The Dodgers and Cubs will meet in a rematch of last year’s NLCS. Unlike 2016, the Dodgers hold home-field advantage through the entirety of the playoffs, so the first two games will be played in Los Angeles on October 14th and 15th, with Games 3 through 5 moving to Wrigley on October 17th, 18th and 19th, and a return to Dodgers Stadium if necessary on the 21st and 22nd.
Let’s break down which team has the advantage at every position!
The likely Rookie of the Year is facing off against a perennial all-star and potential MVP, in a matchup that is almost the same as the NLDS. Again, this should be one of the best positional match ups on the diamond, and it’s really hard to pick who is truly better. Bellinger’s year went better than Rizzo’s. Both are equally competent baserunners, though Bellinger would likely win a footrace. And again, they’re both top-tier defenders, and they’re both capable of hitting a ball out with any swing.
Similar to Bellinger, Rizzo doesn’t have pronounced platoon splits. He’s equally as effective against lefties as he is righties, and he was 2nd in baseball to none other than Cody Bellinger in left-on-left dingers. He’s well known for his batting eye and ability to take a walk. He’ll prove tough for whichever pitcher is on the mound to face him.
This matchup is even closer than last series, and even though Rizzo does have Bellinger beat on track record, I think this is about as even of a matchup as could be expected.
Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe should again form a playoff platoon at second, with Utley taking the bulk of the time versus right-handers and Forsythe versus lefties. Though Forsythe did pull a start versus a right-hander in the NLDS, he may not get the opportunity again in the NLCS. Forsythe should be used as a defensive replacement in games started by Utley, and will help lengthen the bench.
Baez will likely pull the bulk of the time at 2nd, but Zobrist is included because he did log 500 innings at the position. Baez has huge swing and miss problems, and isn’t known for his ability to take a walk. He’s also had some very stupid haircuts this year. But overall, he’s capable of changing a game with one swing a lot more consistently than either Utley or Forsythe. While Baez is known as a top-tier defender, he often times can make mistakes at the expense of being flashy.
Overall, the Cubs depth at the position (we didn’t include Ian Happ) and power swings this their way.
Corey Seager had a solid sophomore campaign, before dealing with some injury issues at the end that dragged down his overall stat line. That didn’t stop him from having a pretty solid NLDS, as he went 3-11 with two singles and a triple, as well as 4 walks against 3 strikeouts.
Really, the only area Addison Russel has an advantage over Seager is on defense. While this is important, that doesn’t nearly swing the tables enough to get this out of “Big Advantage” territory for the Dodgers. That’s not to say Russel is a slouch. He does have some big game power, and he has hurt the Dodgers in the postseason before.
Big Advantage: Dodgers
Justin Turner is doing everything he can to become the Dodgers “Mr. October.” He tied the Dodgers single game postseason mark with 5 RBI in game 1, and he didn’t stop there. Turner went 6-13, with his only extra base hit being a dinger. He didn’t need to walk, cause he just kept hitting. Coupled with his usual top-tier defense, he was definitely one of the Dodgers’ MVPs from the first round.
Kris Bryant had a down year by some standards, but it was still elite. Though he slugged less HRs, he walked more, struck out less and generally still hit the ball hard. He’ll be a cog in this Cubs lineup for years to come, but he did struggle something fierce in the postseason. Bryant went 4 for 20, which some would say is nice, but he did strike out 50% of the time he stepped to the plate.
With Turner’s success coupled with Bryant’s struggles, this one swings slightly toward the good blue.
Slight Advantage: Dodgers
Granderson and Hernandez will likely continue to form their platoon, unless Roberts decides it’s time to swap out Ethier in lieu of Grandy. Granderson had his share of struggles with the Dodgers, and those don’t look like they’ve stopped in the postseason, as he went 1-8 and struck out 50% of the time he stepped to the plate. Hernandez, however, had a key hit for the Dodgers and he’ll continue to pull starts versus lefties.
Schwarber started the year in such a dreadful funk that it earned him a demotion to AAA. He tried to right the ship, and made some strong improvements when he returned but he still has some issues that can be exploited. He made a critical error in the postseason, and his ability to field in left is a massive question mark. Though him and Jay are a little redundant due to their left-handedness, they profile very different. Jay had a strong OBP this year and always plays competent defense.
This one likely swings ever-so-slighty into the Cubs corner.
Slight Advantage: Cubs
|Albert Almora Jr||.298||.338||.445||.782||1.0|
Every Dodger fan loves them some Chris Taylor by this point. His breakout year truly helped cement the Dodgers success. Though Taylor was only 3-13 in the NLDS, he did score 3 runs and was key to a few of the rallies the Dodgers mounted. He has speed, a great eye and has really formed into a solid lead-off option for the squad.
Almora pulled a lot of playing time in Center, but so did Jay, Ian Happ and Jason Heyward. For sake of simplicity, we’ll look exclusively at Almora here. With a health amount of playing time, Almore emerged as a quality CF option for the Cubs. He plays acceptable defense, can take a walk and has the ability to make solid contact.
He just didn’t have the year Chris Taylor did.
Easily the most fun player in this postseason, Yasiel Puig continued his resurgence by going 5-11 with 2 extra base hits. He’s debuted the bat lick, bat flipped singles, done the hot foot dance on called balls and just generally been a pleasure to watch. His success in the NLDS was directly related to the success of the Dodgers, and they’ll need his approach to continue if they’re going to move on.
Though Heyward did have somewhat of a rebound year, it was still pretty mediocre. He didn’t do much of anything in the first round either. Though he is one of the few who can defensively hang out with Yasiel Puig, he’s not Puig. His arm isn’t as respected, and neither is his glove. He’s also not as fun to watch.
Big Advantage: Dodgers
The Cubs bench will consist of players like Ian Happ, Ben Zobrist, Alex Avila, Tommy La Stella and Leonys Martin. It’s a much deeper group than the Dodgers saw in the NLDS, as it contains some names you’ve actually heard before.
The Dodgers will again run out a thick bench, consisting of whichever platoon player isn’t in the lineup, Yasmani Grandal or Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer, and Andre Ethier. There will still be some quality bats in the lineup, even when platoon players are swapped out and that can prove to be a challenge that Maddon will have to navigate.
Though the Cubs bench is better than the DBacks, this one still favors the Dodgers.
Overall, this series should be a fun rematch of last year. The Dodgers are deeper, more talented and have home field advantage. They were baseball’s best team at home and I’d expect that trend to continue.
Personally, I think the Dodgers will win both home games, struggle a little in Wrigley but still pull it out in Game 5 to finish the series.
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