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The Disinterested Phillies Fan’s Guide to the NLCS

Because the baseball world cruelly carries on without the Phillies

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game Four
The Dodgers are one of two teams left in the National League playoffs
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

I am not really much of a baseball fan. That may seem like a strange statement coming from someone who writes for a baseball site, so I will elaborate: I am a Phillies fan and follow the team religiously. But when it comes to the rest of baseball, I am much less dedicated in my following. The prospect of a Phillies-free postseason may excite some people, but I am generally “meh” about the whole thing.

Many of you may also fall into the “Phillies first, baseball second” camp, but as the playoffs progress, you may be finding yourself mildly curious about what’s going on, and want to learn more about the teams vying to become the 2018 World Series champions. Well don’t worry, fellow casual fans: I’ve done the work so you don’t have to!

For those of you just now tuning back in, we’ve reached the League Championship Series stage of the proceedings, and the two National League teams left standing are checks notes the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers. Astute Phillies fans may recognize these as the same teams the Phillies defeated en route to the World Series ten years ago, but before you get too comfortable, let me assure you that we’ve come a long way from the days of CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez.

Los Angeles Dodgers

How They Got Here

At the end of the regular season, the Dodgers found themselves tied atop the National League West standings with the Colorado Rockies. Because Major League Baseball has yet to come up with a way to have more than two teams play in a series, an extra tie-breaker game was scheduled.

Side rant: It feels like MLB should have figured out a way to have a three-team playoff series by now. In the WWE, every time there’s a dispute between two wrestlers as to which one should be in a championship match, they simply make it a “triple threat” match. It’s a black mark on the leadership of baseball when they’re being out-thought by Vince McMahon.

Anyway, the Dodgers won the one game playoff, giving them the West title. They went on to beat the Braves in the NLDS three games to one.

MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Atlanta Braves
The Dodgers vanquished the Braves
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

What Are They Good At?

They score a lot of runs (most in the National League) and their starting pitchers don’t give up many (Best starters ERA in NL). Combining those two things is generally a good recipe for success.

Players You May Know

Clayton Kershaw

You might remember Clayton Kershaw as the young pitcher who the Phillies knocked around in the 2008 and 2009 NLCS, but he was able to rebound from those performances to have a pretty solid career. It seems like the only thing that can stop him are back problems, which have caused him to miss time in each of the last three seasons.

He’s got an opt-out clause in his contract this offseason, so there’s a chance he will be a free agent. Is it possible that the Phillies will pursue him if he is available? That all depends on how comfortable they feel offering a huge contract to a pitcher in his thirties with documented back problems. Back problems tend to not get better as a player gets older, so there’s a good chance he has some more stays on the disabled list in his future.

MLB: NLDS-Atlanta Braves at Los Angeles Dodgers
Nothing can slow Clayton Kershaw down...except for a bad back.
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Manny Machado

Back in the heady days of July, the Phillies were playing winning baseball, and there was talk that they might pull off a trade for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Unfortunately, other teams also realized that Machado was a good player to have on hand, and the Dodgers topped the Phillies’ trade offer.

Did the Dodgers make a good move by sending a not-insignificant prospect haul in exchange for the pending free agent? According to Baseball Reference, Machado was worth 2.8 wins since the trade. Since the Dodgers ended up tied for the West division lead, the math indicates that he was indeed worth it.

Would he have made a similar impact on the Phillies? Considering how much else went wrong in the last two months in the season, I don’t think he would have single-handedly powered them into the playoffs. On the other hand, if they had traded for him, we would have been spared the presence of Asdrubal Cabrera on the roster, so that seems like a wash.

Ex-Phillie Alert

We all know that Chase Utley is on the Dodgers, but he’s joined by another member of the 2008 Phillies: Ryan Madson. After all Madson has been through in his career, it’s nice to see him succeed.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Why You Should Root For Them

The Dodgers have served as many Phillies fans’ second favorite team in recent years due to Utley. It would be great if he could end his career with another World Series ring.

