Since the last time I chimed in on how meaningless all of these games are for the Dodgers, they have managed to remain 13.5 games up on the San Francisco Giants and Arizona D-backs, continue to hold a significant advantage (6.5 games) over the Milwaukee Brewers for the No. 2 seed in the National League and sit at a 98-win pace which would be both their worst win total/percentage since 2018 while also finishing fourth in all of Major League Baseball in 2023.
Unsurprisingly, my feelings haven’t changed on these games. Especially when Kyle Hurt is temporarily back in Triple-A after he became the most interesting thing about the team for 24 hours on Tuesday.
However, unlike the sad Padres who remain 6.5 games out of the National League Wild Card (equal to the Pittsburgh Pirates and a payroll that is $184 million less), the Mariners are 1.5 games up on the Toronto Blue Jays for the sixth and final American League Wild Card berth and sit a game back of the Rangers for the No. 5 seed. While it might not be the case for the Dodgers, at least that adds some stakes to these three games as Seattle still has seven games remaining against Texas and three against Houston to close out the regular season.
It would also be hard to complain about getting to see Julio Rodriguez play against the Dodgers as that’s obviously going to be a somewhat rare occurrence with just three games a year between the teams. The Dodgers did not play the Mariners in 2022, though Rodriguez obviously got to play in Los Angeles with his runner-up finish in the 2022 Home Run Derby, but will host Seattle from Aug. 19 to 21 in 2024.
It’ll be staff ace (?) Bobby Miller against George Kirby who, like Rodriguez, is nearing the end of his second full season in the majors and as a result has never faced the Dodgers before. I say “ace?” because Dave Roberts did not shut down the idea of Miller starting Game 1 of the NLDS while confirming Clayton Kershaw is still supposed to start on Saturday before Gavin Stone gets the bulk of Sunday’s innings.
As for tonight’s starter, asked Dave Roberts how realistic it is that Bobby Miller starts Game 1 of the playoffs— Jack Harris (@ByJackHarris) September 16, 2023
His answer: “I think it’s very realistic, where we’re at right now, he’ll start one of the first two.”
Lineups are just about exactly what you would expect with the right-handed Kirby on the mound, even if his splits sort of say otherwise, but more on the below.
|LF||Peralta (L)||LF||Kelenic (L)|
|CF||Outman (L)||DH||Canzone (L)|
|P||Miller (R)||P||Kirby (R)|
James Outman‘ OPS is sitting at .785 through his 507 PAs this season. It’s now been somewhere between .769 and .800 since Aug. 1, with his slash line during those 38 games coming in at .246/.389/.441/.830 on a .324 BABIP. That looks pretty similar to his .248/.357/.428/.785 with a .347 BABIP for the season, so he surely has settled in as everyone has noticed over the past few months. While the 3.9 fWAR in 507 PAs isn’t quite Cody Bellinger‘s 4.1 fWAR in 492 PAs, I assume the Dodgers are good with the $722,500 salary compared to the $17.5 million Bellinger is getting in addition to the three more pre-arbitration years for Outman.
Speaking of 4.1 fWAR players, Will Smith‘s 2-for-3 game against the Padres on Wednesday bumped his OPS back to .818 as he tries to bounce back to the near .900 OPS that was .899 back on July 21 in Texas before this .233/.308/.374/.682 stretch over his past 185 PAs.
Despite an 0-for-3 on Wednesday, Jason Heyward is hitting .415/.442/.683/.1.125 in 43 PAs since Aug. 26 when his OPS dropped to .780, the lowest for the season since June 20. In fact, Heyward has been under an .800 OPS for just 37 of his 110 games this season with eight of those in April and nine in May. For all the talent Heyward has, his .828 OPS only ranks behind his rookie year (2010) of .849 and 2020’s .848 in 181 PAs. Heyward’s wRC+ follows the same pattern, with 2023’s 125 behind 2010’s 134 and 2020’s 131.
And outside of two days in March to start the season, Miguel Rojas‘ OPS has registered 14 of its highest 16 days this season since the trade deadline as he is slashing .271/.328/.421/.748 in 121 PAs dating back to Aug. 1, a stretch that notably includes all three of his home runs in 2023. While his season OPS of .602 is worse than 2022, a .748 OPS would rank 15th in Major League Baseball this season among shortstops with 350 PAs. That’s probably stretching to be optimistic, but if that stretch continued the Dodgers couldn’t have the worst hitting shortstop in the postseason.
Before getting into a comparison, this is actually a pretty fun pitching matchup as Kirby earned his first career All-Star bid in July and is sitting at 4.0 fWAR in 2023 to rank in a tie for sixth in the American League and 11th among all pitchers in baseball. While Miller is still going through some ups and downs, he’s lasted at least 6 innings in his past six starts with a season high of 7 innings in the last two outings.
|IP||101 2/3||165 2/3|
Kirby’s 2.4 BB% is the best in baseball among qualified pitchers and his 109 Location+ is tied with Zach Eflin for the best in baseball as well. Pitching+ only has two guys above him, Zack Wheeler and Spencer Strider, while Gerrit Cole is tied with Kirby at 109 among qualified starters. Of course, Miller’s 101 2/3 innings don’t have him qualifying for the list, but his 110 also ranks behind only Wheeler and Strider among pitchers with 100 or more innings.
For Kirby, he’s had a pretty clear platoon split in his first two years with the Mariners.
|vs. RHH||vs. LHH|
It really just comes down to walks against left-handed batters for Kirby, though 3.9% is still so low that it hardly even matters. Kirby’s thrown six different pitches in 2023, with four coming in at 9.9% or more to right-handed batters and five at 8.4% or higher to lefties.
It’s 37.3% fastballs and 30.3% sinkers at similar velocities of 96.2 and 95.6 mph to righties, with a slider (85.9 mph) at 20.6% and a curve (81.7) 9.9% of the time. The fastball holds a 36.9 Whiff% in 2023 against righties, up from 31.8% last season. For left-handed batters, the fastball is at 43.3% with a pretty even mix of sliders (17.1%), curves (15.4%), sinkers (11.7%) and the splitter at 8.4% with a 41.3 Whiff%. The splitter has only finished 27 PAs against lefties, but in those it’s got a .139 wOBA and a .159 xwOBA and 13 strikeouts.
First pitch from Seattle is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. PT on SportsNet LA and MLB Network for anyone out of market.