It’s a rare season when the Cubs and White Sox reach the playoffs at the same time, and 2020 has been a rare season in more ways than one.
The list of dueling postseasons stands at three: 1906, 2008 and 2020.
Let’s check out some of the 2020 numbers that gave the 34-26 Cubs their National League Central title and the 35-25 White Sox their American League wild-card berth.
• The Sox’ Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson established themselves as AL Most Valuable Player candidates, with Abreu having the upper hand.
Anderson hit .322, second to the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu at .364, and tied the Indians’ Jose Ramirez for the league lead with 45 runs scored. Abreu was right behind at .317 and led the league with 60 RBI, 78 hits and a .617 slugging percentage.
Switching to advanced metrics weighing each offensive event, opposition and park effects, Abreu’s 167 OPS+ was second to LeMahieu’s 177, with 100 being an average hitter. Anderson’s 143 was 11th. And at Fangraphs.com, Abreu’s 2.7 WAR ranked third behind Ramirez (3.4) and the Angels’ Anthony Rendon (2.8). Anderson was seventh at 2.2.
• Despite his September struggles, the Sox’ Luis Robert (.233/.302/.738, 101 weighted runs created plus) remained an AL Rookie of the Year candidate. His 11 homers and strong defense helped push him to 1.5 fWAR, just behind the Mariners’ Kyle Lewis (1.7), tied with the Athletics’ Sean Roberts and just ahead of the Tigers’ Will Castro (1.4).
• The Cubs finally got the production they had bargained for when they signed Jason Heyward in 2016 and Yu Darvish in 2018.
Heyward’s .848 OPS and 130 wRC+ were personal second-bests, trailing his .849 and 134 for the Braves in 2010. His Cubs bests had been .772 and 101 in 2019. That wRC+ ranked 20th among NL position players, and Heyward’s 1.8 fWAR ranked 19th.
Darvish (8-3, 2.01 ERA, 93 strikeouts, 14 walks) is the NL pitching fWAR leader at 3.0, compared with 2.6 for the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and 2.5 for the Reds’ Trevor Bauer. The Chicago fWAR leader for all positions has a strong case for the NL Cy Young Award.
• Ian Happ, with 12 homers and an .866 OPS, was just ahead of Heyward with a 1.9 fWAR and 131 wRC+ to rank as the Cubs’ offensive leader. Anthony Rizzo (103), Kyle Schwarber (90) and Kris Bryant (76) had their lowest wRC+, except for Schwarber’s five plate appearances in 2016. Javy Baez’s 57 bettered only his 54 as a rookie in 2014.
Average to below-average production from that group led to the Cubs averaging only 4.42 runs per game. The major-league average was 4.65.
But the Cubs allowed 4.00 runs per game, the sixth-best in baseball.
• The Sox earned recognition as a high-powered offense, scoring 5.10 runs per game to rank fifth. But they were above-average in preventing runs, too, allowing 4.10 per game.
Once park effects and opposition are considered, the Cubs had the higher-ranking pitching staff, with 3.7 fWAR to the Sox’ 1.5. But Sox hitters led baseball at 13.3, with the Cubs 12th at 8.4.