Just as exciting as the ALDS, the National League Division Series should be a lot of fun this year.
Chicago Cubs VS Washington Nationals
The Central Division champs, the Chicago Cubs are taking on the East Division champs, the Washington Nationals. This series has a lot of potential to be an upset. The Defending World Series champs are slight underdogs heading into the matchup, but it is very close. Not sure upset is the right word for it, but it would surprise a lot of fans.
The Cubs pitching staff was among the leagues best. Although they struggled early in the season, they really came around during the second half of the year. The team finished in the top 10 of most statistical categories with Jake Arrieta leading the team in ERA 3.53, wins 14, and WHIP 1.22. The staff didn’t really make a lot of noise like they did last year, but they have pitched effectively, and did enough to guide the team to a division crown.
The Cubs hitters were led by Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. One of the two led the team in batting average, home runs, RBI, stolen bases, runs scored, on base percentage, slugging percentage, hits and extra base hits. If the Nationals pitchers can neutralize these two, they will find themselves in a good position to win this series. Not to discredit the rest of their lineup at all, but they truly are the heart and soul of their offense.
The Nationals have been solid all season. They kind of flew under the radar this year and just played good baseball all year. Their pitching staff has been very good but are dealing with a potential issue with Max Scherzer and his banged up hamstring. The Nats were 6th in the majors with an ERA of 3.88, 7th in strikeouts, 4th in WHIP, 5th in batting average against, and they allowed the 6th fewest earned runs. They do have a couple of question marks though. Will Scherzer’s hammy hold up? How will Strasburg do in his second career postseason start? Will Bryce Harper’s knee hold up and is it fully healed? They have the talent, but will it all fall into place?
My prediction is that we will have an upset this series. I think that the Cubs are playing well coming into the playoffs, and should be relatively healthy. The Nationals are dealing with Scherzer and his leg, and we still haven’t seen enough of Bryce Harper to know how his knee really is. The Nats have a lot of talent, and played well all year, but I think they are just about out of gas. The Cubs will get it done in four games.
Arizona Diamondbacks VS Los Angeles Dodgers
This is going to be a great series. I don’t put a lot of stock in a season series comparisons usually, but the Diamondbacks are one of the few teams who played the Dodgers well this year. They won the season series 11-8, including six games during their 13 game win streak.
The Dodgers were far and away the best team in baseball the first half of the season. They did everything right and made very few mistakes. They did go ice cold for a long stretch in the second half of the year and basically limped to the finish line. Even after a poor second half statistically, they were dominant. They led the league with 104 wins, the were 2nd in the majors in ERA, 5th in strikeouts, 1st in WHIP, and allowed the fewest earned runs, only behind the Indians.
The Dodgers struggled a bit offensively. They finished the year in the middle of the pack in almost all major statistical categories. They have some very good and exciting players, but as a whole, they aren’t great. That’s pretty hard to believe when we are talking about the team with the best record in baseball, but it’s true.
Arizona got hot late and made a strong push toward the Wildcard. They secured their spot, and beat their division rivals, the Colorado Rockies in the Wildcard game.
Arizona has a very good lineup who is hot right now. They hit well for power and for average, and have proven that they stack up well against the Dodgers and their very good pitching staff. They don’t take care of the ball particularly well, committing 108 errors this year. As a team, they pitched well, but struggled offensively at times. Martinez, Lamb and Goldschmidt hit very well, but after them the numbers drop a bit.
Pitching has been a big key for them. They had the 3rd best ERA in the bigs, they were 6th in strikeouts, 7th in WHIP, and allowed the third lowest amount of earned runs. Led by Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, their pitching staff as a whole has pitched pretty well. The bullpen had been spotty at times, but they have gotten the job done for the most part.
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke have not been good in the postseason. Kershaw has gone 4-7 in his postseason career with an ERA of 4.55. Greinke has not been much better. He has a career postseason record of 3-3 with a 3.92 ERA. You’d like to see your ace starters perform a little better than that, but every performance offers a new opportunity to be brilliant.
So how’s it going to shake out? I think it’s going to be a tight series, and the two teams matchup very well against each other. That being said, I think the Diamondbacks pull off another upset in the NLDS, and take the series in four games. I know, the Dodgers were the best team in the league this year, but they really struggled down the stretch, and Arizona was one of the hottest teams down the stretch. I feel like it will carry over into this series and Arizona gets the best of them.
We are geared up for two more matchups that should be a lot of fun and most likely provide some great entertainment. I am looking forward to these series a lot.