This series will feature a showdown between a pair of best friends and former teammates as Manny Machado and the L.A. Dodgers take on Jonathan Schoop and the Brewers. Of course, Manny plays a much bigger role for the Dodgers, but the matchup of former Orioles offers another interesting side story to a NLCS ripe with interesting matchups and great players. This should be a great series. Now the only questions are: can L.A. get back to the World Series for the second straight year or will the Brewers represent the NL in the series for the first time?
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Date and Time: Friday, October 12, 2018 at 8:09 p.m. ET through Saturday, October 20, 2018, as needed.
Location: Miller Park and Dodger Stadium
MLB Odds: Check Back Later
Dodgers vs. Brewers 2018 NLCS TV Coverage: FOX and FS1
The Dodgers and Brewers were both active on the trade market midseason to help them get to this point. Los Angeles added Manny Machado, Brian Dozier, David Freese, Ryan Madson, and John Axford. The Brewers added Mike Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, Curtis Granderson, Gio Gonzalez, Xavier Cedeno, and Brad Miller. Not all of those additions are part of the NLCS, but these two teams were active and not afraid to change the status quo to get better.
The Brewers have done a bit more of that in the postseason. Down the stretch in September and in their four games so far this October, the Brew Crew have strayed away from the traditional starter role and opted to focus more on their strength, the bullpen.
We’ve seen a lot more bullpening this year and while that strategy is questionable over a long season, it has its benefits in short series, particularly with extra off days. We’ll see how that works out for Milwaukee against the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.
In the end, this series will feature two very strong teams. The Brewers finished the year with the most wins in the NL while the Dodgers won the third most game. They both were challenged down the stretch and used a Game 163 to win their respective divisions.
Statistically, the Dodgers topped the charts in runs scored per game and team ERA in the NL. They’ve got the edge there, but the Brewers’ bullpen is stronger. They’re also playing their best baseball right now, winning 11 straight. This time of year, it’s less about how good you are and more about how hot you are.
The Dodgers are the better team in this department. The rotation posted a 3.19 ERA in the regular season and the postseason rotation is so good, it doesn’t even include a pair of pitchers that were All-Stars within the last two years.
Alex Wood made the All-Star team in 2017 and Ross Stripling received those honors in 2018. Both are in the bullpen.
Instead of using them to start the game, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill.
Kershaw is one of the best pitchers of this generation and while injuries have slowed him a bit in recent years, he still concluded his 2018 season with 2.73 ERA in 26 games.
While the veteran southpaw has had some issues in postseasons past, he was brilliant, allowing just two runs in eight innings, in his NLDS start against the Braves. If he’s on top of his game, that’s bad news for Milwaukee.
Ryu also pitched brilliantly in his NLDS start. He threw seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. That came after pitching to a 1.97 ERA in 15 regular season starts.
As for the other two, they weren’t quite as strong in the NLDS though Buehler pitched very well in the Game 163 win over the Rockies. He had a huge rookie season for the Dodgers with a 2.62 ERA in 24 games. Hill, on the other hand, is a solid veteran. He won’t give you length, but can take the team a couple times through the order and actually led the Dodgers in wins.
As for the Brewers, they figure to mix and match their pitching staff. The team has been relying heavily on the bullpen, but Jhoulys Chacin pitched very well both in Game 163 against the Cubs and in his NLDS start against the Rockies. He’s likely to give the Brew Crew the most innings, but won’t go much more than five or six innings in any start.
The Brewers’ ace had a 3.50 ERA in the regular season, better only than Hill compared to the Dodgers’ starters.
Behind Chacin, the Brewers will use Wade Miley. He pitched in the NLDS as did Brandon Woodruff. Gio Gonzalez is another option given the Dodgers are better offensively against righties than southpaws. Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra, Freddy Peralta and Zach Davies are amongst the others who could be options.
The Brewers’ rotation didn’t allow a run in their NLDS against the Rockies, but the bullpen picked up more innings than the rotation. That could very well hold true in the NLCS as well. The Brewers get quality out of their rotation, but don’t ask them to do too much. That’s worked thus far.
Speaking of the bullpens, that’s where the Brewers’ gain their advantage.
That, of course, is not to say the Dodgers have a bad pen. Their relief corps ranked fifth in the NL with a 3.72 ERA. The Brewers were second at 3.47. The difference between these two, however, is a bit bigger than that number.
