NLDS Game 1 Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The Wild Card games are over and the Divisional Series matchups are set. The Chicago Cubs will play the St. Louis Cardinals in a best of five series. Pete Hodges has an NLDS game 1 preview of the matchup.

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Chicago Cubs (97-65) vs St. Louis Cardinals (100-62)

Cardinals won the season series (11-8)

Series Schedule:

Game 1 @ St. Louis 6:30 PM Friday, 10/9 on TBS

Game 2 @ St. Louis 5:30 PM Saturday, 10/10 on FS1

Game 3 @ Chicago 8:10 PM Monday, 10/12 on FS1

Game 4 (if needed) @ Chicago Tuesday TBD 10/13 2015 on FS1

Game 5 (if needed) @St. Louis Thursday TBD 10/15 on FS1

All times are Eastern

Probable Starters:

Game 1: Jon Lester (L) (11-12) vs. John Lackey (R) (13-10)[/box]

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are coming off of a Wild Card win in which starter Jake Arrieta threw a complete game shutout, and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler scored 3 of the team’s four runs.

Overall

The young Cubs lineup scored the 6th most runs (689) in the NL. Their 171 home runs were good for 5th place, while their 95 stolen bases saw them in 6th. They hit for a .244/.321/.398 line with a 6th place wOBA of .313.

Starters

Chicago’s rotation had a 60-39 record, posting a 3.36 ERA, 3.26 FIP and 3.24 xFIP. Batters hit just .230 against them and they struck out 23.9% of batters faced while only walking 5.8%, with an impressive 1.11 WHIP. The rotation is led by the aforementioned Jake Arrieta and Game 1 starter Jon Lester.

Lester’s first year outside of Boston saw him with a 11-12 record with a 3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP and a 3.06 xFIP. The lefty relies on a four-seam fastball (39.61%) and cutter (24.73%) combo while featuring a curve (15.54%),  sinker (12.50%) and  changeup (7.61%). His four-seamer sits around 93-mph while his cutter comes in at 89-mph.

The Relievers

Chicago’s bullpen posted a 37-26 record, with 48 saves, 89 holds, and blew 19 saves. Their ERA was 3.38 ERA in 514 ⅔ innings. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.94 and 3.20, respectively. They allowed 0.73 HR/9 while opposing hitters hit for an average of .230 with a .291 BABIP.

Hector Rondon saved 30 games for the Cubs with a nifty 1.67 ERA, striking out 8.9 batters per nine innings and walking 1.9.

The Offense

The Cubs offense improved in the second half of the season hitting .250/.328/.426 after hitting .239/.315/.374 in the first half. The Cubs struggled a bit with lefties, putting up a .238/.319/.372 line while hitting .246/.322/.406 against right-handed pitchers. The offense was fairly evenly split between Wrigley Field (.237/.322/.396) and opposing parks (.251/.321/.400).

Chicago’s offense is led by Anthony Rizzo, who has become a force in the middle of the Cubs’ lineup, while rookies Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber have shown that they were worth the hype they received in the preseason.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals won the toughest division in baseball relying heavily on players they developed.

Overall

St. Louis scored the 11th most runs (647) in the NL this year. Their 137 home runs and 69 steals also had them ranked 11th. Their combined batting line was .253/.321/.394 with the 8th ranked wOBA at .311.

Starters

The rotation had a 72-42 record this year with a 2.99 ERA, 3.47 FIP and 3.64 xFIP. Their batting average against was .244, striking out 21.2% of batters faced, while walking 7.2% with a 1.24 WHIP. Their rotation is led by playoff veteran John Lackey.

Lackey will take the bump in Game 1. In his first full season with the Cardinals, Lackey notched a 13-10 record with a 2.77 ERA, 3.57 FIP and 3.77 xFIP. The right-hander relies heavily on his four-seam fastball (44.07%) and his main secondary pitch is his slider (19.28%). He also features a curveball (17.06%), sinker (15.83%) and an occasional changeup (3.67%). His fastball regularly sits at 92-mph while he throws his slider around 85-mph.

The Relievers

The bullpen posted a 28-20 record with a 2.82 ERA, 3.50 FIP and 3.87 xFIP in 485 innings pitched. The ‘pen had 62 saves, 84 holds and blew 15 saves. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.65 and 3.40, respectively. They allowed just 0.72 HR/9 while allowing a BAA of .238 with a .298 BABIP.

Trevor Rosenthal anchors the bullpen. The closer had 48 saves in 68 appearances and struck out 10.88 batters per nine innings while walking 3.28.

The Offense

The Cardinals offense was consistent throughout the season, hitting .257/.323/.389 in the first half and .248/.319/.401 in the second half. Against right-handed pitching, St. Louis put up a .261/.326/.409 line but a dismal .230/.307/.355 against lefties. The team hits better at home (.262/.331/.398) than on the road, but not by much (.248/.318/.391).

Soon to be free agent, Jason Heyward, leads the offense with a .293/.359/.439 line. Matt Holliday returned from a quadriceps injury in the middle of September, and it appears he hadn’t shaken the rust off yet. Rookies Randal Grichuk (.276/.329/.548 in 103 games) and Stephen Piscotty (.305/.359/.494 in 63 games) provided a boost to the lineup this season.

*Click here for our preview of the New York Mets-Los Angeles Dodgers match-up.

Pete Hodges has also written about the origins of the rally cap and the call up of Luis Severino.

Follow Pete on Twitter @PeterWHodges.

Check out Brandon Magee’s look at the baseball career of Brandon Weeden, Tom Wright’s Los Angeles Angels elimination article and Jimmy Wulf’s new favorite team.

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