Dave Roberts and the Dodgers pulled out all the stops in Game 5 of the NLDS, riding Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw to knock out the Nationals. Their reward? A seven-game date with the 103-win Cubs, whose furious Game 4 comeback against the Giants brought them one step closer to the World Series everyone in Chicago has been thinking ahead to for months.

Chicago is deep, talented, confident, rested, and ready. Los Angeles is … well, as Dusty Baker said shortly after his Nationals were eliminated by the Dodgers: "I’d be interested to see—they won the war—but the effects of Jansen and Kershaw when they get to Chicago."

Only one way to find out!

Lineups (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)



CF-S Dexter Fowler


2B-L Chase Utley


3B-R Kris Bryant


SS-L Corey Seager


1B-L Anthony Rizzo


3B-R Justin Turner


LF-S Ben Zobrist


1B-L Adrian Gonzalez


SS-R Addison Russell


RF-L Josh Reddick


RF-L Jason Heyward


CF-L Joc Pederson


2B-R Javier Baez


C-S Yasmani Grandal


C-R David Ross


LF-L Andrew Toles


During the regular season David Ross primarily served as Jon Lester’s personal catcher, starting 50 of 161 games while often sitting third on the depth chart behind Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras. However, he started two of four NLDS games and, with Lester set to pitch at least twice in this series and the Dodgers’ rotation three-fourths left-handers, the 39-year-old impending retiree looks slated for a much bigger NLCS role. Chicago's catching depth is absurd.

Javier Baez’s role has expanded even further. He's basically now the starting second baseman, with Ben Zobrist shifting mostly to the outfield and at-bats shrinking for Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan. Zobrist is certainly an untraditional cleanup hitter for the best offense in baseball, but his switch-hitting, patient approach works anywhere in the lineup and the Cubs want to maximize the plate appearances for superstars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

Jason Heyward has struggled all season and hit just .207/.300/.296 off lefties. He's an obvious platoon candidate and Joe Maddon has certainly shown a willingness to bench him in favor of Contreras or Soler, but doing so in this series might mean giving the $184 million free agent signee just two starts in seven games. Chicago's tremendous position-player depth and versatility gives Maddon a ton of choices based on matchups, handedness, and defensive pairings.

Los Angeles figures to start Howie Kendrick over Andrew Toles when Lester is on the mound and may also bench Yasmani Grandal in favor of Carlos Ruiz, but for the non-Lester games the Dodgers’ lineup will be stacked with seven left-handed hitters and righty Justin Turner. Chicago has the superior offense and there's no getting around that, but Los Angeles' ability to get the platoon advantage in nearly every plate appearance with a right-handed starter on the mound could be a huge key to this series.

Much has been made of the Dodgers' struggles against left-handed pitching and with Lester atop the Cubs' rotation that's a definite concern, but Chicago is lined up to start righties in five of seven games. Where the Dodgers' inability to handle lefties has a chance to really hurt is once those right-handed starters are out of the game and Maddon begins the southpaw bullpen parade of Mike Montgomery, Travis Wood, and Aroldis Chapman. Dave Roberts has good right-handed options on his bench in Kendrick, Ruiz, and Yasiel Puig, but he must use those bullets wisely.

Benches (AVG/OBP/SLG/TAv)



C/OF-R Willson Contreras


C-R Carlos Ruiz


C-L Miguel Montero


OF/2B-R Howie Kendrick


OF-R Jorge Soler


OF-R Yasiel Puig


OF-L Chris Coghlan


IF/OF-R Enrique Hernandez


OF-R Albert Almora


OF-L Andre Ethier


Two of the strongest benches in baseball, featuring at least 3-4 starting-caliber players per side and providing both managers with an assortment of possible late-inning moves.

Contreras has an impact bat and the ability catch or play the outfield. Montero struggled offensively this season, but is an excellent defender behind the plate and allows Maddon to potentially use Contreras' bat without worrying about the catching situation. Soler, Coghlan, and Almora could all have prominent roles for plenty of teams and make for strong pinch-hitting options in the right situations. And when Heyward doesn't start, he'll loom as the world's most expensive defensive replacement.

Ruiz is a career .276/.376/.436 hitter versus lefties, including .271/.407/.386 this season, which is why the Dodgers were willing to ignore the temporary public-relations hit they took in trading away A.J. Ellis. Ruiz could be in the lineup for one or both of Lester's starts, and his bat off the bench will be a much-needed late-inning weapon as well. Puig, Kendrick, and Enrique Hernandez are also righty bats that Roberts can use to combat southpaws attacking his lefty-stacked lineup.

