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 when it comes to pitchers and catchers!
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. While the teams likely won’t run 5-man rotations, the Cubs haven’t announced much of their rotations so it’ll be important to take a look.
*stats include time with Dodgers, only.
Again, the Cubs boast a degree of quality in their rotation, but it isn’t close to what the Dodgers have.
Game 1: Kershaw vs Qunitana – Advantage: Dodgers
Quintana was a trade deadline acquisition for the Cubs, and he never truly pitched like they hoped. Truth be told, he had a down year across the board. He pitched his lowest innings total in 5 years, and allowed a career high in HRs and walks, but he also had a career high in K/9.
Kershaw had a great start to game 1 before running out of gas and giving up a lot of dingers. Sound familiar? The challenge here will be for Dave Roberts, as he’s the one that will have to tell Kershaw when he’s done and stand behind it.
Overall, this match favors LA and its not particularly close.
Game 2: Hill vs Lester/Lackey – Advantage: Dodgers
The Cubs haven’t announced a Game 2 starter, so this is purely speculation. Lester threw 55 pitches in relief on Wednesday, and he’d be throwing on short rest in this start. While Lester had a down year, he’s always been known as a big game pitcher and he gave the Dodgers a few hellacious starts in last year’s NLCS. The widely-known mouth-breather extraordinaire John Lackey is the likely fall back plan, and the Cubs would ideally hope he could get them through 3 or 4 innings before turning it over to the bullpen. Either way, this looks like a trap game for the Cubs.
Rich Hill rebounded from injuries to put up a pretty solid year. His performance in the NLDS left a little to be desired, as he battled command issues. He’ll get the ball again in Dodger Stadium, where he has had success.
This one again swings the Dodgers way.
Game 3: Darvish vs Hendricks – Advantage: Push
Hendricks likely takes the ball on Tuesday in Wrigley, as he’d be throwing on regular rest. He also gave the Dodgers a tough customer in last year’s NLCS, and though he struggled in his second start against Washington, he’s still the type of pitcher the Dodgers could struggle with. As command is his speciality, the Dodgers strategy of grinding out at-bats may play right into Hendricks hand.
Darvish fired a gem in his lone NLDS start, as he was quoted as saying he didn’t want to let Arizona breathe in game 3. Dave Roberts had a righteous quick hook, as it was pretty apparent that Darvish had lost the feel for his command.
If Hendricks comes out throwing well, this could be a battle. If not, the Dodgers likely take this one.
Game 4: Wood vs Arrieta – Slight Advantage: Dodgers
Jake Arrieta pitched relatively poorly in his lone NLDS start, as he struggled with his command. He’d have extra rest if he threw this day, and its safe to say the Wrigley Field crowd would be pumped. He tends to have mixed results in these atmospheres, and if his command is off again, the Dodgers will feast.
Wood hasn’t thrown a pitch in 20 something days, when could be good considering his late season drop in velocity. The hope here is that he’s found a way to start sharp without competing, because a little rust could really be a bad thing in Wrigley Field.
Overall, Wood is more talented but rusty. This advantage is a slight one in the Dodgers favor.
Rotation Overall – Advantage: Dodgers
Bullpen – Advantage: Dodgers
The Dodgers bullpen strikes out a hefty 27.7% of the batters they face, while the Cubs strike out about 26.3%. The Dodgers bullpen walks 8.0% of the batters they face while Chicago walks a hefty 11.2%. The Cubs induce more ground balls (45.2% to 41.1%), while the Dodgers generate more fly balls (37.3% to 35.7%). The numbers line up relatively similarly with the D-Backs. The big negative for the Cubs has been their bullpen in this postseason, as reliable arm Carl Edwards Jr has lost his feel for the strike zone and Justin Wilson has lost the faith of his manager. With Wade Davis coming off an extended outing in Game 5, he may not be available until Game 2.
The Dodgers bullpen has a new weapon in Kenta Maeda, along with the always reliable Tony Cingrani. Brandon Morrow, though he gave up his first HR of the year to the D-Backs, has been steady as well. The Dodgers could also swap out Pedro Baez with Luis Avilan, as he’s supposed to be recovered from his injury. Then there is Kenley Jansen, who feasted on the Cubs in last year’s NLCS. And the beauty is all the pitchers are well rest and ready to gas.
Overall, this one favors the Dodgers and its not particularly close.
Catchers – Advantage: Push
Contreras dealt with an injury this year, which was the whole reason the Cubs acquired Avila in the Justin Wilson trade. But he can still charge the ball and put up a really solid offensive year. His catching, however, left a little to be desired, as he was among the league’s worst in framing. He does have a strong arm and can help neutralize the running game. Avila is a solid backup but will likely be more of a pinch hit option.
Austin Barnes snatched the lions share of the playing time, as he even pulled time against a righty in the NLDS. He hasn’t disappointed either, as he’s he went 4-9 with a walk, a double and a dinger against Arizona. He really has lengthened the lineup. Though Grandal struggled in his lone appearance, he will likely pull some more time or be employed as a pinch hitter in a power situation.
Though the Dodgers come out on top defensively, and even though Barnes is charging the ball thus far, Wilson Contreras is a solid catcher. This one moves into push territory solely on the back of what Austin Barnes has brought thus far.
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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