Dodgers v. Padres: NLDS Preview

The Dodgers swept the Brewers 2-0, and the Padres came back from losing game 1 to winning the series against the Cardinals 2-1. Largely due to the reemergence of MVP caliber Tatis who had a MLB leading (t-1st) 5 RBI and 5 Runs scored (1st) in the wild card round. Overall the Dodgers outscored their opponent 7-2 and the Padres outscored the Cards 19-16.

Whereas the Dodgers costed off production from Mookie Betts and a pitching staff that only allowed 2 runs in the 2 games. Merely a 2 run shot from Orlando Arcia before finishing the series with 14 straight scoreless innings. You can see our NLWC MVPs in depth right here.

But now these teams are about to face off in a best of 5 after the Dodgers barely squeaked by with the regular series win at 6 Dodger wins to the Padres 4. The Dodgers won both 3 game series 2-1 at Petco, and the teams split the 4 game series in LA.

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Now both will travel to Arlington to square off in the Rangers new home. A park now known for gobbling up fly balls. The Padres hit 5 home runs for a total of 10 RBI in their 3 game series, while the Dodgers had one solo bomb from Seager.

Catcher

  • Dodgers: Will Smith / Austin Barnes
  • Padres: Austin Nola / Jason Castro

Will Smith and Austin Barnes have a slight edge over they counterparts. Smith didn’t have a great two games, but he was putting the ball in play and even knocked in an RBI without a hit. Barnes on the other hand called his best game of the year with Kershaw and was the winning offense in game 2 going 2 for 3. Most notably hitting the game winning RBI with 2 outs.

Nola had about the same series as Smith, just with more opportunity. He also didn’t register a hit, but still got on base, and still have 2 RBI in the series. Castro didn’t even get a chance, which won’t be an option in 5 consecutive game days.

Slight Advantage: Dodgers

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1st Base

  • Dodgers: Max Muncy
  • Padres: Eric Hosmer

Max Muncy did a whole lot of nothing in the NLWC unfortunately. His highlights were 2 walks. That’s it. He struck out 4 times and even had some errors in high leverage situations on the field. Luckily for him, the Dodgers pitching was elite. But Muncy will need to do more and quickly if he wants to keep starting.

The Dodgers already started Edwin Rios, have Matt Beaty on the bench, and can always shift Gold Glove Bellinger to first whenever they want.

Meanwhile, Hosmer had a relatively quiet Wild Card series as well. But he came through when it mattered. He only slashed .167/.214/.250 but managed 3 RBI and a run scored. 2 of those RBI came in the elimination game. He gave the Padres the lead in the bottom of the 5th and that wound up being the deciding run that would advance them to the NLDS. As well as walking in an insurance run in the 7th.

Advantage: Padres

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2nd Base

  • Dodgers: Chris Taylor
  • Padres: Jake Cronenworth

Taylor was one of the most effective Dodger batters at the plate and he did it batting 9th and 7th. He slashed .500/.500/.667 while scoring 2 runs and only striking out once. Continuing his incredible September hot streak that saw him OPS .991 for the month. Mix that with his stellar defense and very few people are on Taylor’s level right now. Except…

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Cronenworth. He actually had the 2nd best wild card series at the plate (by OPS) behind only Josh Naylor who started 5-5 (and didn’t advance). He slashed .625/.750/1.250. He was one of 11 players to steal a base, he scored 4 runs, a homer, 2 RBI, 2 walks, and only struck out once. And he was one of the best defenders in baseball this year.

Both of these guys are two of the hottest players left in the playoffs.

It’s a Toss Up.

Shortstop

  • Dodgers: Corey Seager
  • Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr.

This is by far the most intense position matchup in the entire postseason so far (except maybe Urshela v Jose Ramírez)

Seager only had one hit in the NLDS, but it was a 450 moonshot to straightaway center field. It gave the Dodgers a much needed insurance run, forcing the Brewers to go for 2 instead of swinging for the fences. That was his only RBI, but it could be a huge factor as to the game 1 win.

