The Cubs and Dodgers will decide the National League pennant for the second straight year, but the roles are reversed.
In 2016 the Cubs were the clear team to beat and showed it, ousting the Dodgers in six games before winning the franchise’s first World Series since 1908. This year the 104-win Dodgers are the better team on paper and will be favorites to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988.
Here is how the teams stack up:
At the plate
Getting on base: The Cubs have two of the best at reaching base atop their lineup in Jon Jay and Kris Bryant, both of whom had an on-base percentage above .400. But the middle-to-bottom of the lineup – Addison Russell, Jason Heyward and Javier Baez – are low on-base guys. Justin Turner (.415 on-base) leads the Dodgers, who have balance throughout the lineup, with Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Austin Barnes, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Logan Forsythe all above average at reaching base.
Hitting for power: Bryant, Baez, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber all hit at least 20 homers in this loaded Cubs’ lineup. Schwarber’s raw power is among the best in the game. The Dodgers have as many answers with Bellinger, Turner, Seager, Puig, Turner and Taylor.
On the base paths: For a slugger, Rizzo isn’t afraid to swipe the occasional base – he had 10 steals during the regular season – and Baez also stole 10. For the Dodgers, Puig, Taylor and Bellinger combined to steal 42 bases, something for Cubs pitchers to consider throughout the series.
In the field
Infield defense: Russell is a potential Gold Glove shortstop and Baez complements him up the middle. Bryant and Rizzo are solid at the corners. Seager is among the game’s premier defensive shortstops, and when Forsythe plays second base the Dodgers have a special double-play combination. Turner is strong at third base, and Bellinger an average first baseman.
Outfield defense: Jay is limited in center field for the Cubs, but he receives help from Heyward, who remains among the game’s best defensive right fielders. Zobrist is average in left field. The Dodgers have plus-defenders in Taylor, Puig and Enrique Hernandez in the outfield, but Curtis Granderson has lost a step.
Bench: Happ has been a weapon for the Cubs off the bench and joins Albert Almora, Leonys Martin and Tommy La Stella for a solid group. The Dodgers have veterans Chase Utley, Andre Ethier and Curtis Granderson, all of whom have extensive postseason resumes.
On the mound
Rotation: The Cubs have a solid group in Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, Jake Arrieta, but there isn’t an elite ace in the group. Clayton Kershaw remains a stud atop the Dodgers rotation, but has postseason demons to exorcise. Yu Darvish, Rich Hill and Alex Wood are formidable.
Bullpen: Other than closer Wade Davis is there anybody Cubs manager Joe Maddon can trust? Carl Edwards Jr. and lefty Mike Montgomery had a particularly rough NLDS against the Nationals. The Dodgers have maybe the game’s best closer in Kenley Jansen and quality setup options in Ross Stripling, Tony Watson and Pedro Baez.
Joe Maddon has a World Series title under his belt and managed the Cubs through a difficult NLDS against the Nationals. Dave Roberts may win a second straight NL Manager of the Year award after guiding the Dodgers to the best record in the majors.
The Dodgers swept the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, making for an easy week while the Cubs were grinding through five games, exhausting their pitchers, against the Nationals.
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