For the Cubs, 2015 was a year where inexperienced bats hit like seasoned veterans and lifted the team to its first postseason berth in seven seasons.

For the Cardinals, it was business as usual, as the team shrugged off injuries and cruised to October for the 12th time in 16 years, finishing with the best record in baseball.

Chicago Cubs (97-65, wild card)

The Cubs front office really saw 2015 as a year to begin calling up their wealth of offensive talent, and begin grooming them for the 2016 season under new manager Joe Maddon. But their offense was ahead of that schedule, slugging them into contention right of the gate. 

The man at the center of it all was third basemen Kris Bryant. In his first full month in May, he won Rookie of the Month. Bryant was named to the All-Star team along with slugging first basemen Anthony Rizzo.

Perhaps the Cubs’ Most Valuable Player this season was ace pitcher Jake Arrieta, who had a breakout 22-game win season. His streak of 16 consecutive quality starts in the second half gave the Cubs a man they could expect to keep them in every single game down the stretch. Along with Arrieta, the Cubs received quality starting pitching all season from Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel. In the bullpen, Chicago was able to depend on Justin Grimm and Hector Rondon to hold down the back end.

Offensively in the second half, the Cubs received great offensive contributions from rookies Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell, and second-year player Jorge Soler. After July, the Cubs went on a 42-18 run that saw them clinch the second wild card – no other team was within striking distance at the end of September.

On the back of Arrieta’s complete game shutout in the wild card playoff, the Cubs defeated the Pirates 4-0 to advance to the NLDS. Could it be the year the Cubs finally break their 107-year championship drought and erase all memories of the Billy goat, the black cat and Steve Bartman, and prove Theo Epstein is the ultimate breaker of baseball curses?

A month from now, many may be left wishing they listened to Back to the Future Part II: “I wish I could go back to the beginning of the season, put some money on the Cubbies.”

St. Louis Cardinals (100-62, NL Central champions)

It’s gotten to a point since 2000 that the Cardinals are almost a given to be in the postseason every year. It seems no matter who they trot out there at every position, they produce. And in a year where the Cardinals battled injury after injury, they needed everybody to step up big time.

In the first month of the season, the Cardinals received their first big blow when they lost ace Adam Wainwright from their rotation for the rest of the year due to an Achilles tendon rupture. But the Cardinals being the Cardinals, pitchers John Lackey, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia all stepped up – and the rotation didn’t miss a beat all year long.

Offensively, St.Louis lost players such as Matt Adams and Matt Holiday for extended periods of time. St. Louis’ response? Next man up. Mark Reynolds and Randal Grichuk didn’t squander their opportunities to play in Holiday and Adams’ absences, as they came through as big contributors in the Cardinals lineup.

Newly acquired outfielder Jason Heyward, and regulars Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Jhonny Peralta, all had big presences in the team’s lineup as they finished better than .500 in every single full month of the regular season, and went on to capture their third straight division title.

The Cardinals are a team that knows how to win and have gotten to at least the NLCS each of the past four postseasons, making them one of the most dangerous teams to play this October.

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