Here we are. The NLCS. And of what a matchup it will be. Our last comparisons have been mostly spot on. Here’s to going 3 for 3.
Dodgers: Will Smith / Austin Barnes
Braves: Travis d’Arnaud / Tyler Flowers
Will Smith wasn’t able to find any grass until the last game of the NLDS where he had a record breaking 5 hits. He had an OPS of .267 coming into that game. Now it’s at .840 as he preps for what has been stellar pitching from the Braves. If he’s hot, he can the hottest hitter of the series. But so can his starting competition.
D’Arnaud is currently leading the Braves in OPS and it’s not even close. He’s slashing a ridiculous .421/.500/.842 for an overall 1.342. He’s had 8 hits and half have gone for extra bases. He’s knocked in 7 runs and scored 3 for himself. If he could start all 7 games he would give the Braves a huge advantage. But backups will be needed.
Barnes is quietly the best Dodgers hitter when in. He’s only gotten out once this postseason to go along with his elite defense behind the plate. His slash line is a ridiculous .800/.833/.800. All his hits are singles, but that’s not bad when you bat 9th with Mookie “Double” Betts behind you. And considering his counterpart hasn’t even played a game yet, he is clearly the better backup right now.
The Braves have the hottest hand in D’Arnaud. But Flowers will probably catch a game or two, and in those games the Dodgers have a huge advantage. All in all, we have to call this a
Dodgers: Max Muncy
Braves: Freddie Freeman
Muncy is hitting exactly how he did all season long. And sadly, that’s not well. He has plenty of walks, and strikeouts, and a few scattered hits. The only redeeming factor being his .409 OBP during the first two series.
Even when Max Muncy is at his best, Freeman this year has been better. He may be only 3-18 to start this postseason, but we won’t even spend much time on this one. Freeman is the only competition with Betts for MVP. And realistically, Freeman is probably going to win.
Huge Advantage: Braves
Dodgers: Chris Taylor
Braves: Ozzie Albies
Both teams are struggling with getting production out of 2nd base this postseason. Yet, the ceiling on both of these teams starters are massive. But the .523 and .498 OPS Albies and Taylor have respectively won’t get much done.
It seems they have about the same floor as well as ceiling. Albies is a switch hitter and a little bit hotter and faster.
Slight Advantage: Braves
Dodgers: Corey Seager
Braves: Dansby Swanson
Both of these Shortstops are going off. Swanson has an OPS of .970 and Seager is at .947. However when you look at their slash lines, Seager is clearly doing better all around.
Swanson has benefited from 2 homers and a triple to inflate his slugging. But he has only walked once, and struck out 7 times. Versus Seager has 4 walks to 2 strike outs. He even stole a base behind Betts. Seager has also been a bigger factor in run production for the Dodgers than Swanson’s been for the Braves.
Factor in that Seager had an MVP caliber year at the plate, and a series at Globe Field we have to give him the edge in this matchup.
Dodgers: Justin Turner
Braves: Austin Riley
This is another position both teams are struggling to find production. Riley has an OPS of .585 that surprisingly looks good next to Turner’s OPS on .372. However, Turner has been getting the job done scoring 4 runs and 3 RBI. And it’s because he’s only struck out 3 times. Otherwise he’s putting the ball in play.
Whereas Riley has 8 strikeouts to 2 walks. He’s only scored 2 runs with no RBI. So even though he has more hits, he’s not getting the job done.
Slight Advantage: Dodgers
Dodgers: AJ Pollock
Braves: Adam Duvall
Pollock is another player just getting by. He’s slashing .267/.353/.333 to go with 4 runs, 2 RBI, a walk, 2 SO, and a SB. Not great, but not bad either. It’s good to see he’s putting the ball in play. But most of all he’s been consistent. He gets the job done night in, night out.
Duvall does not. He has 2 hits, a walk, and 11 strikeouts to go with a .443 OPS. Still he’s a guy who can hit 10 homers in 14 games. And did this year. But the boom or bust is only fun for a starter when they’re booming.
So even though Duvall has the higher ceiling, we have to give the edge to consistency here.
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger
Braves: Ronald Acuna Jr
This is the positional matchup of the playoffs so far. Two of the youngest studs in the MLB at the premiere outfield location. Both had rough years by their standards, and now both are excelling for their undefeated squads in the postseason.
Acuna ranks 3rd on the Braves this postseason with an .860 OPS. His slash line breaks down into .273/.360/.500.
He’s 6 for 22 with 4 runs scored, 2 RBI, 2 doubles, a homer, 2 walks, and 2 stolen bases. And this after a year that saw his average dip, and power surge more for a .987 OPS.
His one weak spot offensively this postseason has been his 11 strikeouts. Without productive outs, he’s surely leaving men on base. And defensively he ranks just barely behind Bellinger this year.
