Game 1 is tonight at 7:30pm EDT. I may be able to catch the bulk of it here in Pacific time, but not all of it likely. For this post I’m going to link out to several posts by others given some analysis of the match-up, generally from a Cubs fan perspective. I’ll add my own thoughts here and then link out to some articles from others.
My take: This is a winnable series for the Cubs. It will generally depend on how successful their hitters are against generally stellar pitchers from the Nats. Ace pitcher Max Scherzer would normally be expected to start game 1, but he’s been struggling with a hamstring injury and won’t likely start before game 3 in Chicago on Monday, and potentially not at all. At least not in full form. The Cubs have a similar issue with Jake Arietta who will hopefully start game 4, if there is a game 4.
To the Nationals’ benefit, their #2 pitcher is no slouch. Stephen Strasburg starts tonight against my favorite Cub pitcher, Kyle “the Professor” HendricksKyle “the Professor” Hendricks. Kyle’s having a great second half, but Strasburg has been nearly untouchable over the same time frame. The Cubs batters have more post season experience than Strasburg does pitching, but his 5 innings last year, a loss, still only had him giving up 1 earned run. The Cubs need to score at least 3 to make sure Kyle can get the victory against a tough lineup including several All-stars from the Nationals.
I think the Cubs likely lose tonight but hopefully tomorrow’s game goes the other way and they come back to Chicago tied 1-1 and can win those two games and be ready to move on to the NLCS. If they can put up 4 or more runs on Strasburg then maybe they edge out a 4-3 win tonight. My prediction is Cubs in 4 games still, though it’s not going to be easy.
Here’s a roundup of other posts you may want to read before the game this evening:
Regular season wrap-up:
The Cubs and Nationals played seven games this season, four in Washington and three at Wrigley Field.The first series was played in June, when the Cubs were struggling and the Nats were building a big lead in the N.L. East. Even so, that series was split, two games each.
The Nationals are the ninth N.L. team the Cubs have faced in the postseason, following (in chronological order) the Padres, Giants, Braves, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Cardinals and Mets. (The Cubs have faced the Giants, Braves and Dodgers in two different postseason series.)
NLDS Roster for Cubs:
Here’s the entire division series roster.
Pitching Staff comparisons:
Since the games are still days away (man, time moves slowly between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason) I had some time to take a closer look at the data we have on these two pitching staffs. I wanted to see if we could get a sense of how they line up going into the National League Division Series. Given the immense amount of material, this is part one of a trilogy. Today I’ll take a look at team stats and managers. Part 2 will be an in-depth look at the starting rotations for the Cubs and the Nationals and Part 3 will be an in-depth look at the bullpens for both teams. Consider the trilogy your one stop shop for everything you need to know about the starters, bullpens, and state of the rotations as we enter the gauntlet that is October baseball.
Another look at the pitchers:
Now that there is a much clearer sense of the match-ups I wanted to do a more in-depth look at the starting rotations to get a sense of each individual starter and how they compare. Most of the stats are the same as yesterday, but I did add one that might need a bit of an explanation: ERA-.ERA- is a stat on Fangraphs that takes our normal ERA number and tries to adjust for the league average and park factors. I won’t get into all the fancy equations, what you need to know is that a score of 100 for ERA+ would be a perfectly average pitcher. Lower numbers are better, so an ERA- of 95 indicates a pitcher was 5 percent better than the league average pitcher. In short? It gives us a baseline of what the average pitcher did this year and how the Cubs and Nationals rotations compare to that average.