*Takes Deep Breath*
*Slaps Myself In The Face Three Times*
*Takes Five Shots Of Jack Daniels*
The Dodgers should start Yasmani Grandal today.
I blame Allan for making me write this post right now. He was getting some hot takes off recently and tweeted this.
Personally, I think starting Barnes over Grandal is a way way way worse decision than Hernandez over Bellinger. Bellinger wouldn't start either of these games for me either as much as I love him. Barnes is so hopeless at the plate that Grandal absolutely needs to play.
— Allan Yamashige (@AllanYamashige) October 25, 2018
Allan and I have a quite long text thread going, with 90 percent of it being baseball related. Obviously, a lot of our conversation recently has revolved around the Dodgers and their general badness. We’ve talked about the platoon issue, which we both agree should continue. The Dodgers wouldn’t have even made the playoffs if they kept trotting bad left-handed hitters out there against left-handed pitchers. But that’s another topic, and this is easier the spicier one.
Grandal had a historically poor showing in the NLCS against the Brewers, there’s no denying that. In Game 1, Grandal allowed two passed balls, was charged with interference on a Jesus Aguilar lineout and couldn’t field a throw from the outfield. It was an impressively poor showing. He allowed another passed ball in Game 2 and hasn’t started since. You take defensive ineptitude when a catcher is raking, but Grandal was definitely not on one of his hot streaks in the postseason. In 29 plate appearances this postseason, Grandal has three hits (including a double and a homer) and four walks. He’s struck out 12 times and grounded into one double play, which is about four less than it feels like. Grandal has not been good since the end of the regular season and absolutely deserved to be benched. But now the Dodgers need his bat (and arm) back in the lineup.
Many believed the Dodgers should have gotten rid of Grandal in the offseason, as Austin Barnes was great last season and was surely ready to take over as the starter. The Dodgers didn’t, and Barnes wasn’t. His eye at the plate was still fine, but Barnes slashed .209/.329/.290 in 238 plate appearances this season. His .619 OPS is the 21st-highest on the Dodgers, behind Clayton Kershaw (.622), Hyun-Jin Ryu (.629) and a position player everyone thought was unplayable in Dozier (.650). For the record, Grandal’s was .850, the third-best among Major League catchers with 200 plate appearances in 2018 (Barnes was 37th out of 50).
Barnes has done a much better job at keeping pitches in front of him. He’s yet to allow a passed ball in the postseason and allowed only one in 434 2/3 innings during the regular season. Grandal allowed nine in 1037 1/3 innings in the regular season. In terms of preventing passed balls, the advantage is absolutely with Barnes. His skills behind the plate prompted this post praising his ability to catch, which is important for a catcher. He’s also fast and athletic, which could be a nice weapon once someone is on base. However, that requires a guy to … get on base.
Barnes was a non-threat at the plate during the regular season. He’s somehow under-performed that in the postseason, with two singles and two walks in 24 plate appearances. He’s struck out in 11 of his 22 at-bats. In two games at Fenway, Barnes has hit in the ninth spot in the order and has essentially been a pitcher at the plate, striking out in two of his four hitless appearances.
So both players have been bad at the plate in the postseason, but Grandal at least has the potential to be good there. Offensively, Grandal is one of the best catchers in baseball. His inconsistency is frustrating, but his 125 wRC+ was the third-best among catchers with 200 PAs. Barnes is praised for his approach at the plate and professional at-bats, but Grandal had a better strikeout rate (23.9 percent to 28.2 percent) and walk rate (13.9 percent to 13.0 percent) than Barnes. Grandal’s strikeout rate was middle-of-the-pack for catchers (26th out of 50), but his walk rate was the third-best.
The difference in arms behind the plate also should be noted. In the regular season, Barnes threw out five out of 23 would-be base stealers. Grandal threw out 20 of 72. In the playoffs, Barnes has caught two of five stealers. Grandal has caught two of three. Teams have been more willing to run with Barnes in the game. In Game 1 of the World Series, Mookie Betts stole second to lead off the game quite easily, and could have taken third as Barnes’ throw bounced a few feet in front of second and got past Manny Machado. It gets us all free tacos, but that’s a much closer play with Grandal behind the plate.
Right now, the Dodgers have two options behind the plate. They can start catcher A, who was the third-best hitting catcher in baseball this year and has been bad in the playoffs with two absolutely brutal games defensively. Or they can start catcher B, who hit like a pitcher during the regular season, has been worse than that in the postseason, but has been good defensively.
The entire team has done a great job shitting the bed in the first two games of the World Series, but the Dodgers will need some help. With the series shifting to LA and the pitcher’s spot being back in play, the Dodgers should probably not have two spots in the lineup that have been automatic outs since April. Times are getting a bit desperate for the Dodgers, and many have argued that the Dodgers should play their best players regardless of what hand the pitcher throws with. Grandal arguably single-handedly cost the Dodgers a game in the postseason already (or, you know, Kershaw could have not given up a dong to a relief pitcher too), but the Dodgers should have him back in the lineup. Both him and Barnes are capable (and likely at times) of having a terrible game. But Grandal at least has some potential at the plate, which is more than can be said about Barnes in 2018.
Please direct all questions, comments or concerns to @AllanYamashige on Twitter.