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How Do The 2015 Cubs Stack Up Against Other Cubs Playoff Teams? Part 1

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I ranked this year's Cubs against the greatest teams of the past. How did they do?

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I thought I'd have a little fun. Let's compare all of the Cubs playoff teams since the beginning of divisional play and see who comes out on top. To do this, I devised a proven, completely objective, scientific method for ranking teams across time. I took six of the seven Cubs teams that made the playoffs (I left out the 2007 team because it's too similar to the 2008 team) and ranked the players at each position against each other. So that means I took all six first basemen, for example, and ranked them from best to worst, and continued on through each starting position. Then I gave each team six points for each first place ranking, five points for each second place finish, and so on down to one point for a last place ranking. Then I added up the points and came up with the best Cubs team of the divisional play era.

I should have mentioned. By "proven, completely objective and scientific," I mean totally unproven, totally subjective and just slightly more accurate than a Ouija board. But I do think it's fun to go back through the years like this, and you can make up your own rankings and see if you come up with a different conclusion.

The article got a little long, so we're breaking it up into two parts. Today's post ends with a cliffhanger and you'll have to tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion. The hitters are up today. Tomorrow we finish with the pitchers.

Now, about my methodology. I went to baseball-reference.com and used the player listed at each position as the starter at that position. That means whoever played the most games at that position over the course of the season is listed and any other player gets pushed off to the bench. You might object and say "But Kenny Lofton/Gary Gaetti/Kyle Schwarber was actually the starter at that position when the playoff started" and you'd be right. But I'm looking at the team over the entire season and the games in April count as much in the standings as the games in September. So I'm just going with whomever Baseball Reference has listed.

For pitchers, I just subjectively listed a number 1, 2, 3 and 4/5 pitchers. We'll get to those tomorrow.

My ranking is purely my subjective opinion. I did look at stats extensively and used things like WAR and xFIP, but I didn't let them dictate my rankings. Especially when I took defense into account, since I don't really trust any defensive metrics more than 10 years old and even with newer stats, I'm quite skeptical. But when I do throw out the stats, I stopped and asked myself three times if I was sure.

Also, only playing time with the Cubs counts. Rick Sutcliffe gets no credit (or blame) for what he did in Cleveland before coming over to Chicago. But he does get dinged for having missed two months of starts for the Cubs.

With that said, let's determine the greatest Cubs playoff team of the last 40 years.

Catchers

  1. Geovany Soto 2008
  2. Miguel Montero 2015
  3. Jody Davis 1984
  4. Damian Miller 2003
  5. Damon Berryhill 1989
  6. Scott Servais 1998

Maybe the toughest category as no one really stands out and the defensive requirements of a catcher in the 1980s (stop the running game at all costs) is different from the more all-around skills needed to day. Soto gets the nod here on the basis of the best offensive season. Montero edges Davis with a slightly better season at the plate and better catching skills, although Davis gets a lot of points for durability. The other three catchers are pretty much best left forgotten.

Running tally:

2008—6

2015—5

1984—4

2003—3

1989—2

1998—1

First basemen

  1. Anthony Rizzo 2015
  2. Mark Grace 1989
  3. Mark Grace 1998
  4. Leon Durham 1984
  5. Derrek Lee 2008
  6. Eric Karros 2003

Lee had a down year in 2008 by his standards. If I had ranked the 2007 team instead, he probably would have been ranked second. Or maybe not. Looking at the beginning and end of Mark Grace's Cubs career, I forgot how good a player he was for such a long stretch. No, he never hit 20 home runs in a season and people carped on that as he was playing in baseball's strongest offensive period since the 1930s. But he hit 35-50 doubles and got on base at a .380-.410 clip, year in and year out. No, he wasn't a Hall of Famer, but he was closer than we might think.

Running tally:

2015—11

2008—8

1984—7

1989—7

1998—5

2003—4

Second basemen

  1. Ryne Sandberg 1984
  2. Ryne Sandberg 1989
  3. Mark DeRosa 2008
  4. Mark Grudzielanek 2003
  5. Addison Russell 2015
  6. Mickey Morandini 1998

No one compares to Sandberg. It seems like Russell should be higher, but we're not giving him credit for being 21 here and his defense is worth more at if he'd have played at shortstop all season long. (Of course, then he'd be in a different category.) I am giving Russell a lot of credit for his defense, which pushes him just past Morandini.

