It's the third NLCS in a row for the Cubs, and a rematch of last year's showdown. It's hard to believe that the Dodgers won more games than last year's Cubs team, despite that 1 for 21 stretch or whatever it was earlier this year. This team is pretty fucking good. The Cubs find themselves in pretty much the same situation as the Dodgers last year, namely, using almost their entire pitching staff to finish off the Nationals. The Cubs changed up the roster to get a bunch of lefties in the pen last year to try to counteract the Dodgers struggles against LHP, but this year they seem to have closed that gap. Clayton Kershaw is obviously their best player but once again the guy I'm most worried about is Justin Turner.
Breaking news just as I finished writing this – Corey Seager is not on the Dodgers NLCS roster due to a back problem that he tweaked in the NLDS clincher. Holy shit. This is a huge break for the Cubs.
- OBP: Kris Bryant (.409)
- ISO: Ian Happ (.261)
- HR: Anthony Rizzo (32)
- R+RBI: Rizzo (208)
- wRC+: Bryant (146)
- BSR: Bryant (4.8)
- Defense: Willson Contreras (12.8)
- SP K/9: Jose Quntana (10.46)
- SP BB/9: Quintana (2.24)
- SP FIP: Quintana (3.25)
- RP K/9: Carl Edwards Jr (12.75)
- RP BB/9: Brian Duensing (2.60)
- RP FIP: Pedro Strop (3.31)
- WAR: Bryant (6.7)
- OBP: Justin Turner (.415)
- ISO: Cody Bellinger (.315)
- HR: Bellinger (39)
- R+RBI: Bellinger (194)
- wRC+: Turner (151)
- BSR: Chris Taylor (6.7)
- Defense: Corey Seager/Yasmani Grandal (12.6)
- SP K/9: Yu Darvish (11.05)
- SP BB/9: Clayton Kershaw (1.54)
- SP FIP: Kershaw (3.07)
- RP K/9: Kenley Jansen (14.36)
- RP BB/9: Jansen (0.92)
- RP FIP: Jansen (1.31)
- WAR: Seager (5.7)
Injury News, transactions, blood pacts, etc.
He's not on the injury report, but they'll probably still take it easy with Jake following his hamstring injury a few weeks ago. They're tough ones to bounce back from completely.
Justin Wilson was dropped from the roster and replaced by Hector Rondon.
The Dodgers are missing Adrian Gonzalez, who was shut down for the season with a back injury. The Dodgers probably aren't all that upset about it, as he would have been Wally Pipped by Bellinger if he weren't the team's clubhouse leader. The Cubs probably aren't complaining either, as he had a few big hits in last year's series from what I remember.
Corey Seager is somewhat banged up, with a tweaked back suffered in their NLDS clincher and lingering ankle and elbow injuries from late in the season. He's been held out of practice but it didn't sound like he'll miss the game. It looks like those reports are wrong, as he's not only missing game 1 but the entire series. Wow.
Charlie Culbertson was added to the roster for infield depth in Seager's absence. Joc Pederson also made the cut in place of human rain delay Pedro Baez.
Lefty reliver Luis Avlian, who posted a 2.93 ERA/2.96 FIP on the season, has missed the past few weeks with a sore shoulder. He threw a simulated game on Wednesday and says he's able to go, but it's not clear if he'll be added to the roster. (edit: he wasn't).
K%, BB%, ERA, FIP listed for each pitcher
Game 1: Jose Quintana, LHP (28.3%, 6.1%, 3.74, 3.25) vs Clayton Kershaw, LHP (29.8%, 4.4%, 2.31, 3.07), 7:00 PM CT
Quintana is pitching on one day's rest, though he only threw twelve pitches in said game plus I think a bullpen session earlier in the day. I'm guessing the Cubs might have John Lackey ready to go to piggyback in this one, though I'm not too worried about Quintana. He pitched 5.2 great innings in game three against the Nats, striking out seven and allowing one unearned run on the double error by Schwarber that ended up chasing him from the game. Quintana was crusing at the time, and if Schwarber makes that play he probably would have gone another inning. Probably not much longer though as he was at 96 pitches.
Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, but still needs to shake the whole playoff struggles narrative. Dave Roberts has said they might not lean on him as hard, as the Dodgers bullpen is a little more reliable this year which may help out with those numbers, though when you think best pitcher in baseball/ace you might expect a guy to make a lot more 7-8 inning starts. But I digress Kershaw is good. He was staked to a huge lead in game one of the NLDS and ended up going 6.1 innings, striking out seven and walking three and allowing four solo home runs. Three of them came in his last five batters, so maybe he ran out of gas. He missed a lot of time earlier in the season so perhaps his endurance isn't quite what it usually is, hence the Roberts comments above. In last year's NLCS game 2, he shut down the Cubs for seven innings on short-ish rest (he made a 7-pitch relief appearance ala Quintana in the NLDS), striking out six with two hits and a walk in an eventual 1-0 Dodgers win thanks to a just-enough HR by Gonzalez. He finally ran out of steam in the deciding game 6, giving up four runs on seven hits, including solo home runs by Willson and Rizzo. The rest was history.