They also gave him this sweet chair:

Why You Should Root Against Them

Utley or no, I really don’t feel the need to see a Los Angeles team win a championship. Plus, they left Madson off the NLCS roster. How could they do that to Mad Dog?

Milwaukee Brewers

How They Got Here

The Brewers won the National League Central division, which is really surprising because making the playoffs is not something the Brewers do very often. It seems that the only thing that comes to Wisconsin less frequently than the MLB Playoffs is Hillary Clinton.

Despite winning the final seven games of the regular season, the the Brewers also required an extra game to settle the division title. (We could have had a fatal four-way playoff series! Seriously, MLB, get your act together.) They went on to sweep the crap out of the Rockies in the NLDS, and by the time game one starts, it will have been twenty days since they lost a game.

What Are They Good At?

They hit a lot of home runs. They’re second in the NL in homers, and three players on the roster recorded more than 30. They also have a really good bullpen with Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, and Jeremy Jeffress providing the team with multiple late-inning options.

Honestly, the Brewers’ greatest strength in 2018 was having just about every one of their personnel moves succeed. If the Brewers signed or traded for a guy, there’s a better than even money chance that he had a career year. Perhaps this was some sort of karmic payback for the team’s mostly barren history.

Players You May Know

Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich wasn’t even the most highly pursued outfielder traded by the Marlins this offseason. Giancarlo Stanton received most of the hype, but his former teammate ended up having the better season.

In hindsight, it’s easy to say that the Phillies should have traded for Yelich instead of signing Carlos Santana. But one year ago, it wasn’t clear if Yelich was better than Aaron Altherr. As it turned out, Yelich ended up having a better year than Altherr (and I’m not going to lie to you; it wasn’t that close), and may end up winning the National League MVP award.

MLB: NLDS-Colorado Rockies at Milwaukee Brewers
Christian Yelich: Better than Aaron Altherr
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Lorenzo Cain

Cain has a top three MVP finish under his belt, so it wasn’t completely out of the blue that he’d have a strong season. But I don’t think anyone expected him to put up a career best on base percentage (thirty points better than his previous high!) in his age 32 season.

There are some who think the Phillies should have signed Cain instead of holding out hope of luring in Bryce Harper this offseason. Cain did have the stronger overall season in 2018, but he’s also got four more years on his deal. Is he going to continue to excel as he enters his mid-30’s?

Ex-Phillie Alert

At age 38, Erik Kratz is somehow still in the major leagues, and doing a decent job as the Brewers’ backup catcher. I don’t know if he’s still making turkey bacon commercials, but that seems like something that wouldn’t necessarily fly in Wisconsin. I imagine its pig or GTFO.

Why You Should Root For Them

The Brewers rank high in the schadenfreude rankings. My theory is, if I can’t be happy because one of my teams won, I certainly don’t want to have to witness other people being happy. If the Brewers won the World Series, this wouldn’t be much of a problem.

Chances are most of us know some Yankees or Red Sox fans, and its generally annoying as heck to hear them gloating about the team’s success. But how many Brewers fans have you met in your life? One? My guess is that most of you don’t have a lot of Brewers-related posts on your Facebook timeline.

Combined with the national media’s general indifference to any Midwestern-based team, a Brewers victory would be barely noticed. And if a team wins a title but nobody notices, did it really happen?

Why You Should Root Against Them

I could really do without seeing Ryan Braun celebrating a championship. And while I might not know too many Brewers fans personally, these are the same fans who thought it was a good idea to give Josh Hader a standing ovation. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if they suffered a little heartache this year.


The Dodgers have a powerful lineup and a strong rotation. Power and starting pitching is a great formula to the regular season. Having a great rotation is mitigated in the postseason because just about every starter is good. It’s better to have a strong bullpen that can match up with opposing hitters late in the game. Since both teams have good lineups, the Brewers’ relievers will put them over the top.