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 Los Angeles Dodgers, are coming off a hard fought and ever-so-dramatic NLDS against the Washington Nationals. The Cubs have the likely 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 a game five victory. The second part of our positional preview will look at the position players for each team and how they stack up.
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Adrian Gonzalez is our butter and egg man, always coming through when we need him with the exact thing that we need. That makes Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs waffle and bacon man, satiating every offensive need the Cubs have and then some. Rizzo is an MVP candidate, a solid defender and a true power hitting left hander. He walks enough, doesn’t strike out much and seems like a generally decent human. He’s good at baseball. His career looks eerily similar to Adrian Gonzalez when he was younger. Neither is having a great postseason so far, but based on season performance alone, this goes the Cubs way.
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We all love our guy Chase Utley, but the Cubbies have a lot to offer here. Javier Baez, long considered a Cubs top prospect, has hit for more power each year he’s been in baseball, but he also strikes out a lot and doesn’t walk much. The kid plays hard though and he brings above average defense with big play capability and some solid power every time he steps up. If Maddon chooses, he can play Zobrist here as well (see left field). The combination of Utley, Howie Kendrick and Charlie Culberson leaves a lot to be desired, compared to the North Siders.
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Big Advantage: Dodgers
Addison Russell is among the crème of the crop of baseball’s great young shortstop group, a group stronger than the sport has ever seen simultaneously. He provides great defense, and above average offensive numbers at a premium position. He is really good and a tremendous value to this Cubs team. Corey Seager, the likely unanimous rookie of the year, will likely be found in the top-five in MVP voting. This is no slide to Russell, but Seager’s offensive potential strongly outweighs the defensive advantage that Russell has over Seager.
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Justin Turner has not only been a driving force for the Dodgers during the season, but he would have likely received the NLDS MVP if such a thing existed. Turner only has a .444 Batting Average and and a 1.324 OPS in his postseason career, which would put his numbers ahead of Daniel “Lil’ Babe Ruth” Murphy. But Kris Bryant, in addition to being about as pretty as any human ought to be, was unfairly gifted incredible baseball skills. From his freshman to his sophomore year, Bryant decreased his strike out rate by a rather amazing 8.6 percent. His offensive value was already tremendous, but striking out less took him from Rookie of the Year to likely MVP in consecutive seasons. He’s great, and he should turn out to be one of the players we all look forward to watching the next few years. Turner can field the position better, but Bryant can field a few and hits better overall.
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Howie Kendrick and Andrew Toles have both done a phenomenal job of filling in here, but the Cubs ability to put Ben Zobrist in left and Baez at second gives them a little bit of an advantage. Zobrist has always been extremely valuable, providing above average offense and good enough defense across multiple positions. Tolesy should get the bulk of the time with the Cubs having three right-handed starters, but Kendrick could be an x-factor. Overall, the Dodgers upside potential doesn’t outweigh the consistency of Zobrist.
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Joc Pederson and Dexter Fowler essentially accomplish the same results by traveling slightly different paths. Pederson hits for more power and Fowler gets on base more. They play nearly equal defense and they both have the potential to drastically change a game with one swing of the bat, but there isn’t anything that really sets one above the other.
Josh Reddick and Yasiel Puig feel like a good cop, bad cop sitcom from the late 80’s. Reddick, the fun loving, speedo wearing good cop and Puig, the snap-chatting, rifle-arming bad cop, together forming a mighty team in right that will ensure above average performance in all facets of their game. Jason Heyward looked like he was on his way to becoming a consistently elite outfielder in the National League, but he hit a bit of a wall in his first year with the Cubs. Though he has struggled with the bat, his defense remains among the best in the league in right. Depending on who gets the call on the mound for the Dodgers, the Cubs might elect to go with a platoon in right against the Dodgers left-handed starters as Heyward has struggled slightly worse against southpaws.
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Slight Advantage: Cubs
Both of these teams have built their rosters quite similarly: multi-positional players with a lot of upside. The only problem is the Cubs have amassed a little bit more of them. The Dodgers may swap some players out, but they have a solid foundation in Puig or Reddick, Toles or Kendrick and Andre Ethier. If they swap Charlie Culberson for Kiké Hernandez, they obtain a little more offensive upside. Carlos Ruiz has come up big every time he’s stepped to the plate, but depth is really where the Cubs bread is buttered. Joe Maddon has players who can play any infield position (Baez/La Stella), any outfield position (Coghlan/Almora Jr) to pair with his catchers and first baseman (Ross/Montero.) Their positional versatility gets them the win, but the Dodgers bench could be an underrated X-Factor in this series.
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Overall, I expect another heart-attack inducing, hard-fought series. If the Dodgers are going to win, they need to capitalize on every scoring opportunity they get, as opposed to squandering them as they did in the NLDS. If the Cubs are going to win, they just need to play their game. This Cubs team has more talent from the top to the bottom, but they also have a lot more at stake. I’m not one for jinxes and curses, but 108 years hasn’t just been a coincidence. If the Dodgers sneak a win or two early, the Cubs could get in their own heads and make this a long affair. Overall, the optimist in me says the Dodgers match up well and the coin finally flips our way. For more Dodgers news and Dodgers rumors this postseason check to Dodgers Nation.