He also scored twice, had a walk in his 8 ABs, only struck out twice, and was putting the ball in play as usual. Still he was shut out in game 2 and could’ve produced a lot more with his opportunities. (He left 3 men on base in the series)

Defensively he was more consistent that he has been this year. He had no errors, but did eat up Buehler on an attempted double play. It was catchable, so the error went to Buehler, but the blame can definitely be shared.

Tatis meanwhile awoke from his slumber. After a September that saw him slash only .208/.311/.403, Fernando slashed .455/.571/1.091 in his 11 AB series. He scored 5 runs, knocked in 5, hit 2 bombs (both with runners on), a double, and walked 3 times to go with his 3 strikeouts.

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His one humbling factor was him slipping in defense. He had a couple highlight reel plays, but also had 2 errors. He had a Fielding % of .867 which was much worse than the .984 he had on the year. Still, he just about made up for it with a couple gems that no one but Tatis could pull off.

Overall, these guys were 2 of the top hitters in baseball this year. Seager may have a lower ceiling but is typically more consistent. But when Tatis is hot, he’s the best player in baseball. But Seager could easily be number 2.

Slight Advantage: Padres

3rd Base

  • Dodgers: Justin Turner
  • Padres: Manny Machado
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Turner did nothing this series. But he also was putting the ball in play. Considering his consistency for years, and his postseason success, we’d be stunned if he doesn’t bounce back in production during the NLDS.

It’s worth noting he ended the season incredibly hot slashing .381/.458/.762 in the last 7 games before playoffs. And he’s only trended up all year. In July he OPS’d .778. In August, an even .800. And in September he OPS’d 1.096.

He had a rough year for himself defensively, but he did perfectly fine in the NLWC and was well above average as of last year. We are chalking it up to small sample size and expect he’ll do just fine if not excellent on the field.

Machado didn’t do much with all the opportunity he had, but he’s still an MVP capable player. He went 2-14 with one of those being a homer. He had 2 RBI, a run scored, and only struck out twice. Still slashing .143/.143/.357 is well below what he is capable of.

But no matter how he’s doing at the plate, he’s a platinum glove on the field. He’s in the tier of the best third baseman in baseball with Arenado and Chapman.

Still Machado and Turner about the same level of threat, and for those who think Machado is better at the plate, Turner was unlucky this year, whereas Machado outperformed his expected stats. In fact Turner was in the top 6% of all batters. Machado was around the top 10%.

Justin Turner Statcast Percentile Rankings
https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/justin-turner-457759?stats=statcast-r-hitting-mlb

Turner actually had the better year according to expected OPS on statcast while hitting a quarter of the homers Machado did. Possibly because only half on Machados home runs would go out in every park. His slugging was .100 points higher than his career average and the highest of his career ever.

Toss Up

Outfield

  • Dodgers: AJ Pollock, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts
  • Padres: Tommy Pham, Trent Grisham, Wil Myers
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Ok, we won’t beat around the bush on this one. The Dodgers have the best outfield in baseball no matter what combination they put out there. They were tied for first in OF WAA this year with the New York Mets (Conforto and Smith had their best years. d) at 3.4. After that Boston at 2.6 (Verdugo). And after that Minnesota (More Defense Oriented) at 2.1

Mookie is the only one locked into his Right Field position. Pollock only plays the outfield and has earned his way to playing almost every day. And Bellinger is 90% locked into center.

And then Chris Taylor is the fourth man in this outfield when he’s not in the infield. Overall, these 4 are the best starting outfield in baseball no matter which 3 is playing.

Even with those studs, the Dodgers could roll out any one of Joc Pederson, Edwin Rios, Matt Beaty, Kike Hernandez, and Terrance Gore if they need it. Granted, Gore will likely only make an appearance as a pinch runner due to his elite speed.

As for the Padres, they are locked in to their starting 9, including the outfield. Pham is in left, Grisham in center, and Myers in right. And even though the Dodgers by far have the better options, these 3 probably rank as a top 5 outfield in baseball. In fact they were ranked 5th in WAA with the Giants (AKA Mike Yastrzemski).

