We all know about 1908, but 1945 is another big year in Cubs history. That was the last time the Cubs went to the World Series. It was also the last time the Cubs won more games than the 97 they won in 2015. Tack on a win in the Wild Card Game over the 98-win Pirates and a 3-1 NLDS victory over the 100-win Cardinals and this was the best Cubs season since 1945.

Yes, despite being swept in the NLCS by the Mets, this was a wildly successful season for the now-rebuilt Cubs.

What went right in 2015: First and foremost, the hiring of Joe Maddon. He was a perfect fit and it showed almost immediately. 

On the team level, there was something about this group in late situations. They went 34-21 in one-run games, 13-5 in extra innings and had 13 walk-off victories. They were almost just as good on the road (48-33) as they were in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field (49-32).

Once things clicked, they went into overdrive. The Cubs were 45-18 after July 28, the best record in baseball from this admittedly arbitrary point.

On the individual level, far too much went right to list everything. We'll touch on the high points.

Anthony Rizzo played at an MVP level for much the season while Jake Arrieta might win the Cy Young (or finish with one of the best-ever runner-up seasons).

To varying extents, rookies Kris Bryant (the likely Rookie of the Year), Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler showed flashes of immense upside. Once moved off shortstop, Starlin Castro was outstanding (.353/.373/.588 in 143 plate appearances). Veterans Dexter Fowler, Chris Coghlan and Miguel Montero had productive seasons as well.

The pitching staff as a whole posted the third-best ERA in the NL behind St. Louis and Pittsburgh, thanks to Arrieta, a good-but-not-great season from Jon Lester, a great first half from Jason Hammel and some good outings from Kyle Hendricks. The Cubs also finished fourth in bullpen ERA behind closer Hector Rondon and setup man Pedro Strop. Justin Grimm deserves mention as well, but there were lots of moving pieces in the pitching staff.

What went wrong in 2015: Lester could have been better, especially to start the season, as could have Hammel in the second half. The bullpen inconsistencies cost them several games, and those several games could have cost them a pass to the NLDS.

Castro before the move from shortstop was a disaster, of course, and we could nitpick a few spots (Soler not having more home-run power, too many strikeouts on offense, etc.), but the team went from 73 wins to 97 while leaning significantly on rookies. Given that the preseason expectations by many outside the organization were mid-80s in wins, we shouldn't harp much on what went wrong.

And then, of course, there's the NLCS, where pretty much everything went the Mets' way and not the Cubs'. Please don't misconstrue that statement because it's not meant to take anything away from the Mets. They totally outplayed the Cubs in every facet when it mattered.

Cubs MVP: Arrieta, by a nose over Rizzo and Bryant. The lineup had lots of cushion down the stretch while the Cubs needed Arrieta to be almost perfect. And he was.

Jake Arrieta was Joe Maddon's horse this season.
Jake Arrieta was Joe Maddon's horse this season. (USATSI)

Cubs LVP: Starlin Castro, shortstop version.

Pending free agents: RP Trevor Cahill ($13-million club option, which won't be picked up), SP Dan Haren, RP Fernando Rodney, OF Dexter Fowler, OF Austin Jackson, RP Tommy Hunter, RP Jason Motte, SP Tsuyoshi Wada, OF Chris Denorfia

2016 payroll commitments: There's only $82 million in committed salary, but the Cubs have lots of youngsters. With arbitration and non-arbitration salaries, they are already looking at around $135 million. The Opening Day payroll this season was around $120 million, but they did add some throughout the year and there's a considerable boost in ticket revenue thanks to the team being better and making a relatively deep run in the playoffs. They can spend more. It's just a matter of how much more ownership is willing to spend.

Biggest offseason decision: Which free-agent starting pitcher to target. We know the rotation has Arrieta at the top with Lester in the two range. Hammel and Hendricks (however you want to order them) should be the four and five for a team with World Series aspirations.

The free-agent pitching class is loaded, too. Do the Cubs pony up ace money for the second straight winter? If so, David Price is an outstanding fit, given his affinity for Maddon and past comments about how winning it all in Wrigley would be a dream. He might cost too much, though.

Zack Greinke's also likely to be in the mix, should the Cubs wish to pay top dollar.

The next step down has Johnny Cueto (though a risky proposition right now) and Jordan Zimmermann. Maybe Scott Kazmir or a reunion with Jeff Samardzija?

Or they could go bargain shopping for someone like Brett Anderson, Doug Fister, Ian Kennedy, J.A. Happ, Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada or Mike Leake.

The Cubs also need to address the bullpen and center field, but would likely only spend big on another frontline pitcher to match their up-and-coming offense.

As for center, let me float the idea of Javier Baez. He's a great athlete and could learn the position with a full spring training. The Cubs already have Castro for second, Russell for short and Bryant is making third his home.

2016 will be better if ... They land a frontline pitcher (let's say Zimmermann, as he seems to be a popular prediction for the Cubs), the kids continue to progress and the bullpen adds consistency to the fray. If this all happens and the club again avoids major injury woes, watch out. Though in order to be better, they need to get to the World Series. Tall order for any team.

2016 will be worse if ... The Cubs have worse fortune when it comes to injuries -- they had some but were relatively unscathed compared to other contenders -- and one-run outcomes, and some of the youngsters hit a sophomore slump.

Ridiculously premature 2016 prediction: They'll again be in a three-team fight for the NL Central crown with the Cardinals and Pirates. This time the Cubs prevail. Also, brace yourselves: The Cubs will be the most popular preseason pick to win the 2016 World Series. Not only do they have the talent, but everyone is going to be falling over themselves to be the "one" to predict when it finally, actually happens.