In the division series, I went 2/4 in my picks with the Cubs and Yankees proving me wrong. Usually I’ll continue picking against teams that prove me wrong, because it’s not like their talent level/ability to win games really changes within the first two weeks of the playoffs. They get hot, get lucky, or face teams that they’re actually better then.
This year’s Cubs are not one of those teams. The Nationals were my NL Pennant winners heading into the postseason. I thought they had the least holes, the best pitching and the most consistency. Turns out the D.C. sports slump got them again. Chicago got through the best team. That means they find an easier task in the next series.
NLCS: Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Corey Seager injury, which broke right before I put this up, really dashed the hope I had for Los Angeles in this series. Removing him from the lineup not only takes away one of the scariest hitters the Dodgers have, but increases playing time for dudes like Chase Utley and Charlie Culbertson… Yikes, that’s not who you want batting in a crucial situation late in Game 4.
My guess on how the Dodgers replace Seager: Kike Hernandez plays shortstop, and a rotating cast of Andre Either, Kyle Farmer and Curtis Granderson secure the open outfield spot. Once again: Those are not names you want batting in a big spot in the NLCS.
Obviously, it’s a huge loss. And against a Cubs rotation whose effort in the DS was overshadowed by the faulty bullpen, hits are gonna be hard to come by.
The Cubs can rely on their starters. Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana are all trustworthy; I think the Michael A. Taylor home run given up by Hendricks was mostly the sports gods just messing with Nationals fans. John Lackey should not be counted out as a slightly above average starter, and Jon Lester, who’s really good at getting into bad situations, can usually get out of them. The Cubs have the Dodgers’ forthcoming choke to hinge their odds on, so even the worst situations can be a little less brutal to get through.
Chicago’s bullpen though, isn’t exactly one that got unlucky in the DS. There’s real issues. Justin Wilson has been left off the roster after a rough division series. Carl Edwards’ Jr. is really good at giving up home runs in big spots. You have to wonder if Hector Rondon’s late September/competent-stretch carries over through his injury. I still can’t believe Brian Duensing is on a Pennant roster. Yeah, it’s not great.
For the Dodgers, it’s the age old question: Can the rotation not fall apart?
LA’s rotation doesn’t have the benefits Chicago’s does. The Dodgers are throwing to guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber (There’s many more names I could list). Aside from Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, which Dodgers are you really scared of at the plate? Chris Taylor? Please. The Seager loss is huge on both ends, but really gives the Cubs rotation an easy out.
With the Cubs, there’s no easy outs. They’re clutch, and the Dodgers’ pitchers haven’t been that in previous postseasons. LA has to get regular season production out of guys like Alex Wood and Rich Hill. Yu Darvish’s start is a game the Cubs will probably lose, depending on who’s on the mound for Chicago.
The Kershaw postseason lack-of-success is totally inexplicable and can’t not be mentioned. For now, we have to project as if he won’t pitch well. There’s too much data that leans that way. I understand that LA won the poor outing he had against Arizona, but the Cubs pitching staff won’t give up runs like the Diamondbacks’. The pitching is much, much more important this time.
It’s weird how matchups can sway your opinions. I’m not sure the Cubs deserve to go to the World Series; they were borderline mediocre in the regular season and I still think Washington would be best equipped to beat Houston. But we’re here, and a pick must be made. This series is essentially picking your poison. For this series, I want what I can trust.
Prediction: Cubs in 6