Wednesday’s National League wild-card game features the teams with the second- and third-best records in the major leagues, both of which reside in the National League Central Division.
Arrieta’s impressive numbers for this season, particularly his unprecedented second half, have been well publicized in stating his case for the NL Cy Young Award.
In particular, Arrieta had success against the Pirates, going 3-1 with an 0.75 ERA in five starts against them this season. Elias Sports Bureau research notes that’s tied for the lowest ERA a pitcher has had in the regular season against a team he’d go on to face that postseason.
In 36 innings against Pittsburgh this season, Arrieta struck out 33 hitters and walked just five. He allowed 18 hits; 15 singles and three doubles, good for a slugging percentage of .176.
Arrieta was able to do this by limiting the amount of hard-hit contact he allowed. During the regular season, the Pirates had a hard-hit average of .145, which ranked third in the NL (major league average is .135).
Arrieta limited the Pirates to a hard-hit average of .059, and did not allow a single hard-hit ball in two of the games against them. The .059 average is the Pirates' third-lowest against any starter that faced them multiple times this season.
If there was one area that could be classified as a weakness for Arrieta against the Pirates, it would be inside pitches.
Arrieta threw about one-quarter of his pitches on the inner third this season, and Pirates hitters were 7-for-26 (.269) in at-bats ending with a pitch in that location. They hit .118 against pitches in all other locations against Arrieta.
In 9 career starts against the Cubs, Cole is 7-1 with a 2.88 ERA. He is undefeated in three starts against them at PNC Park.
In 2015, Cole was 2-1 with a 2.13 ERA in four starts against the Cubs, striking out 32 and walking four. He allowed 20 hits in 25 1/3 innings, with a Tommy La Stella double as the only extra-base hit he allowed.
Cole utilized his fastball against the Cubs, throwing it 71 percent of the time, his highest percentage against any NL opponent this season.
The Cubs hit .264 in at-bats ending with fastballs this season, worst in the National League and third-worst in the majors. They swung and missed 21 percent of the time against fastballs, trailing only the Astros this season.
Against Cole, the Cubs hit .238 against fastballs, swinging and missing 22 percent of the time.
Cole was also successful when getting the Cubs to chase pitches out of the zone. The Cubs had just one hit in 22 at-bats against pitches out of the strike zone from Cole, including 0-for-13 against fastballs.
If there was one area that could be classified as a weakness for Cole against the Cubs, it would be Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs first baseman is hitting .353 (6-for-17) lifetime against Cole, including .400 (4-for-10) this season. Rizzo was also one of the best fastball hitters on the Cubs this year, hitting .325 against the pitch with 17 of his 31 home runs.