The Dodgers squeaked past the Nats, using just about all their pitchers in the process. That’s pretty much been a theme for this team this year, as they used fifteen different starters and set a record for the most pitching changes in a season. Expect a lot of long games, especially if Pedro Baez makes multiple appearances. Corey Seager is the Dodgers best player not named Clayton Kershaw, and might even do the unthinkable and top him in WAR next year even if Kershaw stays healthy. However the guy I’m most worried about is Justin Turner. He’s their best right-handed hitter but strangely enough he has a huge reverse platoon split (.283 wOBA vs LHP, .385 vs RHP this year, .308/.361 in his career), apparently trying to make the rest of his teammates feel better about their collective awful numbers vs. lefties. Tommy La Stella was dropped for Rob Zastryzny for this series to make sure the Cubs can take advantage. It’s nice when the Cubs three more or less long men can exploit the other team’s platoon weakness.
- OBP: Corey Seager (.365)
- ISO: Joc Pederson/Yasmai Grandal (.249)
- HR: Grandal / Justin Turner (27)
- R+RBI: Seager (177)
- wRC+: Seager (137)
- BSR: Trayce Thompson (4.3)
- Defense: Seager (17.5)
- SP K/9: Clayton Kershaw (10.39)
- SP BB/9: Kershaw (0.66)
- SP FIP: Kershaw (1.80)
- RP K/9: Kenley Jansen (13.63)
- RP BB/9: Jansen (1.44)
- RP FIP: Jansen (1.44)
- WAR: Seager 7.5
- OBP: Dexter Fowler (.393)
- ISO: Kris Bryant (.262)
- HR: Bryant (39)
- R+RBI: Bryant (223)
- wRC+: Bryant (149)
- BSR: Bryant (6.8)
- Defense: Addison Russell (22.5)
- SP K/9: Jon Lester (8.75)
- SP BB/9: Kyle Hendricks (2.06)
- SP FIP: Hendricks (3.20)
- RP K/9: Aroldis Chapman (15.53)
- RP BB/9: Hector Rondon (1.41)
- RP FIP: Chapman (0.82)
- WAR: Bryant (8.4)
K%, BB%, ERA, FIP listed for each pitcher.
Lester was excellent in his NLDS start, and how he faces another squad that struggles against left-handed pitching. He faced the Dodgers twice this year with good to great results. Back in late August he shut them down for six innings, striking out six and allowing three hits and two walks. The Cubs offense couldn’t get going either, and Lester was pulled for a pinch hitter with two outs in the top of the seventh in a 0-0 game at 98 pitches. His other start was an absolute gem, a complete game with ten strikeouts, no walks, and just four hits. His only misstep was in the first PA of the game, a home run by Kiké Hernandez. Hernandez made the NLCS roster and is expected to start tonight.
Maeda was penciled in as the Dodgers fifth starter to start the year, and ended up as the only guy who made it through the entire year in the rotation. He had a y unremarkably solid season striking out about a batter per nine and limiting free passes. His best pitch by far is his slider (82mph), but he also has a decent fastball (90 mph) and change (82 mph). He was chased after just three innings in his first postseason start against the Nats, managing to get out of a single and two walks in the first without any damage and giving up two singles, a double, a homer, and a hit by pitch in the third. I could have sworn that the Cubs faced him this year, but it doesn’t show up in the game log. I think I must have written him up for a preview at some point just to see the rotation get reshuffled, I think for Urias.
Game 2: Clayton Kershaw?, LHP (31.6%, 2.0%, 1.69, 1.80) vs Kyle Hendricks, RHP (22.8%, 5.9%, 2.13, 3.20), 7:00 PM CT
As of the time I’m writing this, we have no idea who will start any of the rest of these games. This would be “normal” rest for Kershaw, except that he pitched 100+ pitches in his last start and short rest and appeared again on Thursday to close out the NLDS, though with just seven pitches. He’s coming off an injury that kept him out for a big chunk of the season and I don’t think he’s 100% yet, though 90% of Clayton Kershaw is still better than just about everyone in the league. I think he starts this game, but it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Dodgers to be cautious here. The Cubs didn’t face him this year, but last year he struck out 23 Cubs across two starts, though they did manage to get to him for three runs in one of those games. He lasted just five innings in his NLDS game one start, giving up three runs, but struck out eleven and pitched into the seventh in his short rest second start. He left the bases loaded when he exited and the pen let all those inherited runners score, making his line look pretty bad. Some people have been making excuses for this, but FFS, you have to take some penalty for leaving the bases loaded. Expect lots of narrative-driven hang wringing about Kershaw’s relative struggles in the playoffs.
Hendricks left his NLDS start early after taking a liner off his pitching forearm, but everything we’ve heard says that he’s okay. His line was a little underwhelming before his early exit, not recording any strikeouts and giving up a couple of doubles in the third, but he got a ton of outs on the ground. Obviously small sample sizes abound, and he’s the league ERA leader so I’m more worried about the injury (not that worried) than reading the tea leaves on that weird start, that also included a catchers interference call on Willson Contreras. He faced the Dodgers once this year, going eight innings and striking out six while allowing a solo shot to Trayce Thompson and a manufactured run in the sixth.
Hill started on short rest for game five five of the NLDS and faced just one more batter than the Dodgers closer, which sounds bad for a regular season baseball game (dying laughing). This would put him on normal rest, and would line him up for game seven unless the Dodgers want to push their pitchers even more this series. Rich Hill isn’t really a guy you want to do this with. I also don’t think that they push back Kershaw because it would mean throwing Hill just once in the series unless they push their injury risks again. Hill did not face the Cubs this year, but the fans are certainly familiar with him. I’m not sure if 2012 Jeff Samardzija or 2016 Rich Hill is the more baffling story in the history of Cubs pitchers who eventually turned it around. Hill’s curveball has been one of my favorite pitches in baseball for years, and he throws it a baffling 49.7% of the time.
We got Good Jake in his NLDS start, though not necessarily Great Jake. The Giants were hitting him but he walked just one batter, which seems like a good sign. He also did that whole home run off Madison Bumgarner thing. He faced the Dodgers back in May and shut them out for seven innings, allowing just two hits. He racked up eight strikeouts and walked four. Montero’s still on the roster despite reports of back problems, so he should be catching Jake again.
Lackey was meh in his NLDS start, but he has Teh Experience, so hopefully we’ll see better results here. He missed the Dodgers in both of the Cubs matchups with them this year.
20 year old Julio Urias had a rocky start to his season, and got shelled by the Cubs for six runs in five innings in his second start back in early June. Since then he’s put up some pretty good numbers, only getting notably blown out against the Orioles in July. However, the hallmark of his starts is fucktons of pitches early followed by an early exit – he pitched more than five innings just four times this year. The Dodgers have like 3-4 other guys who could start here, it’s possible that it could be Ross Stripling instead, or maybe rookie Brock Stewart who had a good start against the Cubs. No matter who starts it this is pretty much going to be a bullpen game.
I know a lot of people here would rather have had the Nats, but given what a mess the Dodgers pitching staff is these playoffs I don’t mind this matchup either. Then again, the Dodgers rotation has been a hot mess going back to spring training, and they managed to win 91 games anyway. I’m hoping the Cubs put this away quickly, but nothing is easy.