|Rizzo and his teammates will give the Mets fits (Athlon Sports)|
This year's NLCS is, at its core, a battle between the arguably the best starting rotation and best lineup in baseball. The Cubs have good pitchers, of course, and the Mets have some bats too, but that's basically what this series boils down to. Can New York tame Chicago's fearsome lineup?
If anyone's up to the challenge, it would be the Mets' nasty trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, any one of whom is capable of dominating any time they take the mound. They'll need to, as New York's bullpen is pretty iffy before you get to Jeurys Familia in the ninth. Give Cubs hitters enough at-bats against the Mets' soft middle relief, and pretty soon it's going to turn into batting practice.
But if anyone's capable of sending those guys to an early exit, it's Chicago. Because for all New York's pitching, the Cubs simply have too much firepower. There are no holes in that lineup, which is stuffed with power and led the National League in walks. Chicago does strike out a lot--more than any other team in the majors this year--which could easily be exploited by a Mets staff that fanned 8.2 batters per nine during the regular season. But with Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Kris Bryant all a threat to go yard at any time, the Cubs can make the Mets pay for the few mistakes they make.
Chicago's pitching staff is no joke, either, led by Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester--a proven postseason stud. If the Mets can beat either of those guys then they'll be in good shape, but the Cubs have a formidable bullpen capable of preventing further damage, thus allowing Chicago's bats to get back into the game. It also helps that the Cubs have master tactician Joe Maddon at the helm, which ensures that they won't be undone by any Grady Little-esque errors of lunacy.
There's no question about who was the better team during the regular season. The Mets won 90 games in a division where three out of the five teams lost at least that many while the Cubs, winners of 97, finished third in their division. New York's lineup is average at best, not to mention heavily dependent on Lucas Duda, Yoenis Cespedes, and Curtis Granderson for production. Neutralize them, and the Mets will be hard-pressed to score. Stifle Chicago's top hitters, however, and the Cubs can still put runs on the board. They can hurt you in so many ways.
Like the ALCS, this has all the makings of a great series. Also like the ALCS, I think the team with the better bats will win. Cubs in six.