Random prediction: Andre Ethier gets called on in a huge spot in one of the games started by a Cubs right-hander because Roberts will replace multiply lefty starting bats with righty bench bats mid-game and then find himself needing a lefty again versus, say, Hector Rondon or Pedro Strop. Ethier has made a career out of knocking around right-handers, but the 34-year-old two-time All-Star was limited to 16 games this season by a broken leg and no one is quite sure how dangerous he is at this point.

Starting Pitchers (IP, ERA, DRA)



LHP Jon Lester (203, 2.44, 3.08)

RHP Kenta Maeda (176, 3.48, 3.41)

RHP Kyle Hendricks (190, 2.13, 3.33)

LHP Clayton Kershaw (149,1.69, 2.03)

RHP Jake Arrieta (197, 3.10, 4.02)

LHP Rich Hill (110, 2.12, 2.56)

RHP John Lackey (188, 3.35, 3.97)

LHP Julio Urias (77, 3.39, 3.97)

Jon Lester went 9-1 with a 1.43 ERA in his final dozen regular-season starts, shut out the Giants for eight innings in Game 1 of the NLDS, and has a lifetime 2.63 ERA in 106 postseason innings, making him the ideal starter to headline a rotation against a team lacking in right-handed power. Hendricks was brilliant all season, leading the league with a 2.13 ERA and ranking eighth with a 3.33 DRA, but exited his NLDS start after taking a liner off the forearm. He's been cleared to pitch following a Friday bullpen session, but needs his usual flawless command to succeed.

It says a lot about the Cubs' rotation depth that reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta is starting Game 3 in the NLDS and NLCS, but it also says a lot about how different Arrieta looks right now compared to last year. He threw 197 innings with a 3.10 ERA this season, so it was hardly a bad year, but the Cubs' defense helped mask a 75 percent jump in walks and declines in both ground balls and strikeouts. Arrieta simply hasn't looked as sharp as he did in 2015, on a game-by-game basis or by comparing his 4.02 DRA to last year's 2.89 mark.

Proven Closer Clayton Kershaw is slated to start Game 2 after being used for seven pitches in relief Thursday night. That would set him up to either start Game 6 on extra rest or start Game 5 on short rest followed by another possible bullpen appearance in Game 7. Of course, all of that assumes the three-time Cy Young winner isn't totally gassed after his NLDS workload. If he's shaky in Game 2, the other stuff may not matter.

Kenta Maeda gets the Game 1 assignment after an impressive rookie season in which he threw 176 innings with a 3.48 ERA and 3.41 DRA to out-pitch Zack Greinke for a fraction of the cost. He did struggle somewhat down the stretch, posting a 4.25 ERA in the second half before a rough NLDS outing. He'd be starting Game 3 if the Dodgers weren't in post-NLDS scramble mode.

Rich Hill was brilliant when healthy with a 2.12 ERA, 2.56 DRA, and 129 strikeouts in 110 innings, but the 36-year-old journeyman-turned-breakout star was pulled after 4.1 innings and 2.2 innings in two NLDS starts. Urias is 20 years old and at 124 innings after logging just 80 last season. Ideally the Dodgers would probably prefer to use him as a reliever, but multiple injuries to veteran starters leave them with no other choice but to trust the rookie phenom.

Relief Pitchers (IP, ERA, DRA)



LHP Aroldis Chapman (27, 1.01, 2.16)

RHP Kenley Jansen (69, 1.83, 1.95)

RHP Hector Rondon (51, 3.53, 2.70)

RHP Joe Blanton (80, 2.47, 4.36)

RHP Pedro Strop (47, 2.85, 2.38)

RHP Pedro Baez (74, 3.04, 3.65)

LHP Travis Wood (61, 2.95, 5.72)

LHP Grant Dayton (26, 2.05, 2.79)

LHP Mike Montgomery (100, 2.52, 3.89)

LHP Luis Avilan (20, 3.20, 2.84)

RHP Justin Grimm (53, 4.10, 3.49)

RHP Josh Fields (35, 4.63, 4.34)

RHP Carl Edwards Jr. (36, 3.75, 2.45)

RHP Ross Stripling (100, 3.96, 4.32)

LHP Rob Zastryzny (16, 1.12, 3.75) LHP Alex Wood (60, 3.73, 3.36)

Kenley Jansen has long been one of the truly special relievers in baseball, throwing 409 innings with a 2.20 ERA since debuting in 2010. He's never posted an ERA above 2.85 and never struck out fewer than 13.0 batters per nine innings, and now thanks to his gutty effort in Game 5 of the NLDS he's getting some added, much-deserved attention. However, one man can only do so much even if his manager is willing to extend him in do-or-die situations, and the rest of the Dodgers' bullpen is lacking in dependable options despite leading the majors in bullpen ERA during the regular season.