Myers had one of the best and most productive series among the Padres. He hit 2 home runs (both in game 2) had 4 RBI, 2 runs scored, 2 walks, and overall slashed .333/.429/.833. This coming after a long awaited breakout season for Myers in his age 29 season. He OPS’d almost .200 points higher than his career average for an upper echelon .959.

Grisham also improved dramatically from his rookie performance. And considering that the Brewers just got eliminated by the Dodgers, with a lot of outfield trouble, Grisham is looking like an absolute steal for the Padres.

(They traded Eric Lauer, Prospect Luis Urias, and a PTBN). Lauer only pitched 11 innings with a 13.09 ERA and Urias OPS’d a mere .602.

Meanwhile Grisham is the Padres version of 2017 George Springer. He hits for an above average on base, good power, and runs the bases extremely well. He finished the year with 10HR/10SB which is just shy of a 30/30 pace in a normal year. Although he was 0-11 in the NLWC.

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Finally, Pham was injured most of the year, but is also known as a consistent 20/20 threat and true 5 tool athlete. Still with his injuries this year he wasn’t able to find his production during the regular season. However, he was one of the Padres best hitters slashing .462/.462/.615 in the wild card series. Even though his position in the lineup lead to a lack of production stats.

Huge Advantage Dodgers

Designated Hitter

  • Dodgers- Edwin Rios
  • Padres- Mitch Moreland

The Dodgers have multiple options as DH, and will probably continue to have Will Smith DH when he’s not catching, but that likely makes Rios the primary left handed option. And currently the Padres are loaded with RHP. In fact their entering starting rotation is right handed.

So expect a lot of Babe Rios and don’t be surprised if he’s one of the few to hit a home run in Arlington. Not a lot of people can make that park look small, but Rios can. He was hitless with a walk in 4 ABs, but when he makes contact, its hard.

Meanwhile Mitch Moreland will likely be the everyday DH for the Padres. He OPS’d .894 on the year, but only .609 for the Padres. Still, with his potential he’s the best option the Padres have for DH. Still, Dodger fans know what he is capable of, and he has the experience that Rios doesn’t.

Slight Advantage: Padres

Bench

  • Dodgers: Matt Beaty, Terrance Gore, Keibert Ruiz, Kike Hernandez, Joc Pederson
  • Padres: Greg Garcia, Jurickson Profar, Jorge Mateo, Luis Campusano

Each team has a 3rd catcher, and versatile bench players. The Dodgers go-to man is Kike Hernandez. He can literally play any position on the field, and well.

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Offensively, Kike has been just below average. It’s his worst year since a 2016 where he slashed .190/.283/.324. Still he has a lot of postseason success and his value has always come from his glove anyways.

After that, Keibert Ruiz may be the best 3rd string catcher in baseball, Joc is a boom or bust play, Beaty was known for his incredible clutchness last year, and Gore is a running specialist on par with Billy Hamilton.

The Padres go-to man is Profar. He was also an absolute steal for the Padres. They gave up a back up catcher at best with a PTBN and Profar gave them his best professional season so far. And he’s done an incredible job so far in 7 postseason ABs. He went 4-7, however all singles.

After that though, no one even came off the Padres bench.

Slight Advantage: Dodgers

Bullpen

  • Dodgers: Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, Dylan Floro?, Jake McGee, Adam Kolarek, Victor Gonzales, Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly
  • Padres: Emilio Pagán, Tim Hill, Dan Altavilla, Garrett Richards, Pierce Johnson, Matt Strahm, Craig Stammen, Adrian Morejon, Austin Adams

The Dodgers barely had to use their bullpen in the first round. A huge advantage on its own. Urias, Treinen, Jansen, and Graterol were the only pitchers to come in, each pitching an inning of work outside of Julio’s 3 scoreless. And so far, they have an ERA of 0. The rest of the pen is well rested and were just as hot.

