Posted on October 11, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
After both teams had a rather easy time during the NLDS, the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet in the NLCS for the right to go to the World Series. It’s also worth noting that while the Brewers have home-field advantage, the Dodgers have the better odds to win the World Series. Let’s take a closer look at how these teams match up against one another.
Rotation – Advantage Dodgers
One of the biggest surprises of the NLDS was how effective Milwaukee’s starting pitching was against the Rockies. However, the Dodgers still have the edge here, as they had the best rotation in the National League during the regular season. Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu were both outstanding against the Braves and better than anyone the Brewers have. Those two are also in line to start two games each in the NLCS. Rookie Walker Buehler had his issues in Game 3 of the NLDS, but he had a good season and gives the Dodgers a righty to throw in there amidst a sea of lefties. It’s important not to discount Rich Hill making at least one start and giving the Dodgers a few good innings.
The Brewers, meanwhile, got strong outings in the NLDS from both Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley. They also used Brandon Woodruff as an “opener” with great success. However, while they’ll look for Chacin and Miley to keep it going, the Brewers will need to go a little deeper into their rotation if the series goes seven games. It’s not exactly clear which of Milwaukee’s starters are available and who Craig Counsell would trust in a playoff game. Gio Gonzalez is one guy to watch, as he could garner a start after pitching well in his five starts with Milwaukee late in the season. However, it’s possible the Brewers use their bullpen depth and go with “openers” in games that Chacin and Miley don’t start.
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Bullpen – Advantage Brewers
Speaking of Milwaukee’s bullpen, it’s easily the biggest weapon the Brewers have in this series. In 15.1 innings against the Rockies, the Brewers allowed just two runs on eight hits. Needless to say, that’s some serious domination. If the Brewers have any kind of lead after the 5th or 6th inning, Counsell has all the confidence in the world in the likes of Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress, Corey Knebel, and others being able to finish out the game.
It went a little unnoticed, but the Los Angeles bullpen was also quite dominant during the NLDS against the Braves. The Dodgers got 10.2 innings out of their bullpen while allowing just one run on seven hits. The difference between the two, of course, is that the Dodgers used their bullpen a lot less despite playing one more game. The Dodgers also used eight different relievers whereas Milwaukee only used five. While the Los Angeles bullpen is not as intimidating, the Dodgers have more depth, especially with starters like Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda helping to set up for Kenley Jansen.
Offense – Advantage Dodgers
This is tough to call, but the Dodgers were the better offensive team during the regular season and they also showcased more offensive potential during the NLDS. In four games, the Dodgers hit eight home runs. Even if their average over those four games left something to be desired, the power in their lineup is too much to ignore. A lack of contact could be problematic for the Dodgers late in games against the Milwaukee bullpen, but they have power potential at nearly every position, so the Los Angeles lineup won’t be easy to keep contained over the course of seven games.
Of course, the same can be said of the Brewers. With the midseason additions they made, the Brewers are more dangerous than their numbers during the regular season suggest. They have power sources up and down the lineup and plenty of guys on their bench who are capable of making a difference. The one thing to keep in mind is that impact players like Christian Yelich, Travis Shaw, and Mike Moustakas are all left-handed hitters who could be neutralized by the lefties in the Los Angeles rotation. The Brewers have enough dangerous right-handed hitters to counter that, although Lorenzo Cain and Jesus Aguilar both struggled in the NLDS and will need to be better in the NLCS.
Prediction – Dodgers in 6
The Brewers will hope that their bullpen can carry them to the World Series, but the Dodgers have a rotation that can do the heavy lifting. With more experience and more pitchers who can get outs at this part of the season, the Dodgers have enough of an edge to get back to the World Series. Los Angeles wins in six games.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.