We're No.1 (or maybe No. 2)!

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This is very exciting news, though the results are far from official.
As I’ve mentioned in this spot previously, I’m participating in Tom Tango’s Forecasters Challenge, which has 22 forecasters and projection systems playing out 1,000 runs of the season using teams of preranked players. I gave a rundown of what my teams looked like back in June.
I had just about given up on seeing an in-season update of how things were progressing, but Tom had the following to say Wednesday:

If the season were to end today, it would be a 2-man race between Rotoworld and John Eric Hanson. Together, they have 542 wins out of 1000 drafts! The other 20 combine to win less than these two. What a thrashing!

Many of the big names are taking part, so it’d be quite a thrill to come in first or even second. Looking at his draft run, I think Mr. Hanson may well have the edge, as the key players he’s relying on seem to be healthy and producing. It’s remarkable just how similar his rankings were to mine in some cases. We battled on many of the same players over the course of the 1,000 drafts.
Player – My team – Hanson – Total
Carlos Silva – 667 – 333 – 1,000
Brad Penny – 435 – 565 – 1,000
Brandon McCarthy – 311 – 689 – 1,000
Glen Perkins – 341 – 659 – 1,000
Pedro Martinez – 108 – 892 – 1,000
Tom Glavine – 16 – 984 – 1,000
Hank Blalock – 9 – 991 – 1,000
Brian Bannister – 1 – 999 – 1,000
Justin Upton – 630 – 368 – 998
Ian Snell – 513 – 465 – 978
Rick Ankiel – 387 – 582 – 969
Anibal Sanchez – 372 – 594 – 966
J.A. Happ – 263 – 700 – 963
Billy Butler – 210 – 711 – 921
Coco Crisp – 648 – 219 – 867
Tom Gorzelanny – 131 – 730 – 861
Robinson Cano – 50 – 766 – 816
Adam Jones – 522 – 234 – 756
Jorge De La Rosa – 76 – 658 – 734
Todd Helton – 430 – 225 – 655
Nick Markakis – 498 – 110 – 608
Alexei Ramirez – 84 – 462 – 546
B.J. Upton – 301 – 229 – 530
Carl Crawford – 346 – 96 – 442
With 22 teams drafting 25 players apiece, there’s no way we could have gone head to head like that so often strictly as a coincidence. All of those similarities are likely arising because Mr. Hanson borrowed from my playing time projections to complement his performance projections. Computers are a lot better at projecting OPS than at-bats, so those systems tend to use a mix of non-computer projections to account for playing time. That’s perfectly fine with me, if that’s all it is. Finishing first and having a hand in No. 2’s success would be pretty sweet.

The Cubs clinch World Series berth with NLCS Game 6 win

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  The Chicago Cubs celebrate defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-0 in game six of the National League Championship Series to advance to the World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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After 71 years, the Cubs are headed back to the Fall Classic.

The dominance with which Clayton Kershaw attacked the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS was nonexistent in Game 6 as the Dodgers’ ace loaded the bases to start the first inning and scattered five extra bases and five runs over five frames. By the time Dave Roberts pulled his starter in the sixth inning, Kershaw was sitting on a Game Score of 33, the lowest he’s mustered since the start of the 2015 season. Only one of his strikes came via curveball, and whether he was having difficulty locating his off-speed stuff or felt more confident with the fastball-slider combo, it was the fewest curves he’d seen land for strikes all year (per David Adler).

Where the Dodgers were able to give Kershaw the edge in Game 2, they found themselves powerless against opposing hurler Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks turned out 7 1/3 scoreless frames with two hits and six strikeouts, preserving the Cubs’ second shutout of the postseason and the first since they bested the Giants in Game 1 of the NLDS. After his 1-0 loss to the Dodgers early in the NLCS, seeing the MLB ERA leader turn out a gem was a relief for the Cubs, especially one as spectacular as an 88-pitch two-hitter.

With Hendricks effectively stymieing the Dodgers’ best attempts to get on base, the Cubs played to their strengths at the plate. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist cleared the bases in the first inning for a two-run lead, followed by a Dexter Fowler RBI single in the second. Willson Contreras came through in the fourth inning for the Cubs, lifting an 87 m.p.h. slider to left field for his first home run of October, while Anthony Rizzo hit his second homer of the postseason on a 1-1 fastball in the fifth.

Neither bullpen allowed a single run from the sixth inning onward. Dodgers’ right-hander Kenley Jansen took the ball from Kershaw in the sixth, scattering four strikeouts over three innings and denying the Cubs so much as a single baserunner through the end of the game. Aroldis Chapman, meanwhile, issued just one walk in 1 1/3 scoreless frames, inducing a Yasiel Puig double play to clinch the Cubs’ 17th franchise pennant.

With the win, the Cubs will face off against the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday at 8 PM EDT. And, in case you needed a reminder:

Video: Willson Contreras blasts first postseason home run off of Kershaw

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 22:  Willson Contreras #40 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game six of the National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field on October 22, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Getty Images

So much for Clayton Kershaw posing a threat tonight. The Cubs got their knocks in early and often against the Dodgers’ ace during Game 6 of the NLCS, racking up three runs in the first three innings before rookie catcher Willson Contreras unleashed his first postseason home run in the bottom of the fourth inning.

According to MLB.com’s Phil Rogers, Contreras became the 10th Cub to homer in the 2016 playoffs, following big hits by Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Miguel Montero, David Ross, Jake Arrieta, Kris Bryant, Travis Wood, and Javier Baez. Of the ten home run hitters, Contreras joins catchers David Ross and Miguel Montero as yet another backstop capable of driving the long ball (and, less importantly, as another player capable of a sweet, sweet bat flip).

Rizzo, whose last homer was a deep drive to right field off of Los Angeles right-hander Pedro Baez in Game 4 of the NLCS, piled on Kershaw’s five-run outing with another home run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Kershaw called it a night after five frames, and the Cubs currently lead the Dodgers 5-0 in the sixth inning.