Dodgers @ Mets Oct. 12, 2015: NLDS Game 3

After all of that time, and the “will they won’t they” leading up to today’s game, is it really surprising that Chase Utley will be on the bench at the start of this ballgame (his appeal was not heard, so he’s available)?

I mean, Howie Kendrick has been starting for a reason, like he is tonight. His hitting ability is very clearly better than Utley’s. His defending ability probably is, too, depending on how you feel about one year of defensive metric data. Sure, Utley has the matchup stats against Matt Harvey, but that doesn’t mean much. Not only do previous matchups with a pitcher not predict future results, but many of those past plate appearances occurred when Utley was a much better player. Starting Kendrick tonight is the right call.

Dodgers
Mets
5:37 p.m.
New York, NY
2B
Kendrick
RF
Granderson
SS
Rollins
3B
Wright
1B
Gonzalez
2B
Murphy
3B
Turner
LF
Cespedes
RF
Ethier
1B
Duda
LF
Crawford
C
d’Arnaud
C
Grandal
SS
Flores
CF
Hernandez
CF
Lagares
P
Anderson (L)
P
Harvey (R)

However, starting Jimmy Rollins over Corey Seager tonight isn’t the right call. Rollins batting second seems especially egregious. Seager has struggled in his first two playoff games, but it’s pretty clear who the better player between the two is.

On the mound for the Dodgers tonight is Brett Anderson. Anderson really struggled down the stretch, posting a 4.48 ERA, 4.42 FIP, and 3.64 xFIP in the second half. Anderson’s velocity has drifted downwards, and as a result his strikeout rate has dropped from 17.5% to 12.6% between the first and second halves. However, even with the drops in peripherals, Anderson kept 2/3 of the balls in play on the ground. His success and the Dodgers’ chances tonight highly depends on those ground balls finding gloves. Maybe that’s why Rollins is starting? It doesn’t explain why Rollins is hitting second, though.

Anderson is not a better pitcher than Matt Harvey, but Jacob deGrom is not a better pitcher than Clayton Kershaw. Starting pitcher superiority does not make a game one-sided immediately. If games one and two taught us anything (other than lessons about sliding), it’s that the Mets bullpen before Jeurys Familia is nearly as uncertain as the Dodgers’ bullpen before Kenley Jansen. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not stable either.

On the Mets side, Wilmer Flores replaces Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Flores isn’t as good defensively, but he does bring a power threat late in the lineup. It’s a bit confusing to see Michael Conforto start the game on the bench, in favor of Juan Lagares. Lagares’ range in center is much better than that of Yoenis Cespedes (who would be playing center if Conforto was in the lineup), though he’s been dealing with an arm issue which is making it extremely difficult for him to throw. Conforto looks too good to be platooned, but it seems like this alignment is better than the one featuring Michael Cuddyer.

Briefly looking past this evening’s contest, it was also announced that Clayton Kershaw will start tomorrow on three days’ rest, no matter what happens today. If the Dodgers lose, that’s perfectly understandable. If they win, it’s confusing, because there’s still a good chance that Alex Wood can win game four. My issue with Kershaw on short rest comes down to usage. Basically, Don Mattingly hasn’t known when to pull him (remember, Kershaw’s first six innings of his last start on short rest were scoreless with ten strikeouts). In my opinion, the best way to use Kershaw would be to let him pitch the first two times through the order, then pull him no matter what. After that, let Alex Wood bridge the gap to Chris Hatcher and Kenley Jansen. Leaving a pitcher in until he falters means that he already faltered, and that was the critical mistake made last year.

Of course, there’s still a game today, so thinking about how to use Kershaw tomorrow is getting ahead of ourselves. Hopefully tonight’s game will be without any additional nonsense and it’s just plain baseball.

About Daniel Brim

Daniel Brim

Daniel Brim grew up in the Los Angeles area but doesn’t live there anymore. He still watches the Dodgers and writes about them sometimes.