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— Cubs Baseball for Thinking Fans
Friday, October 14, 2016
Bring on the five minute Dodgers preview
I don’t have a lot of time today to write any sort of detailed preview. Besides, there’ll be plenty of those everywhere else. It’s been quite an exciting playoffs so far, but I wouldn’t complain if the Cubs were able to take care of business a little more quietly this series. So borrowing a format I used earlier…
Reasons for Optimism (all the same, but with thoughts slightly tweaked as applicable):
1. Pitching and defense. Just like last time, the Cubs have an advantage here. The Kershaw impact is even bigger than the Bumgarner one, despite their respective playoff histories. Since the Dodgers had so many injuries this year - most importantly Kershaw - comparing season numbers isn’t exactly the best measure of these teams. However, in spite of those injuries, the Dodgers still had the best K/( in baseball (9.35, Cubs were third at 8.88); they also have a lower BB/9 than the Cubs (2.87 vs 3.05). Where I think the Cubs have an advantage, at least on paper, is in how the rotations will line up. Cubs can set theirs however they’d like, and most likely won’t need to use anyone on short rest (it wouldn’t be ideal to have Lackey in game 4 trailing in the series). The Dodgers used everything they could just to get to the NLCS, both Kershaw and Hill pitched in game 5 (both on short rest), and Jansen was really stretched out. Game 1 is really important for the Cubs, if they want to keep putting the pressure on the Dodgers pitching decisions. I assume Maeda starts game 1, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Urias also get a start. The Dodgers are a good enough defensive team, but they’re a clear step down from the Cubs (and the Giants).
2. Baserunning. I think the Cubs ran into a few more outs later in the season, but overall, they have a great baserunning team. Announcers will talk about their ability to “manufacture” runs, which can be overstated, but might be important on cold nights with the wind blowing in (fall in Chicago has really set in). That’s pretty much a copy/paste from last time, but I think it is still important.
3. Offense. The offense can, and will, be better this round. I don’t expect all of Rizzo, Fowler, and Zobrist to struggle the same way. The Cubs offense was also better than the Dodgers’ during the season.
4. Maddon. This is a clearer advantage this time. Roberts is new, and he made his share of moves in the NLDS that were open to questioning. I have to like how aggressive he was with his pen - unlike the Giants, the Dodgers pen is a plus - and he has plenty of options to mix and match where needed. I like many of the Cubs match-up pieces better, and I’m also a little more comfortable in how Maddon utilizes them, at least so far.
Reasons for Pessimism:
1. Kershaw. He is an absolute all-time great, and he can be a complete series changer. He just doesn’t walk anyone, so his starts are going to be very tough on the entire lineup. Now that we know Roberts will use him out of the pen if needed, it only makes him more scary to me. Since he’s healthy, that DL time may have also saved a lot of bullets he can use this series.
2. Bottom of the lineup. We’ve now seen that Maddon is willing to sit Heyward against a tough lefty, so we can assume he doesn’t start the Kershaw games. I would like to not see Montero against a lefty either, but we know the catchers lineup with the pitchers. So if it is Hendricks/Kershaw in game 2, we know Contreras plays. Hill is a slightly better matchup than Kershaw for a lefty (who isn’t?), but if Hill goes games 3/7 against Arrieta, what will Maddon do?
3. Randomness of the playoffs. This is not meant to imply the Cubs “should” win, or if they lose it’s simply because the playoffs are a crapshoot. The Cubs have the best odds, and I’d rather this roster than any other, but things happen in short series. Here’s hoping luck is on their side for once. Also a repeat.
4. Jinxes/Weight of expectations. I don’t believe in jinxes or curses, so I’m already throwing that out. I like to believe that the idea of pressure won’t be a problem; the Cubs are young, but they have guys who’ve won and who’ve played big games before. Even the young guys all got a taste of the atmosphere last season. Using some sort of intangible as a narrative crutch is appealing, but it’s really impossible to know if someone will or won’t come through in a big moment. Also a repeat, but to add the possibility of a Win for Vin thing; honestly though, now that Vin’s not working anymore maybe the Cubs can win the pennant again.
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