With the open of the National League Championship Series an interminable two days away, we have plenty of time to generously consider all manner of small things impacting the Chicago Cubs.
Which is not to say that the roster they select for the NLCS is a small thing; instead, the plausible marginal difference between the NLDS roster and the one the Cubs have to set by Saturday morning is definitely very small.
Here’s what the Cubs went with for the NLDS against the Giants:
Carl Edwards Jr.
Position Players (14):
Albert Almora Jr.
Tommy La Stella
Fundamentally, I don’t see any obvious, must-make changes based on the make-up of the Dodgers and Nationals. Although the series is a little longer, there are still built-in off-days.
First, the Dodgers. I can imagine, perhaps, wanting another lefty in the bullpen, given how reliant the Dodgers are on lefty bats. That’s especially true if there are any concerns about Mike Montgomery’s available to go long right from the get-go (it’s easy to imagine a scenario, like the one that played out earlier this year with Jason Hammel and Rob Zastryzny, where the starter has to leave early, and then a lefty can come in an eat up innings against the lefty-heavy Dodgers). So, then, given how much the Cubs’ relievers were used there in the final two games of the NLDS, maybe they decide to swap Zastryzny in there for a righty – or even consider dropping down a position player to bring on the extra arm. Tommy La Stella was little-used in the NLDS, for what that’s worth.
I don’t love that idea, though, even against the Dodgers, because with two stud lefties starting games for the Dodgers – Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill – I’d want as much bench flexibility and platoon balance available as possible. That might make you think about getting Matt Szczur onto the NLCS roster, but, in the end, I think it’ll mostly just mean you don’t want to ditch any of the other bench bats in favor of an arm.
So, then, as long as all of the pitchers are healthy and ready for regular, full usage, I’d probably keep the roster the same for the Dodgers.
Against the Nationals, the calculus is slightly different, as the games are likely to be started primarily by righties (except for Gio Gonzalez), and the lineup is much more balanced. But the result is probably the same: unless the Cubs feel they need another arm in the bullpen, I wouldn’t expect a change.
I guess we’ll see how the health and readiness of the pitchers is discussed in the next two days.