What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
The Chicago Cubs came into the 2013 with expecations as low as any team in recent memory. A 101-loss season will do that to you. But it didn't take long for the Cub faithful to return to their hopeful ways when they saw what they had on the field in 2013.
What the Cubs managed to do in 2013 was absolutely improbably. They made the jump from 100-loss team to potential playoff contender, to World Series champion in barely over one calendar year. It starts with the young talent they boast in the field.
Starlin Castro led the league in hits again and finished second in MVP voting. Anthony Rizzo took home a Silver Slugger and established himself as one of the league's better offensive first basemen, finishing with a .974 OPS and 33 home runs in his first full season. Brett Jackson was called up at the end of April and made a positive impact, adding a steady .273 average to some terrific defense. The platoon of Nate Schierholtz and Scott Hairston came through offensively, combining for a .270 average and 30 home runs. The biggest surprise of all was Darwin Barney. He hit .280 for the year and knocked in 50 runs, while reaching a career high with 10 home runs. He took home his second consecutive Gold Glove award at second base.
As for Alfonso Soriano, the team shipped him to Texas as part of a package for Mike Olt. Somehow, that package didn't need to include Matt Garza. Olt was decent, hitting .250 with the Cubs after he was acquired in June.
Where the Cubs really excelled, though, was in the pitching staff. Jeff Samardzija was a Cy Young candidate, and could have won it, had it not been for a slow April. he finished with a 3.03 ERA and 199 punchouts in 189 innings. Matt Garza returned after missing all of April with that side injury and combined with Edwin Jackson to form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the league. Travis Wood and Scott Feldman were servicable at the back end of the rotation.
The Cubs managed to finish just two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the division title, but ran away with the wild card game, defeating the San Francisco Giants 9-1. That set up a meeting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. The Cubs had some difficulty with the massive payroll from Hollywood, needing a brilliant performance from Garza in Game 7 to steal a 2-1 win. They had a much easier time with the Washington Nationals, who faded completely and went down in five games.
In the World Series, Jeff Samardzija was absolutely lights out, surrendering just two runs in 17 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. Despite an impressive series from Anthony Rizzo, who hit three home runs and batted .412, it was Shark who took home the MVP award, as the Cubs defeated the Jays in seven games to take home their first title in over a century.