NLCS Game 1 Preview: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

Both 2015 ALDS series are in the books and the ALCS matchup is set. The Chicago Cubs will face the New York Mets in a best of seven series to determine who moves on to the World Series. Pete Hodges brings us his NLCS Game 1 preview in anticipation of the matchup.

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Chicago Cubs (97-65) vs. New York Mets (90-72)

Series Schedule:

Game 1 @ New York 7:30 10/17 TBS

Game 2 @ New York 7:30 10/18 TBS

Game 3 @ Chicago 7:30 10/20 TBS

Game 4 @ Chicago 7:30 10/21 TBS

Game 5* @ Chicago 7:30 10/22 TBS

Game 6* @ New York 3:30 10/24 TBS

Game 7* @ New York 7:30 10/25 TBS

All times are Eastern

*if needed

Probable Starters:

Game 1: Jon Lester (L) (11-12) vs. Matt Harvey (R) (13-8)

Game 2: Jake Arrieta (R) (22-6) vs. TBD[/box]

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs emerge from their series win in four games over the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals brimming with confidence. The young team is performing at a level that many saw them at a year or two down the road.

Overall

The Cubs lineup scored the 6th most runs (689) during the regular season. Their 171 home runs were good for 5th place, while their 95 stolen bases placed them in 6th. Overall, they hit for .244/.321/.398, 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%, equalling an impressive 1.11 WHIP. The rotation is led by Jake Arrieta and NLCS Game 1 starter Jon Lester.

Game 1 Starter

Lester started Game 1 of the NLDS and did not perform as well as hoped. The former Red Sox ace was outpitched by former Boston teammate John Lackey. The southpaw did turn in 7 ⅓ innings, giving up three runs on five hits and one walk, while striking out nine. Lester got a $155M, six-year contract for just this reason: Game 1 of a playoff series. The pressure of an expectant fan base is on him.

Lester’s posted a 11-12 record with a 3.34 ERA, 2.92 FIP and a 3.06 xFIP in his first season with the Cubs. 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 during the regular season with a 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 and 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 young closer notched two saves in the NLDS, but allowed two runs in a non-save situation at the end of Game 3.

The Offense

The Cubs offense improved in the second half of the season, hitting .250/.328/.426 after a lackluster .239/.315/.374 in the first half. The Cubs did struggle a bit with lefties, posting just a .238/.319/.372 line versus .246/.322/.406 results against right-handers. 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.

New York Mets

New York’s young rotation led the way during the regular season, and the trade deadline acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes helped push the Mets to a NL East Division title. The Mets needed the full five games to top the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.

Overall

The Mets scored 683 runs, good for 7th place in the NL. Their 177 home runs tied the Washington Nationals for 3rd place, while their 51 steals were last in the NL. The team hit .244/.312/.400 overall, with a .287 BABIP, and had the 9th best wOBA in the league at .309.

Starters

New York’s rotation posted a 64-51 record, with a 3.44 ERA, 3.50 FIP, and 3.49 xFIP. Batters hit .243 against the starters, striking out 21.6% of the time and walking 5.2%, for a combined starters’ WHIP of 1.15.

Matt Harvey takes the mound in Game 1, as he did in the third game of the NLDS. In his first postseason start Harvey went five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks. The young righty only had one bad inning, giving up all three runs in the second.

Harvey missed all of 2014 recovering from Tommy John surgery and made 29 starts this year, with a 13-8 record. In 189 ⅓ innings of work, Harvey put up a 2.71 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 3.24 xFIP. The four-seam fastball (54.24%) is his weapon of choice, and he mixes in a slider (14.21%), curve (12.80%), change (12.21%) and sinker (6.55%). Harvey’s fastball clocks in at 96-mph while his slider, curve and changeup are thrown at 90-, 84- and 89-mph, respectively.

The Relievers

New York’s bullpen had a 26-21 record with a 3.48 ERA in 460 innings pitched during the regular season. The relievers had 50 saves, 71 holds and 21 blown saves. Their K/9 and BB/9 were 8.73 and 3.33, respectively. They kept opposing hitters to 0.83 HR/9 while allowing a BAA of .230 and .286 BABIP.

Jeurys Familia settled into the closer’s role this season, saving 43 games while only blowing 5 leads. The righty struck out 9.92 batters per nine innings while walking 2.19. Familia was rock-solid in the NLDS as he pitched 5 ⅓ scoreless innings, including a two-inning save in Game 5.

The Offense

The addition of Yoenis Cespedes helped to energize the Mets’ second half. They hit .257/.328/.443 after the break, as compared to .233/.298/.363 in the first half. New York’s offense is evenly split versus righties (.245/.312/.397) and lefties (.243/.312/.411). The Mets hit better on the road with a .255/.319/.411 line, while hitting .233/.304/.389 at Citi Field.

Cespedes caught fire after joining the Mets, hitting 17 home runs in 57 games (a 48 home run pace over 162 games) with a line of .287/.337/.604. Rookie and midseason call up Michael Conforto also impressed, hitting .270/.335/.506 with 9 home runs in 56 games.

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

Follow Pete on Twitter @PeterWHodges.

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