L.A. struggled early in the year while closer Kenley Jansen struggled and faltered again when Jansen went on the DL with an irregular heartbeat. The team needs its closer to anchor the pen.
Adding Wood, Stripling and Kenta Maeda to the pen helps provide a few more quality arms, but all three have been used primarily as starters this year and pitching out of the pen, particularly in a big spot, is a different animal entirely.
Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, and others have done that all year so it’s not like there aren’t arms for Dave Roberts outside of Jansen and the former starters, but the pen as a whole isn’t quite as dominant as Milwaukee’s, though they did throw 10.2 innings in the NLDS with just a single run allowed.
The Brewers’ pen allowed two runs. In fact, that was all the entire pitching staff allowed with the starters pitching 12.2 scoreless.
In the pen, it was Jeremy Jeffress, arguably the team’s best arm that allowed the two runs. He also gave up six hits. The rest of the pen combined to allow just two hits in 15.1 innings.
From Jeffress to Josh Hader to Corey Knebel, Corbin Burnes, Xavier Cedeno and Joakim Soria, this team is loaded with quality back-of-the-bullpen arms with elite swing and miss stuff.
While Jansen is the lone closer for the Dodgers, the Brewers effectively have three or four, giving Craig Counsell the flexibility to use his best relievers in the most crucial situations.
The Milwaukee pen did have a hiccup earlier this year, but the unit is throwing as well as it has all year. Hader is filthy and Knebel was the reliever of the month last month. The only real issue here is possible overuse.
The Dodgers scored more runs than anyone in the NL this year and plated an additional 20 more in four games against the Braves in the NLDS.
In those four games against Atlanta, L.A. hit eight home runs, including two a piece by Manny Machado and Max Muncy, but only hit .210 as a team with 35 strikeouts. The Dodgers did produce a .358 OBP, showing patience, but struggled making contact. Of course, when they did connect, it was hard contact.
Contact issues could be an exploitable weakness against the Brewers. After all, Milwaukee uses its bullpen a lot and that pen is loaded with big strikeout arms.
Even with all the swing and miss, the Dodgers still have a one heck of an offense. They led the NL in homers, second in baseball to the Yankees, with 235 in the regular season. They can hit for power and they have some good OBP guys in Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Muncy—amongst others—as well.
This lineup is very deep, especially against right-handers, but it can handle the southpaws, too. With 10 active players posting a 110 OPS+ or better and at least 290 plate appearances for the boys in blue, Dave Roberts has plenty of options to put his hitters in a position to succeed. There are also options to stray from struggling players it needed, too.
The Brewers also have a deep roster, especially with the additions of Mike Moustakas and Curtis Granderson. The lineup shifts guys around with Travis Shaw getting looks at second, Jonathan Schoop getting some action at shortstop based on matchups, and a few other moving parts as well, but the production is good.
Milwaukee didn’t score as many runs as the Dodgers in the regular season, but the offense was rolling down the stretch and features a possible MVP in Christian Yelich who, like the Brew Crew, is red hot. He ended the regular season batting .326 with a 1.000 OPS and 36 homers. He’s continued to hit in the postseason.
Lorenzo Cain and Jesus Aguilar didn’t do much in the NLDS, but they’re key bats that should wake up in the NLCS. Meanwhile, Ryan Braun, Eric Thames, Shaw and Moustakas—amongst others—give the Brew Crew plenty of pop. Cain and Yelich—along with Keon Broxto—offer some speed, too.
Dodgers vs. Brewers Picks
The Dodgers are the reigning NL pennant winners. We’ve seen them win the championship series before and this group is, at least on paper, better than the one from last year.
Despite that, the Brewers have a real chance to win this series. While the Dodgers hold the advantage in the rotation, we’ve see the Brewers use their starters in a bit of a different way this postseason and late in the regular season as well, highlighting their stacked bullpen instead. Having won 11 straight games that strategy has surely paid off.
Look for the Brewers to continue using their pitching staff in a way that emphasizes the strengths of their pitchers while minimizing their exposure to such a talented lineup like the Dodgers.
Milwaukee can hang with L.A. offensively and while the pitchers are used differently, their pitching staff as a whole is also evenly matched. The Brewers, meanwhile, are red hot, they have the momentum and they have home field advantage.
This series will undoubtedly feature a number of close games and that certainly benefits a stacked bullpen like the one in Milwaukee. Take the Brew Crew to continue their unlikely run to the World Series.
Dodgers vs. Brewers NLCS Pick: Brewers at BookMaker.eu
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