The 60-game portion of the sham season is over, and the Dodgers acquitted themselves quite well. The Brewers struggled for most of the campaign, but find themselves playing in October* for the third year in a row.
By the numbers
Despite having some solid hitters in Milwaukee (Ryan Braun, Keston Hiura, Christian Yelich), the Dodgers hold the clear edge in just about every offensive category. They led the majors in runs scored, homers and isolated power. They tied the Mets for the best wRC+ in the bigs, too. Adding a player of Mookie Betts‘ caliber will do that, but the fact Corey Seager came back and hit like he is capable of and Will Smith and AJ Pollock were better than expected definitely helped — especially considering Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy had their share of struggles during the abbreviated season.
I’m not sure what’s more surprising: The Brewers’ starting pitching was so good or the Dodgers’ starting pitching struggled a bit. Milwaukee is missing Corbin Burnes, who was a legitimate NL Cy Young contender before suffering an oblique injury. Brandon Woodruff took a big step forward and formed a formidable 1-2 punch. But Brent Suter — unlike either of those two — is getting the start in Game 1. He’ll function more as an opener, but he does have starting experience. Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw go in Games 1 and 2. Should a Game 3 be necessary, it’s anyone’s guess who might start. They’ll probably find a way to jerk Tony Gonsolin around instead of just giving him the rock.
The Brewers boast, perhaps, the game’s two best relievers in Josh Hader (ugh) and Devin Williams. Both have been remarkable this season. However, it remains to be seen just how much the Brewers will use them in this potential 3-game series.
Obviously, it will depend on the game situation and outcomes, but this is just something to keep in mind. On the whole, the Brewers’ bullpen allowed the lowest exit velocity against in the majors (86.1 MPH), almost 1 MPH ahead of the Dodgers and Clevelands.
The Dodgers’ bullpen started off hot, cooled a bit, but still ended up being one of the better units in the league. Kenley Jansen had his ups and downs, but still pitched better than he did last season. Jake McGee has been a revelation, while Dylan Floro threw some quality innings. The biggest surprise might be Victor Gonzalez, who ended up being a valuable member of the ‘pen. Oh, and the Dodgers’ relief corps led the league in ground ball percentage (51.0) by 4.5 points. The strikeout rate is down from previous years, but the Dodgers still have some guys who can miss bats.
The two teams didn’t play head-to-head in this COVID-19-shortened season. The last time they met in the postseason, the Dodgers (behind Buehler) won Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS in Milwaukee.
To be announced, but there probably won’t be any huge surprises.
It’s difficult for a reliever to be an X-Factor (especially in a 3-game series), but Williams was otherworldly this season. He had a 0.33 ERA, 0.86 FIP, a 61.1 GB% and a video game-like 44.0 K-BB%. His best pitch is a devastating changeup, which I’ll show you now.
The Dodgers were a Top 10 team against changeups, but they didn’t see one like Williams’.
Update: Big blow for Milwaukee.
So, let’s just go with old “friend” Jedd Gyorko.
After a disastrous 2019 postseason, Pollock came back in 2020 and was the biggest offensive surprise for LA. He hit .276/.314/.566 with a team-best-tying 16 home runs. With Suter and old friend Brett Anderson on the Milwaukee starting staff, Pollock’s ability to annihilate southpaws could come in handy in this short series.
The Dodgers are — and should be — the overwhelming favorites in this series. But because of this dumb playoff format, it just takes two bad games for this season to come to an end. But they definitely have the feel of a championship ballclub. They have more talent and are relatively healthy. That’s all you can ask for in the postseason.