Running tally:

2015--13

1984—13

2008—12

1989—12

2003—7

1998—6

Third basemen

  1. Kris Bryant 2015
  2. Aramis Ramirez 2008
  3. Jose Hernandez 1998
  4. Ron Cey 1984
  5. Aramis Ramirez 2003
  6. Vance Law 1989

The rookie Bryant gets the edge over Aramis although it's very close. Again, if I'd have ranked 2007, the positions might have been flipped. Ramirez's 2003 season is only ranked so low because he only played 63 games with the Cubs that season. It would rank 3rd if I extrapolated it out to a full season. Hernandez actually played seven different positions in 1998. He gets some credit for that, especially as he moved from third base to shortstop to replace the ineffective Jeff Blauser when Gary Gaetti arrived. The other guys on the list are just in the parade of third basemen that the Cubs went through between Ron Santo and Ramirez.

Running tally:

2015—19

2008—17

1984—16

1989—13

1998—10

2003—9

Shortstops

  1. Shawon Dunston 1989
  2. Ryan Theriot 2008
  3. Starlin Castro 2015
  4. Alex Gonzalez 2003
  5. Jeff Blauser 1998
  6. Larry Bowa 1984

Dunston is the best of a motley crew and this has easily been the worst position for the Cubs playoff teams over the years. That Larry Bowa got over 400 plate appearances in 133 games over the 1984 season is a baseball felony. For all the credit that Dallas Green got for building the 1984 team out of nothing, he should be eviscerated for doing nothing to address the festering wound on the infield that was Bowa. He hit like a pitcher and played defense at shortstop like a pitcher. If his "fiery presence" was that important, they should have made him a coach. We'll never know if Bowa's presence cost the Cubs a trip to the World Series. He certainly didn't make it any easier. That Jeff Blauser ranks ahead of him should tell you something. Blauser was a ten-foot tall flaming pile of fertilizer. Bowa smelled even worse than that.

Running tally:

2015—23

2008—22

1989—19

1984—17

2003—12

1998—12

Left fielders

  1. Gary Matthews 1984
  2. Alfonso Soriano 2008
  3. Dwight Smith 1989
  4. Moises Alou 2003
  5. Henry Rodriguez 1998
  6. Chris Coghlan 2015

One thing that struck me about this list: have the Cubs ever had a good defensive left fielder? Other than Ryno, the Sarge was the true hero of the 1984 season and was probably more of a positive influence in the clubhouse than Bowa was. The streaky Soriano alternated between carrying the entire team on his back and responding to the mating call of the boo birds. Coghlan finishes last here, but even he had a good season. Left field is as strong a list as shortstop is weak, even if the defense from all of these guys left something to be desired.

Running tally:

2008—27

2015—24

1989—23

1984—23

2003—15

1998—14

The Dusty Baker and Jim Riggleman teams are starting to fall behind.

Center fielders

  1. Dexter Fowler 2015
  2. Jim Edmonds 2008
  3. Corey Patterson 2003
  4. Jerome Walton 1989
  5. Bob Dernier 1984
  6. Lance Johnson 1998

This is a category where we're not getting the whole story. If Kenny Lofton or Jim Edmonds had played the whole season in Chicago, either one of them would rank number one. Or even Corey Patterson, for that matter. For the first half of 2003, it sure looked like Patterson was going to live up to all the hype before blowing out his knee mid-season. Maybe the first half was just a fluke or maybe the injury derailed what would have been a great career. Dernier's performance looked better in 1984 before we learned more about what goes into winning ballgames.

Running tally:

2008—32

2015—30

1989—26

1984—25

2003—19

1998—15

Right fielders

  1. Sammy Sosa 1998
  2. Sammy Sosa 2003
  3. Andre Dawson 1989
  4. Keith Moreland 1984
  5. Jorge Soler 2015
  6. Kosuke Fukudome 2008

The easiest list of all. Chris Coghlan would have ranked higher if he had qualified here.

Running tally:

2008—33

2015—32

1989—30

1984—28

2003—24

1998—21

So that's where we wrap up day one of our trip through the Cubs playoff teams. Will Sweet Lou's teams hold off a charge from Maddon's Menagerie? Will the Boys of Zimmer ride their pitching staff to the pennant? Are Dusty's Boys too far back for their pitching staff to make up the difference? Tune in tomorrow for the thrilling conclusion.