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How Do The 2015 Cubs Stack Up Against Other Cubs Playoff Teams? Part 2

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Yesterday I started this comparison of all the Cubs postseason teams. Today I pick a winner.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Yesterday I started ranking each starter on the Cubs playoff teams from 1 to 6 (leaving out 2007 as it was a similar roster to 2008). The purpose for this totally scientific* method is to see which Cubs team was the best of all. After the first nine categories, the 2008 Cubs were holding a narrow lead over this year's model and the 1989 Boys of Zimmer. But as we go through the benches and the pitching staff, will those positions hold?

*May not actually be in the least bit scientific.

We start with the bench today and go through all the pitchers. No, I don't break down each reliever and compare Mark Guthrie to Tim Stoddard.

Bench

  1. 2003 Cubs
  2. 2015 Cubs
  3. 1984 Cubs
  4. 2008 Cubs
  5. 1998 Cubs
  6. 1989 Cubs

Kenny LoftonHee Seop Choi and Randall Simon put Dusty's boys first here. Kyle Schwarber counts as a bench player here and that helps put this year's team second, even if the bench beyond that isn't that great because modern teams need 12-13 pitchers. The smaller pitching staff allowed the 1984 team to carry strong bats off the bench like Richie Hebner, Thad Bosley and Jay Johnstone, which would put them higher than third, except they balanced that out with Tom Veryzer and Dave Owen, and Bill Buckner was terrible before the trade. The 1989 Cubs had Mitch Webster (OK), Lloyd McClendon (great DH), and a toxic waste dump. Maybe if Luis Salazar had played more than 26 games with the Cubs.

Running tally:

2015—37

2008—36

1984—32

1989—31

2003—30

1998—23

No. 1 Starting Pitcher

  1. Jake Arrieta 2015
  2. Mark Prior 2003
  3. Greg Maddux 1989
  4. Rick Sutcliffe 1984
  5. Kerry Wood 1998
  6. Ryan Dempster 2008

When Greg Maddux finishes third on your list ...  Arrieta is obviously having a season for the ages and I still shed a tear inside when I think of Mark Prior. He should have won the Cy Young in 2003. Maddux in 1989 was still just a promising young star and not Greg Freakin' Maddux so he only ranks third, and Sutcliffe's amazing 16-1 run just gets him fourth.

Running tally:

2015—43

2008—37

1989—35

1984—35

2003—35

1998—25

It's not surprising that Riggleman's boys are falling behind since this method really punishes a team that was carried by pretty much one guy.

No. 2 Starting Pitcher

  1. Kerry Wood 2003
  2. Rick Sutcliffe 1989
  3. Jon Lester 2015
  4. Dennis Eckersley 1984
  5. Ted Lilly 2008
  6. Mark Clark 1998

Wood is the clear number one choice here. Lester gets the nod over Eckersley mainly because he pitched the entire season in Chicago.

Running tally:

2015—47

2003—41

1989—40

2008—39

1984—38

1998—26

No. 3 Starting Pitcher

  1. Carlos Zambrano 2003
  2. Carlos Zambrano 2008
  3. Steve Trout 1984
  4. Mike Bielecki 1989
  5. Jason Hammel 2015
  6. Kevin Tapani 1998

The lesson here is that the Cubs are a very good team when the Big Z is the team's third-best pitcher and not their ace. Bielecki's very good 1989 season was a gift from the babip gods and he turned back into a pumpkin shortly thereafter. We didn't know this at the time. If you want to rank Hammel above Bielecki, be my guest.

Running tally:

2015—49

2003—47

2008—44

1989—43

1984—42

1998—27

No. 4/No. 5 Starting Pitcher

  1. Rich Harden/Jason Marquis 2008
  2. Scott Sanderson/Dick Ruthven 1984
  3. Scott Sanderson/Paul Kilgus 1989
  4. Kyle Hendricks/Dan Haren 2015
  5. Matt Clement/Shawn Estes 2003
  6. Steve Trachsel/Geremi Gonzalez 1998

I think we can agree that the 1998 Cubs had poor pitching, even for the hyper-elevated offensive environment of the late 90s. They were 11th in the league in team ERA that season. The big debate here is 1984 vs. 2008. Ruthven was poor, but Sanderson was pretty good over 140 innings. Harden was excellent, but he only made 12 starts and 71 innings. Marquis wasn't terrible. I give 2008 the edge, although I went back and forth on it.

Running tally:

2015—52

2008—50

2003—49

1984—47

1989—47

1998—28

Closer

  1. Lee Smith 1984
  2. Rod Beck 1998
  3. Hector Rondon 2015
  4. Kerry Wood 2008
  5. Joe Borowski 2003
  6. Mitch Williams 1989

This category is hard to judge because the role has changed so much since 1984. Smith threw 101 innings over 69 appearances. As I write this, Rondon has thrown 67⅓ innings in 69 appearances. Because Smith carried such a heavier load, he gets the number one ranking here. Beck had 51 saves, so he's second. If you want to flip Wood and Rondon or Borowski and Williams, I wouldn't argue with you.

Running tally:

2015--56

2008—53

1984—53

2003—51

1989—48

1998—33

Rest of bullpen

  1. 2008 Cubs
  2. 1984 Cubs
  3. 2015 Cubs
  4. 2003 Cubs
  5. 1998 Cubs
  6. 1989 Cubs

None of these teams had the kind of "it's over after six innings" kind of bullpen. The '08 Cubs had an effective Carlos Marmol as a set-up man, so I gave the nod to them. If you'd rather go with the steady but unspectacular 1984 team, I wouldn't complain. Kyle Farnsworth was a good setup man in '03, but the rest of the staff was mediocre. The 1989 bullpen was just poor all around.

FINAL TALLY:

2015—60

2008—59

1984—58

2003—55

1989—49

1998—35

Sweet Lou and Jim Frey made a late charge, but they couldn't hold off Joe Maddon. If we added a category for magicians and zoo animals, it wouldn't be close.

So there you have it. This year's Cubs team is the best team in the memory of all but the oldest of you out there. Even there, I don't think the 1945 team would fare too well here. Either the 1938 or especially the 1935 team would probably finish first. It would be interesting to see where the 1969 team would fall in this system.

Having said that, I don't really believe this. This method benefits deep teams with few weaknesses. This year's team only took one sixth-place vote, and that was for the pretty good Chris Coghlan. But there is no one on this year's team who towers over the competition like Sandberg and Sosa did. Even Jake Arrieta, who is having a fantastic season, isn't that much better than Prior, Maddux and even Sutcliffe over the course of the whole season.

If you want to just go by the Pythagorean standings, the 2008 team wins in a romp.

So while this system may not prove that the current Cubs team is the "best Cubs team in living memory," it does show that this year's team is every bit as good as those teams and maybe even better than a few of them. And if you ask me, it's a lot of fun. Just like this year's team.