Who’s taking the senior circuit? Is it the best team in the baseball or will the Giants keep up their even year tradition? Maybe the Dodgers or Nationals will exercise their past demons and finally win the pennant. As you can see some of the usual suspects are here, minus the Cardinals. Every team here has excellent starting pitching, besides the Cubs, the offenses are very inconsistent so expect some low-scoring games in most of these games. Whoever is in the NLCS will most-likely make it because of wise manager decisions, great execution and a few lucky bounces and breaks here and there.
Dodgers vs Nationals
Hey at least one of these teams will make it out of the first round! Even though the Dodgers have done just that in 2013, 2009 and 2008 but sure, I guess it’s a funny joke. Man I’m not sure what to make of this series, the narrative is that these teams don’t have “what it takes” or aren’t clutch but every year is different and in a year where a Cleveland team won a championship and a year after the Royals won it all crazier things have happened. Both if these teams are or have been banged up this season, with the Dodgers using the disabled list a record 28 (!!!) times and the Nationals frequently placing Strasburg and Ross on the DL, recently losing All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos and having a banged-up Murphy and Harper in their lineup. Both teams are still loaded with talent and 2016 might be the year one of them puts it altogether.
For starting pitching it’s hard to ignore the teams two aces in Kershaw and Scherzer but which team provides the most depth? The Dodgers will go with Kershaw, Hill and Maeda, while the Nationals will have a rotation of Scherzer, Roark and Gonzalez. It sucks that the Nationals won’t have Strasburg starting in this series but Gio Gonzalez actually pitches very well against the Dodgers, only surrendering one home run and the Dodgers only managing a .179/.258/.268 slash-line against him, yeah the Dodgers can’t hit lefties. If Strasburg was pitching instead I would probably say the Nationals have the better rotation but he’s not so I give the slight edge for the Dodgers.
In terms of offense the Dodgers are supported by National League Rookie of the Year candidate and even MVP candidate in Corey Seager, he is backed by Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Grandal, Utley, Reddick, Pederson, Kendrick, Toles and Puig. While the Nationals lineup is reeling with an ACL injury to their star catcher Wilson Ramos and nagging injuries to their top-two power hitters in Murphy and Harper- the lineup also includes rookie sensation Trea Turner, Jayson Werth, Rendon, Zimmerman, Espinosa with speed in Revere coming off the bench. With Ramos in the lineup and Murphy and Harper at full-strength I’d easily give the edge to the Nationals here and even with their injuries I’m still going to go with the power-potential in this lineup and an absolute X-factor in Trea Turner.
Now for managers and relievers this is where things get interesting. Considering the Dodgers much maligned bullpen in the past few seasons they finally righted the ship and surprisingly led the league in 3.35 ERA but with the Nationals right behind them with a 3.37 ERA. The Dodgers pen includes Jansen, Howell, Blanton, Baez, Coleman and long-relief in Julio Urias. While the Nationals will counter with Melancon, Kelley, Treinen, Perez and long-relief in Petit. Again, another pretty close match up here with two All-Star closers, this is a tough call but I think the Dodgers finally have decent bullpen for one, they get a slight edge here. In terms of managers you have an old-school my way or no way guy in Dusty Baker, who has had a ton of playoff experience with the Giants, Cubs, Reds and now Nationals against rookie manager in Dave Roberts, who is my pick for manager of the year considering all of the injuries he’s had to deal with this season. Even with Baker’s experience I think Roberts is already the better manager. Call me a Dodgers homer but I feel like they have the healthier roster here, if Strasburg and Ramos were playing I’d probably go the other way but I have a feeling this series is going the distance anyway…
Prediction: Dodgers in 5- Also #WinForVin
God, I’m going to miss Vin so much.
Giants vs Cubs
Let’s be honest, whoever wins this series is going to be the favorite in the NLCS, you know it and I know it (and Vegas knows it.) The Cubs will go with a rotation of Lester, Hendricks, Arrieta and Lackey, who have all had a ton of success this season with everyone having an ERA of 3.35 or lower, we’re talking about four pitchers who were top twelve in ERA, ON ONE TEAM. The Giants will go with a rotation Cueto, Samardzija, Bumgarner and their fourth is to be determined but will most-likely be Matt Moore but they could go with a three-man rotation. MadBum and Cueto can go toe-to-toe with anyone’s aces but Samardzija can be a wild-card and inconsistent at times. These Cubs batters hit him pretty well too, with a .267/.354/.540 slashline against him, as well as 5 home runs in 90 at-bats. To compare that with only a combined 6 homers given up by Bumgarner and Cueto combined, oh and that’s in a combined 312 at-bats. Expect the Shark to have a short leash in his start. The Cubs seemingly have the edge in the starting pitching category but Mad Bum is absolutely terrifying in a short series, I’m rolling with the Cubs here but it’s close.
Now let’s talk some offense, minus the Rockies and their luxury of playing half of their games in the thin air, the Cubs are the most explosive team in the National League with 808 runs scored. The Giants were a middle of the pack team offensively but have some clutch players in Posey, Belt, Crawford and Pagan. You just can’t go wrong with a team that includes a lineup of MVP candidates in Bryant and Rizzo and also includes Zobrist, Fowler, Russell, Contreras, Heyward, Soler, Baez and Montero. This lineup can beat you with the long-ball, some speed and timely hitting, their problem is being too aggressive, while the Giants struck out a combined 232 times less in the regular season. This one was closer than you’d think but I’d still go with the Cubbies lineup.
The bullpen isn’t even close, the Giants have been abysmal in save-situations while the Cubs have had a ton of success with Chapman, Rondon, Cahill, Wood, Grimm and Montgomery. The Giants used to have one of the most reliable bullpens and that was one of the main reasons for their past postseason success with subpar pitching in front of them, besides Bumgarner of course. We’re talking winning some big games with Zito, Vogelsong and Peavy. The Giants might be able to squeeze whatever they still can from Casilla, Romo, Strickland, Smith and Lopez. I just trust the Cubs relievers a little bit more, even with less experience in the bright lights. And the managers are very close, Maddon has done a lot with far less talent and has made a juggernaut with the resources the Cubs give him, I can’t deny the success Bochy has had in the postseason though. When you add up all of these factors I’m going to have to go…
Prediction: Cubs in 4– Please!
Congrats to Nats and Giants… UGH. (please be right for once Tim.)