Game 2: Jon Lester, LHP (23.6%, 7.9%, 4.33, 4.10) vs Rich Hill, LHP (30.1%, 8.9%, 3.32, 3.72), 6:30 PM CT
Lester is pitching on three days rest following a 3.2 inning, 55 pitch relief appearance in game 4 of the NLDS. He looked pretty great in that one, striking out three and allowing just one hit and a walk. He got tagged for a run because the two-out single he allowed before being pulled in the eighth ended up scoring in the Edwards-Davis grand slam meltdown. His game two start seemed more in line with the shaky outings we saw in the second half of the season. He allowed just one run on a first inning HR by Rendon, but only recorded two strikeouts in six innings and somehow worked around a huge jam in the fifth. Still, if anyone on this team is going to step things up in the playoffs Jon Lester would be my pick. He went 2-0 in last year's NLCS, allowing just two runs in 13 innings.
Rich Hill and his 5000 curveballs had the Cubs completely baffled in last year's playoffs. His stuff is really fun to watch when it's not against the Cubs (dying laughing). I'm kind of surprised the Cubs only faced him one in that series, and for only six innings at that. He shut down the Cubs for six innings, striking out six though it fely like sixty. He hasn't been quite as dominant this year, but it still a pretty good pticher who matches up well with this team. Hopefully Javy gets some 'rest' in this game. Hill had a rough time with the Dbacks in his NLDS start, allowing a two run homer to Goldy and racking up 78 pitches in four innings thanks to three walks, four strikeouts, three hits, and a lot of full counts. Roberts pinch hit for him with the bases clogged in the middle of a Dodgers rally and Maeda ended up with the win.
Game 3: Yu Darvish, RHP (30.2%, 6.4%, 3.44, 3.38) vs Kyle Hendricks, RHP (21.6%, 7.0%, 3.03, 3.88), Tuesday, 8:00 PM CT
The Cubs haven't announced Hendricks as the starter here, but given how they deployed him in the NLDS the odds are high he gets this start. He's been great since returning from his hand injury, and is hitting his 2016 velocity numbers again. He was nails in his game 1 NLDS start, shutting out the Nats for seven innings with seven strikeouts, three walks, two hits, and tons of weak contact. He was much shakier in game five, though he did manage to strike out seven in his four innings. Oh, and he also outpitched Clayton Kershaw in last year's NL-clinching game last year with seven shutout innings.
Picking up Darvish is one of the main reasons why the Dodgers don't have to lean on Kershaw quite so hard. He got knocked around in last year's postseason, but he had a pretty good outing agaisnt the Dbacks in game three of their NLDS. He struck out seven in five innings and allowed just one run, on a solo shot by Daniel Descalso. Roberts had a quick hook when he pulled him after hitting the first batter in the sixth, probably due to someone pointing out to him that giving up a homer to Descalso should be an instant DFA situation.
Game 4: Alex Wood, LHP (24.6%, 6.2%, 2.72, 3.32) vs Jake Arrieta, RHP (23.1%, 7.8%, 3.53, 4.16), Wednesday, 8:00 PM CT
By ERA, Arrieta had a vintage Arrieta-like second half, posting a 2.28 ERA. The peripherals, however, were less great, as it came with a 4.11 FIP and rate stats that weren't too different from the first half, aside from a .246 BABIP despite a drop in his soft contact numbers. Something tells me that Joe and the front office are a little glad that they have this hamstring thing to hem and haw about. That said, much like last year of the four Cubs starters it still feels like Arrieta is the most likely guy to have a truly dominant performance, though that gap is a lot smaller this year than last due to Quintana. He didn't have great control in his NLDS start (no comment on umpires…), walking five in four innings but escaping with just one unearned run. I don't think even vintage Jake beats that Strasburg outing though.
Alex Wood's emergence is another reason why they don't need to pitch Kershaw into the ground again this offseason. He faded in the second half, posting a 3.89 ERA and saw his strikeout rate drop from 31% to 18%, but he's still pretty good. The Dodgers didn't need him to start in the NLDS, but he did face the Cubs twice this year early in the season. He had a five walk, 3.2 inning outing in April, though he managed to escape with just two runs allowed. He shut out the Cubs for five innings with eight strikeouts at the end of May, IIRC that was part of that brutal west coast road trip.
Series prediction: How can we say anything but dodgers_in_5? Seriously though the Dodgers are the better team, but as always anything can happen in the playoffs. The biggest surprise of 2016 was that the best team won it all.