The Braves and Dodgers in the 2013 NLDS, because why not, right? Putting aside the respective fanbases, this is a matchup a lot of outsiders have expressed interest in, if for no other reason than to see the most habitual unwritten rule line-steppers take on the steadfast unwritten rule enforcers of grittitude.
Basically, everybody wants to see Yasiel Puig and/or Hanley Ramirez batflip a taken ball and Brian McCann doing this:
H/T: Whoever uploaded that genius image to imgur.
All that interest in schadenfreude by the general public means that absolutely nothing of interest will happen during the series except for one team winning and one team losing.
So with that said, back in analysis-land, the Dodgers and Braves played seven times this season, with the Dodgers going 2-5. What does it mean? Absolutely nothing, as the roster of the Dodgers looks completely different now, and both Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke missed pitching in the entire season series.
It’s been about three months of time since then and everything is different from back then, so here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the two teams because this is the easiest way for me to inject snark.
wRC+ is a player’s offensive production. The moar over 100 the player is, the moar gooder they are.
BR is BRR/BsR averaged. BR/150 means it’s per 150 games.
D is UZR/DRS/FRAA averaged. D/150 means it’s per 150 games.
ERA-/FIP- mean the moar under 100 the player is the better.
Positionnal adjustment, replacement level, and WAR don’t matter for these matchups. I wanted everything context neutral and judged on the same playing field, hence this methodology.
In other words, why penalize Evan Gattis and Skip Schumaker for being part-time players during the regular season if they’re full-time players now?
Is this perfect? Absolutely not, but I think it provides a starting point for discussion.
Brian McCann is worse on the bases than A.J. Ellis, but he hits like 30% better. Catcher defense on that chart should be thrown out, since it’s the most difficult thing for sabermetrics to gauge. We do know McCann has thrown out 24% and Ellis has gunned down 44% compared to a league average of 28%, so A.J. probably has the run game controlled better, but the rest is up for grabs.
I don’t think McCann has ever had a positive defensive reputation, but A.J. has gotten old in a hurry this year and his hands have become much more stone-like and he’s having increased difficulty blocking pitches.
Have to go with McCann’s bat here given that whatever defensive edge that A.J. has at this point is slight.
Advantage: #Barves, solidly.
Braves fans are nuts for wanting Freddie Freeman as MVP … but he’s better than Adrian Gonzalez, which makes select Dodgers fans calling for him to be MVP even more insane. They’re both above-average defenders and below-average baserunners, but Freeman can hit about 25% better and is the biggest, most consistent offensive threat on the Braves.
Advantage: #Barves, easily.
They’re both below-average hitters, but they reach it in different ways, with Dan Uggla managing to remain relatively productive due to his power despite hitting .179. Mark Ellis is more of a hitter for average, but has little else to offer in terms of offensive skill-set. However, Uggla has a remarkable .135/.289/.234/.523 line since the All-Star break, which is just … impressive. Better yet, he’s slow and is a horrid defender. At this point I would probably take Ellis’ offense over his, much less the solid baserunning and plus defense.
Advantage: #Didgers, by as long as Evan Gattis’ homer off Cole Hamels.
Chris Johnson is … uh … good at hitting … now? Either that or he sold his soul to the BABIP gods and they let him post that unholy .394 BABIP. So he’s solid with the bat but not a very good defender. Juan Uribe, on the other hand, should finish second for the NL Gold Glove at third and has managed to provide adequate pop to reignite his once dead career.
Have to take Papi/The Legend here.
Advantage: #Didgers with a ton of flair.
I wonder if people realize that we are seeing this generation’s Ozzie Smith in Andrelton Simmons? The amount of barehanded charging plays he makes on the infield grass when he starts from deep short is inhuman. Oh look, it’s a Andrelton defensive porn GIF dump.
Unfortunately for him, the guy in the opposite dugout has been just as special with the bat when he’s been healthy. Hanley Ramirez has been absolutely unconscious for the Dodgers in 2013 and is easily the best hitter in this series. He’s the impact bat the Dodgers had been without since Matt Kemp destroyed his career at Coors Field. I’ll take an impact bat over an impact glove.
Advantage: #Didgers, but Andrelton Simmons is awesome.
Part of me wants to believe Evan Gattis is better than he is because he just looks like he should be better. He looks like a bear wrestler playing baseball and his sanity level appears to be low, just like Yasiel Puig. I like him, but he’s a rookie and has struggled late in the year, plus in left field he is all kinds of hilariously horrible.
Carl Crawford is not having a great year, but he’s doing his thing with his diminished skill-set and is not an albatross in any one aspect of the game.
Advantage: #Didgers, but I enjoyed watching bear man Evan Gattis hit ball far.
God this is so pathetic. Kemp’s 2013 numbers would be ugly here as well, but at least there would be an upside argument due to his September offensive resurgence. Andre Ethier has actually done well in 2013, and still might be okay to play, but I doubt he’ll be ready for center right away in any case. So instead, we have Skip Schumaker getting absolutely destroyed by Jason Heyward in every single plausible facet of the game.
