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Plate discipline something to watch in NLCS

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MLB: NLDS-Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — A key factor in the National League Championship Series just might be plate discipline, something the Dodgers have excelled at this season.

Dodgers batters led the majors with 649 walks in 2017, and the Cubs were second with 610. Both teams were first and second in walk rate as well — 10.5% for the Dodgers, 9.9% for the Cubs.

It’s not all about drawing walks, however. It’s more about controlling the zone, and doing damage with strikes. That worked like a charm for the Dodgers in the NLDS, where they drew 16 walks in three games against the Diamondbacks, but also hit .297 with a .462 slugging percentage, and scored 20 runs in their sweep of Arizona.

Walk on the wild side

Walks Dodgers Cubs
Walks Dodgers Cubs
by hitters 649 622
by pitchers 442 554
Net walks +207 +68
Net BB MLB rank 1st 7th

The Dodgers were experts in controlling the zone on both sides in 2017. As hitters, they swung at the fewest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone (26.2%), and as pitchers they induced the highest percentage of swings outside the zone (32.8%).

“There is a fine line between being passive, as opposed to being aggressive in your zone,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said last week. “I think that the best hitters are aggressive in their zone.”

Cubs hitters, while drawing a ton of walks, also swung at 31.3% of pitches outside the zone, sixth-highest in baseball. Their pitchers were in the middle of the pack, ranking 14th in inducing hitters to swing at 30% of pitches outside the zone.

Only five players in baseball in 2017 among the 144 players with qualified plate appearances had more walks than strikeouts, and two of them will hit third in this series. Justin Turner had 59 walks and 56 strikeouts during the regular season, while Anthony Rizzo had 91 walks and 90 strikeouts.

Dodgers pitchers had the second-best walk rate in the majors (7.5%), while Cubs pitchers had the seventh-worst (9.1%). Since the All-Star break, Chicago relievers have a 12.1% walk rate, the highest in the majors.

In Game 5 against the Nationals, seven different Cubs pitchers issued a walk, just the second postseason game ever with that many pitchers walking a batter. The other such instance was by the White Sox in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series.

Chicago walked 25 batters in five games against Washington in the NLDS.

Game 1 particulars

Time: 5:08 p.m. PT

TV: TBS (Brian Anderson, Ron Darling, Sam Ryan)

Online: TBS.com and the Watch TBS app

Local radio: AM 570 (Charley Steiner, Rick Monday)

National radio: ESPN Radio (Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone)