Five Things To Watch For The NLDS

I did the ALDS, so I figured I’d do the same for the NLDS

  • The Bullpens

Like the ALDS, the bullpens are going to play a big part of the proceedings. Things were more adventurous in the NL in the first half, as the Giants, Cardinals and Nationals all had closers who struggled, things have stabilized since then, as the Giants and Nats switched closers to Santiago Casilla and Drew Storen, respectively and the replacements have done a better job. As for the Cards, things are still a bit adventurous with Trevor Rosenthal as their closer, but he has been better lately. We’ll see if that lasts. As For the Dodgers, the problem was (and continues to be) their setup men. Kenley Janssen is a good closer, but they have problems getting the ball to him when the starter doesn’t go eight innings. Brian Wilson in particular has struggled as a setup man this season.

  • Rotation Depth

The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke lined up for the first two games, then either Hyun-jin Ryu or Dan Haren for the third game, which is a bit of a drop. Meanwhile the Cards third starter would likely be Shelby Miller, who’s been on fire lately. Haren has admittedly done well lately as well, but I still think I’d rather have Miller. Thanks to the Cards depth, they were able to slot Michael Wacha in the bullpen, where he might turn out to be a deadly weapon and a bridge to their late innings relievers if any starter struggles. That’s depending on whether Mike Matheny has a quick hook or not. He should, as their offense tends to struggle to score runs, so he needs to manage as if every run scored was as precious as gold.

  • The Chess Master Versus A Checkers Player

Matt Williams is a rookie manager who inherited a talented team, including one of the best rotations in baseball. He’s made some smart moves, certainly, but he has room to grow. Conversely, Bruce Bochy is starting to put together a resume for the Hall of Fame, having had a long successful career with two different teams and garnering a pair of World Series trophies. In the end it’ll come down to the talent on the field, but chances are Bochy will maximize his talent better than Williams will maximize his, and that could be the difference in the series.

Gordon stole 64 bases, but he was also caught 19 times. Will he try to challenge Yadi, or will the Dodgers respect his arm and reign in their resident speedster? That’ll be something to keep an eye on. After all, nothing disrupts a pitcher quite like a pesky base stealer dancing off of first base, and given the Cardinals’ pitching depth, the Dodgers need to distract those pitchers any way they can.

Posey is the fulcrum of the Giants’ offense. He leads the team in batting average, OBP, and slugging. If the Nats’ stellar rotation can shut him down, things get a whole lot easier for the Nats. Conversely, if he does some damage, he’ll increase the Giants’ chances by a lot. I rarely subscribe to the “one position player can change the world!” theory, as baseball is a team game. In this case, however, it’s true. As goes Buster Posey, so go the Giants.

So who am I picking? Well, the Cardinals of course, in five. I think we’ll find a way to get to Kershaw and/or Greinke and sneak into the LCS against…

The Nationals, who I think will take their series in four games as long as Matt Williams doesn’t get in his own way.

As always, thanks for reading.

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