With it being the first day of the NLCS on Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers released the NLCS roster and pitching matchups, which surprised some.
Okay, Dodger fans! Time to get nervous, excited and any other feeling that helps you cope with the Los Angeles Dodgers being in the National League Championship Series! The Dodgers’ matchup against the Milwaukee Brewers starts tonight, with the national favorite seemingly being the Brewers.
It is safe to say that most people that are not Dodger or Brewer fans are rooting for the Brew Crew. The franchise has never won a World Series and presents a breath of fresh air from the big-market teams, similar to the Kansas City Royals’ run earlier this decade.
Plus, the Brewers are legitimately good and will be a tough team to beat, mostly because of a good offense, led by likely NL MVP Christian Yelich, and a lights-out bullpen.
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Leading up to the NLCS all I have heard about is how good the Brewers bullpen is. Don’t get me wrong, the bullpen is fantastic, but not untouchable. The difference between the Brewers bullpen and the Dodgers bullpen is minuscule.
In fact, the Brewers bullpen was not even the best in the second half in terms of ERA. A 3.66 second-half ERA was the fourth-best in the National League. Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ 3.57 second-half ERA was the second-best in the National League.
The Brewers did have a better WAR, per FanGraphs, which does help their case. Milwaukee does use their bullpen to win games whereas the Dodgers rely more on the starting pitching and home runs.
When it comes to the Dodgers pitching, though, the team made some surprising decisions when it comes to the NLCS. The biggest surprise was when the team released the NLCS roster, with just one notable change that everyone noticed.
The Los Angeles Dodgers removed wipeout lefty Scott Alexander from the NLCS roster and added young phenom Julio Urias. I love Urias, I am probably the biggest fan of Urias out there, however, this move was a bit surprising and had me questioning Dave Roberts‘ logic.
Alexander was not great against the Brewers this season. He faced them three times, three hits and two runs in three and one-third innings pitched.
But still, Yelich is 0-1 against Alexander, Lorenzo Cain is 0-2 and Travis Shaw is just 1-3 with one single. Those are the three biggest bats that Alexander would face and he has been good against them.
Assuming that there is no injury in play, that might just be why the Dodgers’ decided to leave him off. Perhaps the team does not have comfort in using Alexander as more than a matchup piece for a batter or two.
Against the Brewers, the Dodgers may want to have arms that can go longer out of the bullpen. Having Urias, who can throw a full inning up to two or three if he is on, makes the bullpen much deeper.
That is important considering the Brewers’ bullpen, which forces Dave Roberts to manage with more urgency. If the Dodgers have runners in scoring position and at least one out in the middle innings, Roberts will have to pull the starting pitching, if up at the plate, to try and score some runs.
Runs are going to be few and far between against the bullpen. If they are presented with a chance to go up by three, Roberts has to take that and trust in his bullpen.
Many people expected the Dodgers to go with Buehler in Game 2 and Ryu in Game 3 as Ryu has been lights out at home. And while that was certainly a factor, Buehler benefits more from pitching at Dodger Stadium.
The away crowd at SunTrust Park in Atlanta obviously got to Buehler, who had one blunder of an inning in an otherwise great showing. If that is at Dodger Stadium, Buehler might’ve been able to throw strikes to Sean Newcomb, avoid walking him and avoid the ensuing Ronald Acuna Jr. grand slam.
However, being a rookie pitcher in his first ever playoff game, the pressure did get to Buehler and he could not find the strike zone against Newcomb; all while Braves’ fans did their best with their tomahawk chop chant to disrupt Buehler.
Buehler now gets the comfort of pitching in front of a home crowd, where in his last start he dominated the Colorado Rockies to help the Los Angeles Dodgers become National League West Champions.