The Los Angeles Dodgers shocked the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday, earning the right to play the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS. The Dodgers are once again four wins away from reaching their first World Series since 1988.
There's just one problem with that: Nobody believes in the Dodgers.
Like, nobody. Just consider ...
Getty ImagesDilip Vishwanat
The Cubs have the best player
Kris Bryant is going to win the National League MVP Award this year. During the regular season, he had the highest WAR of anyone on the Cubs or Dodgers (8.4). He had the most homers (39) and the highest slugging percentage (.554). He was the best base runner (7.3 BsR). He's an elite defender. There's no other player like him in the game.
The Cubs have the best manager
By all accounts, Dave Roberts has done an incredible job in his first year with the Dodgers. He should win Manager of the Year, given the Dodgers dealt with more injuries than anyone else and had to mix and match more than any team.
But there's one Joe Maddon. From lineup construction to in-game strategy to player management, he's the best at what he does.
The Cubs get on base more
Chicago led the NL in on-base percentage this season (.343), 24 points higher than the Dodgers. If we were ranking the starting players in this series based on OBP, the Cubs would have the Top 4 before we get to Corey Seager at .365.
Getty ImagesLisa Blumenfeld
The Cubs hit for more power
Chicago hit 10 more homers than the Dodgers this year and slugged 20 points better. They have the two best power hitters in the NLCS in Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, and it's not even a close debate.
APCharles Rex Arbogast
The Cubs play better defense
Chicago made a joke out of the Dodgers (and the rest of baseball) in defense this year. The Cubs led MLB in defense runs above average with 115.5. In second place were the Giants at 88.6, and then came the Dodgers at 60.4 -- nearly HALF as much as the Cubs.
The Cubs run the bases better
Not only do the Cubs get on base more often, but when they do they are much better than the Dodgers at creating value with their legs, reads and instincts. Chicago was fourth in the NL with 15.9 runs above average on the bases. The Dodgers came in at 2.8. Safe to say nobody is concerned about L.A.'s speed in this series.
The Cubs have a far better rotation
It is a massive testament to the front office, Dodger Stadium and the weak-hitting NL West that the Dodgers ranked third in baseball in fielding independent pitching (3.65). In the NLCS, though, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw and then what? There's zero certainy with Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill, let alone a fourth starter.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have two Cy Young candidates, and neither one of them is Jake Arrieta. Plus, they have John Lackey as their fourth starter, who'd easily be L.A.'s second-best starter this postseason.
The Cubs have the hottest player
We saw last October what one Daniel Murphy can do for a team, as the Mets made a run to the World Series. Javier Baez might be that player this year. He has an ungodly amount of talent and dominated the NLDS against the Giants, hitting .375, slugging .563 and playing otherworldly defense at second base. The Cubs didn't need a spark, but Baez is doing just that.
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The Cubs have more depth
The Dodgers have lineup flexibility with a number of outfield options in particular, but nobody has the flexibility and depth of the Cubs. From Ben Zobrist to Kris Bryant to Jason Heyward to Javy Baez, Maddon can move chess pieces wherever he wants with the options limitless. More importantly, depth is different than flexibility. The Dodgers have a small group of players who need to perform in the NLCS in order to win. The Cubs? It feels like anyone in their starting lineup can single-handedly win a game.
The Cubs have more experience
No, Chicago hasn't won a World Series in 108 years, but it has multiple players who have. Zobrist won a ring last year with the Royals. Jon Lester won two with the Red Sox. His catcher, David Ross, won the second with him in Boston. Lackey, the Cubs' fourth starter? He won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series as a rookie for the Angels and won the clinching Game 6 for Boston in 2013, with one earned run over 6.2 innings. This team won't be afraid of the World Series.
All the Dodgers can do is sit around a camp fire and listen to Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz tell stories about that one autumn in 2008.
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And yet, the Dodgers have a chance
The Dodgers have the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw, who could single-handedly secure two wins in a seven-game series (and potentially impact a third out of the bullpen). They have more bullpen depth than the Cubs and led baseball in reliever ERA. In the ninth inning, Kenley Jansen is every bit as good as Aroldis Chapman. They have a superstar in Corey Seager who could finish second to Bryant in the MVP race and, despite hitting two homers, had a horrible NLDS and is bound to be better in this series. They have Roberts, who seems not to give a damn about much, beginning with the facts listed above.
This is October, where we're reminded every year that nothing is a guarantee.