October Baseball: NLCS Preview

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By Clark Lorensen

Well, here we are.  The Cubs have over achieved (Don’t tell them that- they don’t realize it) and are in the National League Championship with a chance at their first pennant in 70 years.  The last time the Cubs won the pennant there were no playoffs.  They won it by having the best record in the National League.  This year, they have the best record in the playoffs and don’t even have home field advantage- expect this to be rectified soon.

I’m pretty confident Maddon can out manage Collins based upon what I’ve seen in the playoffs and the regular season, especially since after the All-Star break. This series is going to come down to a few things for the Cubs. However, Todd and I differ on what those three things are.

My Big Three

Jon Lester Run Support
maddon 74This ball club needs to jump on Matt Harvey in game one.  It may take this team one time through the lineup to get to Harvey, but I like their chances.  Pick a name out of a hat between Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez on who will get to him, but watch out for David Ross as well.  That low batting average can be deceiving, and who knows, the veteran could come up with a meaningful hit.

Joe Maddon
You don’t have to to come here to know that the Joe Maddon signing was a huge part of this team coming together.  When the Cubs signed him it was known that he was good with young players based on his time in Tampa, but most didn’t realize just what they were getting.  With no offense to Terry Collins, the best manager will be in the visitor’s dugout on Saturday and Sunday night.  Joe Maddon has proven to me that managers do make a difference.

Take A Deep Breath, Cubs Fans – This Team Only Knows This Team
I realize that it is easy to buy into the hype.  ’69 Cubs vs. ’69 Mets.  A Cubs sweep of the Mets is great for the generation just ahead of mine.  I learned plenty about it from my father.  My experience with hurt doesn’t begin until quite sometime later.  To be honest, it was the playoff teams of the ’00’s.  The collapse of the ’03 team in the NLCS and the ’07/’08 teams that were nothing more than a bye for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers.  This is enough to sting.  All of this bothers us as fans.  It hurts.  It’s what being a Cubs fan “was” about. The men on this ball club do not share your pain and this is a good thing.  They are too young to realize the ghosts of our past.  They are too talented to let any of this play into how things go on the field. Maddon has instilled that in them.

My Prediction?
Well, I haven’t been one for predictions, but I am a contributor for this blog so I’m going to do it.  If this team can get the win in game one, followed by the a win with Jake Arrieta on the mound in game two.  I’ll take the Cubs over the Mets in 5 games.  Look for another home field celebration (#FlyTheW, #WeAreGood, #LetsGo).  I go from not wanting to make a prediction to making a bold one.  Cubs win the NLCS 4-1!

Todd’s Big Three
The starting rotation, specifically the number three and four positions.
Lester and Arietta will go in games one and two on Saturday and Sunday. Then the Cubs have a three-game homestand on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The question that Todd wonders about what Maddon will do is this: Who will start games three and four? Todd’s pretty confident Joe will give Kyle Hendricks the ball one of those days. The question will be which day. Neither Lester or Arietta needs to pitch on three days rest at this point. The odds are that if the Cubs can come out of NYC with the split that will be great. Lester gives the Cubs the best shot of winning on Saturday and Arietta on Sunday, so it could be 2-0. With Hendricks likely facing DeGrom on Tuesday, Maddon may hold off on pitching Hendricks until Wednesday. Instead, Maddon could go with Hamel or Dan Haren or the bullpen on Tuesday. Todd’s head is spinning.

The bullpen could use this guy
The bullpen could use this guy

The Bullpen
The bullpen stole the show in the Division Series. They picked up Arietta in game three and in game four, after Trevor Cahill gave up two runs, the bullpen shut them down the last five. Innings. Neil Ramirez might be ready. Neil could be a key weapon in late innings, more so than Fernando Rodney has been at this point.  The thing Todd liked about the bullpen in the Division Series was the relievers were fresh after Pittsburgh and Lester’s eight inning outing game one. Even though Lester lost game one in the Division Series, he went almost 8 innings, saved the bullpen there, and helped to win the series. The bullpen was fresh for games two through four which the Cubs all won.Getting the extra two days off this weekend could continue to help make the bullpen fresh. It will be interesting to see the roster for pitchers here on Saturday and whether or not Ramirez makes it.

Riding the Right Fielder
If there was an award for MVP in the Division Series, Jorge would be in the conversation with Kyle Schwarber. However, Soler is not a nine inning player. Even though his deadly arm stopped the Cardinal rally on Tuesday, his lack of range gives way to Chris Denorfia late in games. Todd wonders how soon Joe goes to Denorfia in the NLCS while balancing the need for Jorge’s bat.

Todd’s Prediction
With one day to go before the National League Championship Series, Todd’s still a little bit on cloud nine thinking about the past week. It all just seems like a blur at times playing baseball this late in the year. On the other hand, Todd could get really used to this and will have to at least through 2021.

Cubs in 6 – They need to come out of New York with a split. Harvey will be tough, but DeGrom and Synergaard can be worn down and hit the third time through the order. The Mets bullpen is weak. Get into them, get to the World Series.