Ahh, the real playoffs have begun.
I’m not sure what’s weirder: The Dodgers playing the Padres in the postseason, the two teams playing in an American League ballpark or the fact the Astros are playing a series in LA, but not against the Dodgers. Go home 2020, you’re beyond repair.
Here’s the series schedule. Games 4 and 5 are on an “if necessary” basis.
By the numbers
Pretty similar offenses. The rate stats aren’t far off — the Dodgers hit for a little more power while the Padres were better on the bases — but on the whole, these are two of the better offensive clubs in the game. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado are the clear leaders on offense, but Eric Hosmer — despite a fractured left index finger — had a fine season in which he hit .287/.333/.516 with a 127 wRC+. It was his best offensive season as a Padre and his best since 2017. Wil Myers also rediscovered his former glory, as he hit .288/.353/.606 with a 154 wRC+. The Padres also got strong contributions from a couple rookies. Trent Grisham (.251/.352/.456, 121 wRC+) and Jake Cronenworth (.285/.354/.477) were both acquired in offseason trades. All in all, this isn’t a dissimilar process to what the Dodgers have employed over the last handful of years — a strong mix of stars/superstars, solid veterans and strong rookie performances.
We already know about the Dodgers’ offensive prowess. Mookie Betts and Corey Seager led the way, while Justin Turner (when healthy) was solid and Chris Taylor was tracking to have the best season of his career. Cody Bellinger struggled overall, but picked it up over the final six weeks of the season (.291/.401/.569). Max Muncy appeared to be mired in a season-long struggle, which could be attributed to a wrist injury that he may have never fully gotten over. Thankfully, Will Smith developed into the best offensive catcher in the game, so that helped make up for struggles elsewhere. Oh, and AJ Pollock piling up all the extra base hits didn’t hurt matters, either.
The Padres’ starters actually had better numbers than the Dodgers’ starters in some categories. And they added to their stable by acquiring Mike Clevinger at the trade deadline. However, neither he nor Dinelson Lamet (their ace) pitched in the Wild Card Series. Their status for the NLDS is still up in the air, but it’s safe to say that the Padres’ chances of besting the Dodgers — even in a 5-game series — go down dramatically if they’re missing one or both of them. Chris Paddack started Game 1 against the Cardinals and got knocked around. Zach Davies (Dodger killer) lasted just two innings in his Game 2 start. A cobbled-together group of pitchers were able to do just enough for the Pads to win Game 3 and advance.
Much like the Wild Card Series, the Dodgers will throw Walker Buehler in Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw in Game 2. It remains to be seen how long Buehler can go in a game thanks to the blister issue, but he hasn’t topped 75 pitches since coming back from it. Kershaw is coming off the best playoff start of his career. The Padres are a different animal, and Kershaw had one start against them during the 2020 season (6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R/ER, 0 BB, 9 K), which means a lot more than any career numbers he may boast against San Diego. And neither of those stats mean a whole lot in October. Game 3’s starter for LA should be Tony Gonsolin, but we don’t know who it will be. It could be Julio Urias. It could be Dustin May. With no off days in the series, it’s likely all three will appear at some point.
The Padres revamped their bullpen over the winter. They acquired guys like Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz to go with one of the better closers in the game in Kirby Yates. Well, Yates ended up suffering a season-ending injury and the Pads, again, had to acquire help in-season. They landed Trevor Rosenthal from Kansas City, and he’s now their closer. They also got Taylor Williams from the Mariners. They moved Garrett Richards to the bullpen after an unsuccessful stint in the starting rotation. They also have a few young arms who could end up seeing time in this series (Adrian Morejon, Luis Patino, Luis Perdomo). And despite all that maneuvering, they still struggled at times, as you can see above. They do miss bats, though.
Kenley Jansen had a shaky Game 1 against the Brewers, but he got through it. The rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen has been really good this season. Save for Jansen not being the guy he was three years ago, this might be the best ‘pen the Dodgers have had since ’17, and perhaps during this entire 8-year run. The only thing that concerns me a little bit is they don’t strike out as many hitters as they have in years past.
The Dodgers and Padres played 10 times, with LA coming out on top in six of those matchups. Sept. 15 was probably the biggest game of the season. The Dodgers were up 1 1/2 games in the division, Lamet had just outdueled Kershaw the night before and things for the Dodgers were … a little shaky. Then, Gonsolin fired seven innings of 1-run ball and outdueled Davies in a 3-1 Dodgers’ win.
Here’s the Padres’s roster.
Here’s the Dodgers’ roster.
Dylan Floro was added, as expected. Keibert Ruiz‘s playoff debut is going to have to wait. The biggest surprise is Gavin Lux getting the nod over Edwin Rios. These seem like a reasonable explanations.
Rios isn’t hurt. He’s actually on the taxi squad.
Yes, he of the titanic home run off Kershaw on Sept. 14. He had a great second season and is the most dynamic offensive player not named Machado or Tatis on the club. And while he hits for more power against righties, he’s far from unplayable against lefties. With Kershaw, Urias, Victor Gonzalez, Adam Kolarek and Jake McGee all likely on the roster, the Dodgers might be able to minimize his power, especially in the later innings. He’s also valuable as a defender in center field, as he was fourth in the majors in defensive runs saved.
Trienen’s first season as a Dodger had its ups and downs. He had solid numbers (3.86 ERA, 3.15 FIP), but he saw his strikeout rate dip for the fourth consecutive season. However, his walk rate was the third-lowest of his career, and walks were a big problem with Treinen in 2019. With a strong number of right-handed hitters (Machado, Myers, Austin Nola, Tatis), Treinen’s name could be called a number of times in this series.
This is shaping up to be one hell of a series between the two best teams in the National League. It’s just a shame they aren’t meeting in the League Championship Series. A lot of this series will be dependent on if Clevinger and Lamet are healthy enough to be on the roster and how effective they’ll be. Aside from Caleb Ferguson, the Dodgers are relatively healthy otherwise.
There will be a lot of eyeballs on this series. Here’s hoping it turns out well for the Dodgers.