The Astros and Yankees kicked off the American League Championship Series last night, as Dallas Keuchel and Masahiro Tanaka and, well, the stats from yesterday’s article predicted that game pretty well. Today, the Dodgers and Cubs will begin the 2017 National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium. Once again, we at M-SABR have made our picks.
Yesterday, I began the ALCS preview discussing the Game 1 starters. That’s not possible for this article, however. The game is tonight, yet Joe Maddon has not announced a Cubs starter for Game 1. Starting for the Dodgers is Clayton Kershaw, Mr. 4.76 Postseason ERA in 95.1 IP himself. This is no longer a small sample size. The man hailed as a modern-day Koufax needs to start pitching like Koufax if he wants to be the greatest Dodgers pitcher of all time. Sandy Koufax, in 57 IP, posted a 0.95 postseason ERA. That’s insane. Now, Kershaw doesn’t have to hit this mark to go down as a legend and the greatest pitcher of this generation. That said, it’s time to go.
(Update: As of 12 PM ET, Maddon is going with Quintana in Game 1. Quintana isn’t close to Kershaw in playoff experience, but went 5.2 scoreless IP against the Nats. Not bad at all.)
Okay. Enough about Kershaw (for now): here are the M-SABR picks for the series.
Game 1 – CHC: TBD HOU: Kershaw (18-4, 2.31)
Game 2 – CHC: TBD HOU: Hill, R (12-8, 3.32)
Game 3 – LAD: Darvish (10-12, 3.86) CHC: TBD
Game 4 – LAD: Wood, A (16-3, 2.72) CHC: TBD
Consensus Pick: Dodgers in 6
Update: Corey Seager is out for the series as of 1:30 PM ET. Despite this, we are rolling with our pick.
As a whole, M-SABR was pretty deadset on the Astros taking the ALCS. In our sample of 15 members, 14 picked Houston. This time, we’re about 60/40. Half of us have the Dodgers in 6, 10% of us have the Dodgers in 7, and 40% of us have the Cubs in 7. One thing is clear: we are not expecting a short series with this one.
Let’s begin with the Dodgers. The Dodgers are absolutely stacked. First, Kershaw/Hill/Darvish/Wood is an absolutely nasty postseason rotation (assuming Kershaw gets his playoff woes under control). Next, you have the ridiculous Dodgers lineup. Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, and Yasiel Puig were all phenomenal this year. That’s right: Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig are on that list, a duo that combined for 8.5 rWAR this season. There isn’t a clear easy out in the Dodgers lineup. The bullpen is solid and filled with mediocre/failed starters and other players that the Dodgers traded for (Maeda, Morrow, Cingrani, and Watson all fall into this category). Kenley Jansen and Tony Watson are a very solid back-end, however, and Jansen is absolutely electric most of the time. There aren’t really holes on this team.
After reading about the Dodgers, it’s hard to see any team winning a game against them, no? Well, that’s where the reigning world champion Chicago Cubs come in. The Cubs don’t quite match up to the Dodgers, but they’re experienced. The lineup is very good. Rizzo, Zobrist, and Bryant are no strangers to postseason heroics, and there aren’t many easy outs elsewhere. The rotation this year… struggled. Kyle Hendricks is the ace, and he had one brilliant start and one mediocre start in the NLDS. Lester struggled this regular season, posting a 0.8 rWAR, but he showed up for Game 2 of the NLDS. Quintana, too, wasn’t his usual self this season, but he pitched a strong Game 3. Arrieta struggled in Game 4 but posted a 2.28 ERA in the second half of the season (despite being rough in his limited September/October action with a 6.10 ERA in 3 GS). The rotation of Hendricks/Lester/Quintana/Arrieta wasn’t great in the regular season, but hey, they made it, and they managed to escape a close series against a great Nationals team. The bullpen features Wade Davis, Carl Edwards, Brian Duensing, and Justin Wilson, but Justin Wilson has been bad with the Cubs (5.09 ERA in 23 games), and Wade Davis really just carries the bullpen. Overall, as this write-up suggests, the Cubs are very good, but the Dodgers are pretty clearly a superior team… on paper.
Now. Dodgers in 6. If they are so much better, why in 6? Because of consistency. The general club consensus is that the Dodgers are the superior team, but aren’t consistent enough to finish this efficiently. Many of our members who chose the Cubs point toward Kershaw’s playoff failures and the Cubs’ playoff experience, and that’s the biggest argument for the Cubs. John Lester has a 2.57 career postseason ERA in 143.1 IP. Lester is an extremely proven postseason ace. Arrieta has a 3.33 postseason ERA in 46 IP, and Hendricks a 2.60 postseason ERA in 45 IP. The Dodgers never get it done in the playoffs. They’re just like the Nationals, except they can win the Divisional Series. The playoffs are a toss-up, sure, Moneyball taught us that. If they’re purely a toss-up, though, why do the Dodgers and Nationals keep blowing it every year?
Wait a minute.
It sounds like we’re taking the Cubs, doesn’t it? The Cubs are a team built for the postseason, and the Dodgers never manage to get it done. Well, we’re putting our foot down. I’m putting my foot down. I’ve done preseason predictions every season since 2012, and every year, I’ve been tempted to choose a Verlander vs. Kershaw World Series. We’re three Astros wins and four Dodgers wins away from it finally happening. And it’s going to happen. The Dodgers are the better team, they have home-field advantage, and they have the best postseason rotation remaining in the playoffs (again, on paper).
Dodgers in 6.
Once more, we could not come to a consensus as a club. Here are some of our picks.
Clayton Kershaw (my pick): He’s due. He’s the best pitcher in baseball, and he will eclipse 100 innings of postseason experience this series. We’re going to see him eclipse that mark in style.
Justin Turner: “Turner currently has a postseason batting average of .462, along with a postseason OPS of 1.225. He will continue to smack the ball against a struggling Cubs rotation and a tired bullpen.”
Javier Baez: “Javy Baez is one of those players who shines the brightest when the lights are on. In the WBC, he made flashy plays and hit big home runs. Baez will hit 3 HRs and make huge defensive plays throughout the series to bring the Cubs back to the World Series.” (Note: In 101 postseason PA, Baez actually has a .257 OBP and .629 OPS. That doesn’t include the WBC, though.)