Roberts is going to need right-handers Joe Blanton 2.0 and Pedro Baez to get a bunch of key late-inning outs against a deep lineup built to grind out at-bats, and left-hander Grant Dayton will also find himself in high-leverage spots after racking up 39 strikeouts in 26 innings as a rookie. Jansen is a great closer and Blanton-Baez-Dayton isn't a bad setup trio, but the Dodgers are at an obvious bullpen disadvantage in terms of both top-line quality and depth.

Chicago's bullpen was good even before adding Chapman, whose presence allows Hector Rondon to join Pedro Strop in right-handed setup roles. Travis Wood was death on lefties this season, holding them to a .128 batting average in 120 plate appearances, and midseason pickup Mike Montgomery and NLCS roster addition Rob Zastryzny gives Maddon more southpaws to deploy in the middle innings. Los Angeles' weakness against left-handed pitching plays directly into Chicago's hands with Chapman, Wood, Montgomery, and Zastryzny. Maddon has all kinds of appealing buttons to push and there isn't a sub par pitcher on the roster.


By this point everyone knows the Cubs have a tremendous defense, but it's possible they're still being underrated. Based on nearly every advanced metric their defense is not only the best in baseball by a wide margin this season, it's one of the very best of all time. It's how their pitching staff, which compiled a good but not great 3.85 DRA, led the majors with a 3.15 ERA when no other team was better than 3.52. Chicago gets to balls other defenses simply do not–in the infield and in the outfield–and their catchers steal strikes on the regular. And now that Baez is the primary second baseman, forming an amazing double-play duo with shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' defense may have actually improved.

It's tough to heap too much praise on the Dodgers' defense when comparing them to the Cubs, but Los Angeles ranked third in park-adjusted defensive efficiency during the regular season and was above average in the infield and in the outfield. They also have an elite pitch-framer in Yasmani Grandal, although he struggles to control the running game. On paper at least this has the potential to be a series full of stolen strikes, great range, and crisp plays, but if you watch carefully you'll probably notice at least a few instances in which the Cubs' fielders went the extra mile to help their pitchers avoid big trouble.


Roberts made a lot of new fans in Game 5 of the NLDS and the Dodgers need him to keep the bold, smart moves coming. When will he deploy the Ruiz/Kendrick/Puig right-handed bench bats? How far is he willing to stretch Jansen to lessen the reliance on Blanton/Baez/Dayton? He's a rookie manager who went through some growing pains during the regular season and wasn't particularly impressive for much of the NLDS, but there's an opportunity here for Roberts to pull crucial strings with bullpen and bench moves.

Of course, for every solid-looking option Roberts has at his disposal, Maddon has that and more. Chicago's depth on both sides of the ball often makes a very good manager look great. How he balances the season-long greatness of Rondon/Strop with the matchup-based potential for left-handers Chapman/Wood/Montgomery/Zastryzny to take center stage is a potential series-defining question. It'll also be interesting to see if Maddon tries to take advantage of Grandal's poor throwing by asking Baez, Heyward, and Dexter Fowler to test him following a season in which the Cubs ranked 11th among NL teams with just 66 steals.


Chicago is the best team in baseball, with no obvious weaknesses and countless obvious strengths, including home-field advantage and extra rest. Los Angeles is really good, particularly if they face a right-hander in five of seven games and Kershaw is KERSHAW. No one should be shocked if a really good team were to beat a great team four times in seven games–that's the beauty and the madness of postseason baseball, depending on your point of view–but the smart money should absolutely be on the Cubs.

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someone please do something about the damn autoplay ads on this site...why would you pummel paying subscribers with those?
Adblock man, or something similar of your choice. Go get the extension for whatever browser you're using and it'll solve that crap lickety-split.
My phone (the only way I read this site) doesn't offer a realistic ad-block.[1] But this is seriously my #1 complaint since joining BP three years ago. The only thing that would cause me to cancel my relatively cheap subscription is this illegal streaming website ad quality crap.

[1] If you know of on for Android, please let me know. I've been looking.
Is Kershaw really starting game 2? If the Dodgers win game 1, I would suspect they'd go with Stripling, with Urias and Wood available to relieve.