2022 NLDS Preview: Dodgers face the Padres, making a battle of the NL West for the third year in a row

The time has finally arrived!

After a historic season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are set to begin their quest for a World Series against an all too familiar foe. After a hard fought series in New York, the San Diego Padres come into LA on Tuesday for a best of 5 series and ultimate divisional bragging rights.

Forget about what happened in the regular season, playoff baseball is a completely different animal. With that being said, let’s take a look at how these teams got here.

The Teams

The Dodgers come into this series fully rested after having played their final game of the regular season nearly a week before Game 1 of the NLDS. They are coming off their most successful season in franchise history after winning 111 games and hitting cruise control for the last month of the regular season. They are headlined by a star-studded lineup and a pitching staff that has been dominant all year. With the addition of Freddie Freeman in the offseason and the emergence of guys like Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson, the Dodgers mowed through their competition all season en route to securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Padres are built similarly to the Dodgers in terms of star power. After acquiring Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Josh Hader at the trade deadline, the Padres proved that they are in full win-now mode. They have a lineup that is close to the Dodgers in terms of talent and a pitching staff that boasts several big time names as well. They have been in playoff baseball mode for the last month as they had to fight to secure a Wild Card spot and had to defeat a 101-win Mets team in a three-game series.

In terms of talent it’s probably closer than most think, so without further ado, let’s get into the matchups.

Dodgers Lineup

The Dodgers lineup has one of the most formidable top of the lineups in Major League Baseball. Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, Freeman, and Will Smith have been rock solid all year long. As the season progressed, guys like Justin Turner and Max Muncy found their form as well to provide protection and length to the top of the order. When all was said and done, the Dodgers ranked first in runs scored, wRC+, wOBA, and OPS.

This dominance was consistent even in matchups with the Padres. Here is a look at how the Dodgers fared overall and against San Diego:

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The Dodger lineup has been like a well-oiled machine all season so it is no surprise that in matchups with the Padres, they have fared just as well. One of the best lineups in baseball, they should be a force in the playoffs as well.

The Dodgers will likely run out a lineup that looks similar to this:

  1. RF Mookie Betts (R) 
  2. SS Trea Turner (R) 
  3. 1B Freddie Freeman (L) 
  4. C Will Smith (R) 
  5. DH Max Muncy (L) 
  6. 3B Justin Turner (R) 
  7. 2B Gavin Lux (L) 
  8. LF Trayce Thompson (R) / Joey Gallo (L) 
  9. CF Cody Bellinger (L)

Probable Game 1 starter Mike Clevinger started three games against the Dodgers in 2022 and Dave Roberts threw out a left-hand dominant lineup in every game. Expect to see Gallo starting in LF with Taylor or Thompson coming off the bench if the Padres turn to a lefty reliever. During Clevinger’s three starts against the Dodgers, he posted a 9.69 ERA giving up 14 runs in 13 innings.

After Game 1, the Padres will turn the ball over to Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove in games two through four. Seeing that three of the four starters are right handed, we should see a lot of the Dodger lefties this series. It is also worth mentioning that LA hit right handed pitching slightly better than lefties this season, though the splits were not as dramatic as previous years.

Padres Lineup

The Padres have a formidable lineup of their own. Although they do not rank as highly as you would think (13th in runs, 12th in wRC+, 15th in wOBA, and 15th in OPS), this team is still capable of having big games. The Wild Card series was the perfect example as they scored 16 runs in three games while absolutely shelling Max Scherzer and having good at bats against Jacob deGrom. Led by Manny Machado, the Padres have professional hitters at almost every spot in the lineup and it has led to these kinds of numbers:

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San Diego put up very respectable numbers all year, but really struggled against the Dodgers. They saw every slash line number decrease by at least 50 points and in 19 games, that is a large enough sample size to consider this a trend. If San Diego is going to win this series, they are going to need to find a way to manufacture more runs.

Their lineup figures to look something like this against the Dodgers:

  1. LF Jurickson Profar (S)
  2. RF Juan Soto (L)
  3. 3B Manny Machado (R)
  4. DH Josh Bell (S)
  5. 2B Jake Cronenworth (L)
  6. 1B Brandon Drury (R)
  7. SS Ha-Seong Kim (R)
  8. CF Trent Grisham (L)
  9. C Austin Nola (R)

Depending on which Padres team shows up, the Dodgers could be in for a slugfest. If the Wild Card Series was any indication, this Padres lineup has found its groove, especially with guys like Grisham stepping up in big situations.

