A Few More Random Thoughts Ahead of the 2018 NLCS

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As the Dodgers embark upon the next stage of their 2018 postseason quest, the landscape seems to be in great shape in terms of team dynamics, as the squad will have three full days to recover before firing the engines back up in Milwaukee.

All four members of the playoff rotation appear to be fresh heading into the NLCS. Each pitcher was used once, and lefties Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu are coming off perhaps their best performances of the season. Team management had already decided previously that Kersh would start the  next game, whether it was a Game 5 in the NLDS in Los Angeles or the NLCS opener. Seemingly, when considering a multitude of factors, the club couldn’t have made a better choice.

“Yep. Looking forward to it,” a happy Kershaw told Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group shortly after Game 4 on Monday.

There shouldn’t be any roster changes headed into the NLCS, despite a few rumblings that All-Star righty Ross Stripling could conceivably be included when the squads are announced later this week.

According to Plunkett, “the Dodgers had a simulated game Sunday afternoon for pitchers Ross Stripling, Julio Urias and Josh Fields who threw to Chase Utley, Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer. Roberts said Stripling, in particular, was in play for a potential NL Championship Series roster.”

But the entire relief corps is fresh, especially when considering the three-off days prior to Friday night’s opener. It was rumored that the final NLDS spot came down to a decision between Stripling and Dylan Floro, but there doesn’t seem to be enough reasons to deviate from the current crew. There was quite a bit of fan criticism when the team announced the inclusion of Ryan Madson to the NLDS bullpen; however, the veteran righty delivered in one of the most critical moments of the series, stifling the Braves while escaping damage in the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 4.

Just like we predicted, Enrique Hernandez will head into the NLCS as the club’s primary second baseman. There had been some speculation that he could be in a platoon situation enetring the playoffs, but his increased offensive success against right-handed pitching has finally warranted him a regular spot. Considering his strong defensive metrics, there really isn’t a scenario where anyone else on the club would be a better option at the keystone.

Broadcaster Joe Davis brought up an interesting question in the final moments of Game 4, asking the entire FS1 on-field crew who it believed deserved to be the MVP of the NLDS, should such an award exist. The answers varied from Max Muncy to Manny Machado to Kershaw, but it appeared to be difficult to decide on a consensus winner. Muncy hit just .182 in the series, and Machado, despite delivering three of the biggest hits in the entire NLDS, ended up hitting just .176 for the series. Kershaw gets my vote, as he took most of the baseball world by surprise, proving to tons of critics that there’s still plenty of gas left in his 30-year-old tank.

Another question which was contemplated over the past several days surrounded whether or not the Dodgers are a better team than the 2017 version that hung around until the deciding game of last year’s World Series. When considering the emergence of both Muncy and Walker Buehler, alongside the mid-season acquisition of Machado, I’d like to think they are better; yet, there’s a huge difference between being superior on paper and actually executing on the diamond. The Dodgers have been labelled as underachievers by pundits many times throughout the regular season, but they could be at a season-high peak right now, albeit their latest series victory having resulted against a very young and inexperienced Atlanta side.

The biggest difference between this year and last is that the Dodgers won’t have home-field advantage in this year’s NLCS, and they definitely won’t have it should they advance to the World Series. Nevertheless, Los Angeles had a slightly better regular-season road record than when playing at home this year, so, theoretically at least, it shouldn’t have much of an impact.

 

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6 thoughts on “A Few More Random Thoughts Ahead of the 2018 NLCS

  1. Since most decisions made by this team are numbers oriented, I’m thinking that the numbers will lead to one or two changes from the NLDS roster as the Braves and Brewers each present different problems. They might decide to go with 12 position players and 13 pitchers this time around. If so, the first guy out is probably Dozier since it appears as though Kike is now the every day starter. That would make room to add Stripling (or much less likely, Urias). They could still stick with 12 pitchers but sub Strip for Wood or Floro. In that case I’m guessing that Wood is the more likely to go. Lastly, they could go with no changes from the NLDS, but my guess is that at least one change is made.

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    1. If Roberts has any say in the matter, I can’t see him opting for a short bench, especially when considering the overwhelmingly high number of extra-inning games they played this year. He was probably awoken my nightmares of running out of position players multiple times during the regular season. Urias won’t be considered as he hasn’t even thrown anything close to a high-leverage pitch, and I don’t think Floro harmed his stock after facing just one batter in the NLDS. Wood vs. Stripling could be a push, but it could depend on how many right-handed batters the Brewers load up on compared to lefties.

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      1. No problem Dennis. We have Ryu. His in-season batting average was higher than Barnes, Verdugo, Bellinger, Dozier, Pederson, Puig, Muncy, Hernandez, Taylor and Grandal. His post season batting average is .333. And I hear he plays a mean center field. 🙂 I hereby abolish all references to small sample size.

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      2. That’s another thing which could factor into the size of the bullpen. I know it was only the Braves, but with Ryu and Kersh showing they’re able to go 7-8 strong, an eight-man relief crew should, in theory, be plenty.

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      3. Ryu and CK were able to go 7-8 strong against a very inexperienced and young Braves team. I consider the Brewers to be a lot more formidable. Not sure we can expect the same out of our starters in this next series. The one good thing is that we have a number of bullpen guys who could, if necessary, go extended innings (eg. Wood/Stripling, Ferguson, Maeda). Of course Doc prefers to use his relievers for only one batter. I hear that Kike, Puig and Machado are throwing simulated games as we speak. Just need to find a lefty position player with a strong arm to add him to the mix.

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  2. I think the key to winning the series is to score early and have a sizable lead going into the last third of the game. It’s no secret Milwaukee has a good bullpen.

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