The Padres pen had the opposite experience. Not only did they have to pitch one more game, but Padre starters only pitched 6 innings leaving the last 21 IP for the bullpen. The last game being a bullpen game in it’s entirety technically.

But still they pitched to the tune of a 1.71 ERA and won 2 games for their squad. But it doesn’t look like their workload will lighten anytime soon. And they’ve been without their star closer Kirby Yates all year.

The standouts to us though are Adrian Morejon with his triple digits potential, and Emilio Pagan who has thrived.

While the Padres have a great bullpen themselves, the Dodgers are better and well rested.

Advantage: Dodgers

Closer

  • Dodgers: Kenley Jansen
  • Padres: Drew Pomeranz / Trevor Rosenthal

Jansen got the job done in game 1 when he was called upon. However, he came into a two run lead and came in to face the 7-8-9 hitters. But he walked the 9 hitter and finished the job by striking out 2018 MVP Christian Yelich for good measure. Jansen was mostly good this year with just a couple blemishes that ballooned his ERA.

Technically game 2 was a save opportunity, but the Dodgers chose to give Graterol the save opportunity with it being a 3 run lead. Roberts reiterated that Jansen is still the teams closer, and everyone else in the pen respects that.

The Padres lost last years best reliever in Kirby Yates to a season ending injury. They had a bit of a closer shuffle throughout the year until Drew Pomeranz worked his way to the top, but then they traded for Trevor Rosenthal.

Now they use them as a lefty/righty closing combo based on matchups. Rosenthal struggled in the Wild Card series giving up 2 earned runs in 3 innings but also secured the only Padre save of the series. Pomeranz also struggled though giving up 2 unearned runs.

Slight Advantage: Dodgers

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Startin Rotation:

  • Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias
  • Padres: Chris Paddack, Zach Davies, Dinelson Lamet?, Mike Clevinger?, Bullpen?

The Dodgers had one phenomenal start from Kershaw, and a great combination start between Buehler and Urias. Most likely out of an abundance of caution with Buehler’s blister.

And we didn’t even see the rookie phenom combo of May and Gonsolin, arguably the two best pitchers this year after Kershaw. But the Dodgers have a huge advantage just by having 5 stretched out starting pitchers for the series.

Buehler pitched against the Padres once early on and went 5 innings giving up 3 solo bombs to Tatis, Grisham, and Myers. Kershaw lost his only start against SD, but it was a QS (3 ER) with 9 K’s in 6.1 IP. He was also out-dueled by Lamet who is still injured.

Urias won his only start (QS) and went 6.1 IP against the Pads giving up only 2 runs. Gonsolin went twice against them giving up a single run in 11.2 IP. May faced them the most with 3 starts and allowed 5 earned runs (7 total) in 17.1 IP.

It doesn’t even matter that you could argue that the Dodgers have the best rotation in baseball because….

The PADRES ONLY HAVE 2 HEALTHY STARTERS. And they sucked so bad in the Wild card series. They gave up 10 earned runs in 4.1 IP. They have a few guys in the pen that have started before, but aren’t exactly stretched out.

Worst of all, it’s their two Aces in Lamet and Clevinger who are out. They both sound like impossibilities right now, though the Padres are trying to stay optimistic.

It’s not even close on this one. But if the Padres have a silver lining, Davies was 2-2 in Quality Starts against the Dodgers this year, and Paddack was 1-2 in Quality Starts against LA.

Massive, Ginormous, Monstrous Advantage: Dodgers

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Conclusion

Overall, the Padres are slightly outmatched here. Their lineup can go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers 9 out of 10 times, but their pitching is miles behind the Dodgers. In skill and rest.

Meanwhile, it’s ironic that the homer happy Dodgers won without homers, while the Padres would’ve lost without them. As of right now, the Dodgers look like they’re in better shape to perform in pitcher friendly Arlington.

We are calling Dodgers in 4. We think the Padres will beat the Dodgers whenever Buehler starts. They have a lot of guys who see him well, but the rest of the staff has dominated the Pads for the most part. This should also be a high scoring series.

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