The Padres will see something they did not have to in the Wild Card Series, which is a left-handed starter. The Dodgers project to have Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw, and Tyler Anderson all starting games in this series. As stated above, the Padres struggled against this staff all year so they will be looking to make some adjustments.

Dodgers Pitching

The Dodgers staff has been lights out from top to bottom all year, ranking 1st in ERA- and 2nd in FIP-. They experienced some bumps in the road with injuries and a recent change in the closer role, but overall they had one of the best staffs in baseball. It remains to be seen exactly what the NLDS roster will look like, but on the year, the Dodger staff produced elite numbers with the help of multiple Cy Young candidates and a now-healthy Clayton Kershaw. When all was said and done, the staff ended the season with this stat line:


We know that Julio Urias and Kershaw will start the first two games, but after that, there are some question marks. Anderson has had a breakout year, but lacks playoff experience. Gonsolin is coming off an injury and Andrew Heaney has been shaky over the last month. Depending on the series situation, we could see a piggy-back situation in Game 3 and then back to Julio in Game 4, or that piggyback could be delayed to Game 4 with Anderson starting Game 3 and Urias on regular rest in Game 5.

Also look for the Dodgers to lean on their strong bullpen to finish out games with guys like Evan Phillips and Chris Martin. Despite the hype about the struggles about Craig Kimbrel, it’s an insanely deep unit that finished 1st in the league in ERA- and 2nd in FIP-.

Padres Pitching

The Padres pitching staff boasts some very big names in the likes of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Musgrove, though they did rank just 15th in ERA- and 11th in FIP-. They added even more star power when they acquired Hader at the trade deadline, but he has seen some struggles and it’s unknown which version will show up now. On the year, the Padres staff has produced this line:


MLB’s new playoff format gave the Dodgers an advantage for winning the division as the Padres will not be able to roll out the top of their rotation until Game 2.

In terms of bullpen, the Padres ranked in the middle of the pack all season, ranking 16th in ERA- and 9th in FIP-. The Dodgers have a history of grinding out at bats to get starting pitchers out of the game quickly, so we will likely see a lot of the Padres bullpen. In the Wild Card Series, San Diego used seven different relievers in three games with Robert Suarez being the only pitcher to appear twice. There will likely be a lot of mixing and matching to protect the bullpen’s weaknesses from the powerful Dodger lineup.

Potential X-Factors

This is the MLB playoffs and literally anything can happen. Trends do not always have time to play out in a five-game series and the team that wins is not always the “best” team, it is the team that gets hot at the right time.

One potential X-Factor that could appear involves that kind of timing. The Padres are hungry and have been in playoff baseball mode for the last few weeks and already have a series win under their belts. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have had the luxury to hit cruise control over the last month and have had a week off from competitive baseball. Rust could be a factor, especially early in this series as the Dodgers will have to go from 0 to 100 in an instant and this new format has provided an new layoff. Los Angeles has a team full of seasoned veterans who have either made deep playoff pushes or won a World Series, so they know what it takes to get themselves ready and they know what to expect from a playoff atmosphere. Thus this may not be an issue, but it is worth keeping an eye on since this format is unprecedented.

The other major X-Factor that I see is Soto. This year has been a down year for the young star, especially once he was acquired by the Padres.

Standard Batting
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/10/2022.

These numbers are easily the worst year of his career, and Soto has had to deal with a lot of added pressure since joining the Padres. However, he is still one of the best young hitters in baseball, and great hitters do not stay quiet forever. This just seems like a spot where Soto could exorcise some demons against against a hated rival. The storylines write themselves if he has a big series. As a Dodger fan, I hope he stays quiet, but anything can happen in October.


Regardless of how this series plays out, it should be a highly competitive series with reputations and legacies at stake with every pitch. Baseball Prospectus has the Dodgers as 60.2% favorites and FanGraphs has the same odds, which I’m betting is a lot closer than people thought.

Can the Padres finally break through and beat their biggest rival, or will the Dodgers put their little brothers in their place once again? This series should be filled with drama and have fans on the edge of their seats. Game 1 on Tuesday.

About Shane Mittleman