One axiom in baseball is that, come October, quality pitching and defense, and not necessarily a powerful offense, win championships. But it seems that, every year, we find exceptions to this oft-quoted aphorism. The one that immediately leaps to mind is the number of home runs we saw in the National League Division Series between the Central champion Cardinals and second Wild Card Cubs. Even discounting the postseason-record six Chicago hit in their victory in Game 3, both teams hit more than expected.
During the 2015 season, the Cardinals hit an unimpressive 137 home runs, good enough for 11th in the National League. Their pitching staff was far more stingy, only surrendering 123–2nd in the Senior Circuit. The Cubs, meanwhile, bashed 171 (5th) and allowed 134 (3rd). Averaging all those numbers together, it would be far from unreasonable to be surprised by more than two home runs total per game.
All told, the Cardinals hit eight homers through the four-game series, with Stephen Piscotty contributing three. The Cubs added ten of their own, with Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Jorge Soler knocking out two apiece. Eighteen HRs over four games–4.5 per game! Twelve of those came at Wrigley Field, which has acquired a reputation for becoming a hitters’ ballpark once the calendar changes to October, in Games 3 and 4. The Cubbies were able to better take advantage, hitting nine of their ten in those two games.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, their much-heralded pitching staff fell apart when it was needed most. During the regular season, the Cardinals were 38-0 when scoring 6+ runs. They lost the only game in which they managed that feat this series, losing 8-6 in Game 3. Perhaps even more disconcerting is the fact that they went 68-15 on the season when scoring 4+, but only 1-2 in the NLDS. Taking it one step further, just for the heck of it, when scoring 3+ runs in a game this season, they were a staggering 89-27 (the Cubs, by comparison, were 81-29 when scoring at least 3), but a mere 1-3 in the series.