This. Is. Awesome.
For the first time in baseball history, we get not one, but TWO game 163s! The Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers both finished 95-67, while the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies ended the season at 91-61. They’ll all square off this afternoon, with the winners advancing directly to the NLDS and the losers facing each other in Tuesday evening’s Wild Card. The first game will be at 1PM EST in Chicago and the second will be in Los Angeles at 4PM EST.
As of this writing, the starting pitchers haven’t been announced, but MLB.com makes educated guesses here. One would figure these could be heavy bullpen games anyway. Here’s how these four division rivals match up against each other.
Brewers @ Cubs
The Cubs won the season series against Milwaukee 11-8, which is why they get to host game 163. Chicago will almost certainly throw Jose Quintana. The left-hander would go on regular rest, but is finishing off the worst season of his career. He brings a 4.97 DRA into the game through 169 1⁄3 innings. Remarkably, this will be the seventh time this year he faces the Brewers. In the first six games he pitched pretty well, allowing 35 baserunners (including five home runs) and nine runs in 37 1⁄3 innings.
The Brewers probable starter is much less clear. If they use a traditional starter, Jhoulys Chacin is the likely option. Signed to a one year, $6.75 million deal in December, Chacin emerged as a workhorse for Milwaukee. He leads MLB with 34 games started, and could start his 35th on regular rest. He has a 4.35 DRA over 187 innings. He kept the Cubs under control in four starts this year, allowing 22 baserunners over 22 2⁄3 innings with 27 strikeouts and just one home run.
Alternatively, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell could keep Chacin for the Wild Card or Division Series by going with a bullpen game. At his disposal, he has six relievers with DRA between 1.91-3.63 and at least 35 innings pitched. Their bullpen is clearly superior to their rotation, so this will probably be the best option for either game 163 or the Wild Card (if necessary).
Offensively, these teams match up pretty evenly, though they have differing styles. The Cubs’ 107 wRC+ is slightly better than the Brewers’ 104 (not including pitchers). Chicago’s .344 on base percentage led the NL. Milwaukee was more explosive, finishing second in the league in home runs (214) and third in slugging (.435). They also led the league with 121 stolen bases. Both teams profile as well above average defensively. The Brewers have the lead in DRS, 90-34. However, the Cubs lead in UZR 26.8-25.7.
The Brewers production is more top heavy, while the Cubs are more consistent throughout the lineup. Milwaukee has just four players above 1.3 fWAR, but they include likely MVP Christian Yelich as well as Lorenzo Cain. The two outfielders finished first and third in the NL in fWAR, with 7.4 and 5.6 respectively. On the other side of the field, Chicago boasts seven players with at least 2 fWAR, led by Javier Baez’ 5.3.
Rockies @ Dodgers
The Dodgers won 12 of their 19 games against the Rockies this season. Rookie sensation Walker Buehler was scratched from his scheduled start on Sunday, and he’ll most likely start game 163 on an extra day of rest. Over 130 2⁄3 innings he has an outstanding 3.12 DRA, which is the best of any rookie starter in baseball. He’s quite familiar with the Rockies, having faced them five times this year. In those starts, he yielded 32 baserunners and 11 runs in 31 innings, striking out 33 batters.
However, the Dodgers have no less than seven pitchers who have started at least 15 games this year, and all of them have been above average. They might be better equipped than any playoff team to go through October using only two or three inning pitchers. That could start with game 163, so expect Dave Roberts to have a quick hook— even if his pitcher is throwing well.
German Marquez is lined up to start on regular rest for Colorado. While Kyle Freeland is their nominal ace, Marquez leads the team in DRA (3.20) and WARP (4.7). He’s limited the Dodgers to 17 baserunners and six runs in 21 innings over three games, though he has given up four long balls.
The Dodgers are far and away the best hitting team in the NL. They led the league in wRC+ (117), home runs (230), runs scored (774), walk rate (10.6 percent), and ISO (.199). They have no less than ten batters with wRC+ above 112, led by Max Muncy (158) and Justin Turner (154). Top to bottom, their lineup is difficult to navigate.
Strange as it is to believe, the Rockies actually aren’t a very good hitting team at all. It’s always important to use park-adjusted stats with regards to Colorado offense, and their 202 home runs belies their 93 wRC+. They feature just two players with more than 2.3 fWAR: Nolan Arenado (5.3) and Trevor Story (4.8).
The bottom line is that any individual baseball game is impossible to predict. An excellent pitcher like Buehler could get blasted, or a great defender like Colorado second baseman D.J. LeMahieu could throw the game away with an error. As evidenced by their matching win-loss records, the Cubs and Brewers as well as the Dodgers and Rockies all match up pretty evenly. That should make the unplanned final day of the 2018 regular season lots of fun.
We’ll leave this as an open thread for both games, so feel free to use this page for any discussion Game 163-related!