After an exciting NLDS, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs will face off for the National League pennant in a seven-game series. The Dodgers haven’t won the pennant since 1988, while the Cubs haven’t won the National League crown since World War II ended.
But baseball’s lovable losers come into this series with the National League’s best record and a strong showing in the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. Their opponents, our Dodgers, are coming off a hard fought and ever-so-dramatic NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
The Cubs have the likely National League MVP, extra rest, home-field advantage and the best top-to-bottom team in baseball. The Dodgers have the likely Rookie of the year, the best pitcher in baseball and a world of momentum after that game five victory. The first part of our position players will look at the pitchers and catchers and how they stack up.
Let’s take a look at the starting pitching. Below, I’ll list the likely starters for each team and then compare each individual match up.
The Cubs starters led MLB in earned run average during the season and with good reason. They are a talented bunch and they will come into the series well-rested. The Dodgers still have the best pitcher on the planet and a quality No. 2 in Hill.
Game 1: Maeda vs. Lester
Nasty left-handed pitcher facing the offensive epitome of ineptitude against lefties can only go one way, right? That’s probably how this one will go. A lot will rely on Maeda keeping the Dodgers in the game so they might be able to scratch runs across late. If the Cubs get after him and the Dodgers don’t capitalize on the few opportunities they’ll be afforded, this game will be over quick.
Game 2: Kershaw vs. Hendricks
Kyle Hendricks is easily among the most underrated pitchers in all of baseball. He’ll likely get some well-deserved Cy Young votes, but he’s still no Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw would be on normal rest, even with his appearance in relief in game five, because he didn’t throw his scheduled bullpen that day. His low pitch-count, coupled with his warm-up, essentially served as his bullpen, so this will give him an opportunity to go after a Cubs line up that he has fared relatively well against.
Game 3: Hill vs. Arrieta
Rich Hill has been strong for the Dodgers this postseason though his line may not support that, with most of the damage against him being done by a missed call on a third strike in an at-bat that resulted in a home run by Jose Lobaton. Jake Arrieta has really struggled in the second-half, but remains a quality option. His stuff will definitely play up in the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium.
Game 4: Urias vs. Lackey
Slight Advantage: Cubs
Julio Urias has done nothing but impress this year, as he again pitched well in an elimination game. John Lackey was once a playoff hero and could very well be again, but his experience has to play in here. The Dodgers could counter with a combination of Urias and Ross Stripling to get through six innings before turning it over to the bullpen, but the experience level of Lackey has to outweigh the youth and promise of Urias.
Slight Advantage: Cubs
Slight Advantage: Cubs
While the Dodgers’ bullpen was statistically the best bullpen in baseball in 2016, the Cubs bullpen will be able to better match their opponent. The Cubs have three quality lefties, with two capable of throwing multiple innings. If they get into trouble, they can pass the ball to Travis Wood or Mike Montgomery, both of which are easily capable of throwing two or three innings. This doesn’t even take into account their quality right-handers in Carl Edwards Jr, Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop. The Dodgers still have a powerful unit that they are considering adding to, but the Cubs ability to match up against the Dodgers strong weakness pushes towards the Cubs favor.
One is from Cuba and throws 105 and one is from Curacao and throws the nastiest cutter since Mariano Rivera. They were nearly teammates last offseason and they’ll be competing free agents in the coming offseason. Kenley Jansen has a 104/11 strikeout to walk ratio and Aroldis Chapman strikes out 45 percent of the batters he faces. If either team gets down late, there won’t be much chance of recovery.
Slight Advantage: Dodgers
|Willson Contreras||.282||.357||.488||.845||3.3 RAA|
|Miguel Montero||.229||.338||.357||.684||16.1 RAA|
|David Ross||.216||.327||.446||.784||8.7 RAA|
|Yasmani Grandal||.228||.339||.477||.816||24.1 RAA|
|Carlos Ruiz||.278||.350||.333||.683||-8.8 RAA|
The Cubs have a solid catching core, led by impressive rookie Willson Contreras. He’ll likely get a few starts, with David Ross catching Lester and Miguel Montero stealing a start with one of the other pitchers. Contreras is the clear offensive standout, but David Ross is quite strong at controlling the running game and coming up with the big hit. The former Dodger is retiring at the end of the year, so you can bet he’s looking for some final year heroics.
Grandal has struggled something fierce in the playoffs, but remains a power threat who could catch fire in a big way at any time. He continues to provide solid framing behind the plate but his performance in the playoffs has to improve. Ruiz, the Hero of Los Angeles, has done everything he was acquired to do and may even pull a start versus a lefty in the series.
Overall, the match up is pretty even. The Dodgers and Cubs are both talented and possess a ton of depth in regards to pitching and catching. The difference could be Kershaw’s ability and comfort to go on short rest and how he and Kenley react to their usage in game five of the NLDS. The Cubs starters come in well rested, though Hendricks did leave his last start after taking a line drive off of his forearm.