Bellinger had a major MVP slump in his 2020 campaign. His slash line of .239/.333/.455 was by far the worst of his career. And somehow he was still above average at the plate with being electric in the field.
But Belli is back this postseason. He also ranks 3rd on his team this postseason in OPS, but with .960. He’s slashing .316/.381/.579 which has an edge on Acuna in every category.
But a big difference is having half the strikeouts with 5. That’s lead to 5 RBI. He hasn’t stolen bases, but we all know he’s the biggest threat on the team to run besides Betts.
Overall, Bellinger is just slightly outplaying Acuna and has already won one game for the Dodgers this postseason.
Slight Edge: Dodgers
Dodgers: Mookie Betts
Braves: Nick Markakis
Markakis has been fantastic throughout his career, but this isn’t a competition. Markakis is slashing .190/.190/.238 this postseason. He slashed a career worst .254/.312/.392 this year.
It seems that he is finally slowing down at the age of 36. He’ll most likely transition to DHing soon, but right now the Braves need him in right.
But Betts had an MVP caliber year. And is leading the way for the Dodgers this postseason as well. He’s slashing .368/.435/.632 (1.066 OPS) as the everyday leadoff hitter and right fielder.
He’s 7 for 19 with 5 of those being doubles. He also has 3 walks to go against 5 strikeouts. He’s also scored 6 runs and knocked in 4 to go with a stolen base. (He stole 3rd). Oh and he’s probably the best right fielder in baseball.
Huge Advantage: Dodgers
Dodgers: Joc Pederson (Will Smith)
Braves: Marcell Ozuna
This isn’t a competition either, but the Braves win here. And it’s also worth mentioning, Joc is only going to DH against RHP. On days with lefties the Dodgers will shuffle the lineup or use Will Smith if they can. But we already talked about Smith.
Pederson may technically be slashing .333/.333/.333 this postseason, but that’s just going 2 for 6, granted he has 2 RBI. Still he had an awful year, and he’s back to be a 3 outcome player at the plate.
Whereas Ozuna had a career year as a DH. His slash line reached career highs in every category going .338/.431/.636. Oh yeah, and 18 homers.
The postseason hasn’t been going fantastic for him, but he’s still been their 4th best performer so far. He’s slashing .227/.227/.409. But that’s with 4 runs, 5 RBI, a double, and a homer. But again, he has 10 strikeouts and that doesn’t bode well against a good Dodgers staff.
Huge Advantage: Braves
Dodgers: Kike Hernandez, Matt Beaty, and Edwin Rios
Braves: Pablo Sandoval, Charlie Culberson, and Cristian Pache
Pablo is nice to have as a veteran presence, but that’s the most he brings. Culberson is basically another Kike Hernandez with more bat and less glove. And Pache is unproven with an .802 OPS being a minor league career high.
Slight Edge: Dodgers
Dodgers: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin
Braves: Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Josh Tomlin, Kyle Wright, Huascar Ynoa/Other?
Max Fried and Ian Anderson could very well be the next Buehler/Kershaw combo. They’ll give the Braves a chance to win both of their starts, but they’ll be dueling with some of the best.
But the Braves fall off after that. The Dodgers give you three more aces in the making. The Braves give you 3 back end starters at best, or 2 and a bullpen game. Considering the Dodgers specialize in wearing down opposing pitching, it doesn’t look good for the Braves staff.
So even though the Braves have about as good of a 1-2 punch atop the rotation as the Dodgers, the 3-6 starters don’t even compare. The Dodgers have a 6th starter in Alex Wood if they need it. But he almost didn’t pitch at all this year.
- Dodgers (ERA for 2020)
- Dustin May: 2.57 ERA
- Julio Urias: 3.27
- Tony Gonsolin: 2.31
- Josh Tomlin: 4.76 ERA
- Kyle Wright: 5.21
- Huascar Ynoa: 5.82
- Bryse Wilson: 4.02
Dodgers: Baez, Floro, Gonzales, Graterol, Kelly, Kolarek, McGee, Wood, Treinen, Jansen
Braves: Dayton, Greene, Martin, Matzek, Melancon, Minter, O’Day, Smith, Webb, Wilson
Both of these pens are stacked. If you take out Julio’s one unearned run during his out of the pen starts, only two Dodger relievers have given up runs. Jansen and Kolarek. Still the team is undefeated so far.
The Braves only have one reliever to give up a run so far, Martin. The rest belong to Max Fried. Then they have 7 guys who have been almost perfect. Same as the Dodgers. Both these pens are fantastic and well rested.
Overall we have the matchups graded 7 (Dodger Advantages) -3 (Braves Advantages) -3 (Toss Ups) in favor of the Dodgers. We call the Dodgers in 5 or 6.