 79. 

Both offenses were productive this year, albeit in different ways. The Cubs relied mainly on the long ball, finishing 6th in the ML in home runs. The Cardinals were 27th in homers, but had a higher OPS than the Cubs.

Leading the way for Chicago offensively will be the powerful duo of Anthony Rizzo (.278, 31 HR) and Kris Bryant (.275, 26 HR). The Cardinals are led by Matt Carpenter (.272, 28 HR) and Jhonny Peralta (.275, 17 HR). 

Some young, unsung heroes may end up shifting the series, however. Randal Grichuk (.877 OPS) and Stephen Piscotty (.853) were brilliant down the stretch for the Cardinals. Kyle Schwarber (.842 OPS) could make a big impact for the Cubs as well.  

More likely than not, though, pitching should decide this series. The Cardinals boast the deeper staff, but Arrieta has been near-perfect for the last two months. 

Ultimately, this should be a close series throughout. But who will emerge victorious? WhatIfSports.com's MLB simulation engine played the series 501 times to predict which team will advance:

Cubs vs. Cardinals: 501 Simulations of Best-of-5 Series
Matchup Win % 3 Games % 4 Games % 5 Games %
Cubs 60.9 13.0 24.0 24.0
Cardinals 39.1 5.8 14.0 19.4
Simulate Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The Cubs moved on in 60.9 percent of simulations. Their most common route to victory was evenly split between a four-game win and a five-game win (24.0 percent each). In simulations in which the Cardinals won the series, they most commonly needed a full five games to advance (occurring in 19.4 percent of simulations).

Arrieta continued to be the top performer in the Cubs’ rotation. In 501 games that he pitched, 297 produced wins, 82 resulted in a loss and 122 were no-decision. His 59.3 win percentage was the best among pitchers for either team.

The Cardinals’ best performances came from Garcia. He posted a 2.96 ERA and earned a win in 231 of his 501 starts (46.1 percent). 

For more MLB playoff predictions, view our Rangers vs. Blue JaysAstros vs. Royals or Mets vs. Dodgers simulations.

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