Like I said in my playoff roster post, Michael Young is horrid at defense, but at least people know that. People don’t seem to recognize that Schumaker is scary bad at every position he plays. He’s a pinch hitter with a utility reputation.
Advantage: #Barves because it looks like #CoachBen‘s advice has worked out well for Jason. Maybe the ‘Easy Button’ was for his defense?
I like Justin Upton a lot. His upside is enormous and that ‘hit a bomb, throw the bat down like you have a stick up your ass, pose, walk, then trot’ home run routine is so goddamn awesome when he hits a ball like 500 feet … but he’s fallen short of that upside this year and Puig is like Upton with triple the entertainment factor, for better or worse. Also, Puig has swung it better in 2013 and has been positive defensively despite his constant mistakes, which should tell us a lot about HIS potential.
People are going to overanalyze Puig’s mistakes because he’s Puig, but I can live with the Dodgers losing on one of his mistakes, because I know that so far in his career he’s been much, much, much more of a benefit to the team than a detriment. It’s that’s damn simple.
Advantage: #Didgers by Puig being Puig.
Clayton Kershaw is the advantage here. He’s better than any pitcher on the Braves by a lot because he’s better than every pitcher in baseball. Now with that said, you’ll notice how close the rest of the matchups are, which should give you pause as people begin to laud the Dodgers’ rotation as unbeatable.
The Braves’ arms don’t have the respect yet because they don’t have long track records, but they have the talent to go blow-for-blow with the best playoff rotation in the NL. And yes, the Braves are really debating starting Freddy Garcia, but even if it’s Paul Maholm, it wouldn’t change things that much, and I would take Ricky Nolasco over both of them.
As such, I think the Dodgers have a pitching matchup edge in every game, but it’s not by much.
Advantage: #Didgers by less than you think.
The starting lineups are basically set, but the bench spots are still up for grabs, so I couldn’t do the same analysis.
The Braves have Gerald Laird, Elliot Johnson, B.J. Upton, Jordan Schafer, and Paul Janish. Also, Reed Johnson might come OUT OF NOWHERE at random and suckerpunch Puig or something, so that adds extra drama. If none of those guys seem especially impressive to you, it’s because they aren’t, though Laird is a solid backup and E. Johnson actually might be better than Uggla.
As much as I whine about the Dodgers bench, by comparison, they actually look decent. Even if he can’t start, Ethier will likely be there for pinch-hitting purposes where he can hopefully pull a Kirk Gibson at some point. Then there’s Nick Punto, who is a legit star as a utility man (if such a thing exists) due to plus defense at three positions. Michael Young should never ever play the field, but as a pinch-hit single specialist? He’ll work. Scott Van Slyke should provide pop off the bench with his .800+ OPS and Tim Federowicz is a solid defensive backup. Jerry Hairston Jr. would provide utility and Dee Gordon could be a Billy Hamilton-esque pinch-running specialist as well.
Advantage: #Didgers by quite a bit, surprisingly.
I like the Dodgers’ bullpen, in theory. Kenley Jansen is one of the elite closers in the game. Brian Wilson has emerged as healthy and effective. Chris Withrow has come on as a rookie that Don Mattingly can trust in big situations. J.P Howell has found has niche role again. Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario have been solid to excellent all year. The problem is that Paco and Beli have struggled down the stretch, and they have nobody they can trust as the seventh bullpen arm, whether it be Carlos Marmol, Edinson Volquez, Chris Capuano, or Brandon League. Going into the postseason, that really leaves two guys — in Jansen and Wilson — that you feel comfortable with, four guys who you think should be fine, and one guy you leave the room for when he enters.
On the flip side of that is the best bullpen in baseball led by the best closer in baseball in Craig Kimbrel. Along with him comes Jordan Walden (2.81 FIP), Scott Downs (2.62 FIP), Anthony Varvaro (3.47 FIP), David Carpenter (2.89 FIP), Luis Avilan (3.28 FIP) and Alex Wood (2.65 FIP). I have no idea why Wood isn’t starting, but in the bullpen he could be devastating with that ‘never teach your kid to throw like this’ motion, and Avilan is basically the guy Ethier will see every single chance they get.
The Braves bullpen is ridiculous and rolling … and I hate it. Plz go.
Advantage: #Barves, by a lot.
The Dodgers have the advantage at a lot of spots, but it’s not by much. With Kemp and Ethier not healthy, the Braves close the gap in the starting lineup and bench, cutting down team strengths for the Dodgers.
Besides, remember that this is the playoffs and a five-game series. A five-game sample can make Luis Cruz look like the greatest player in history or Hanley look like the worst, which is precisely why I’ll never feel comfortable with a team’s playoff series chances.
In related news, Braves beat writer David O’Brien can whine about what he anticipates the media will say, but so far most have this series relatively close. The Dodgers are a favorite, yes, but hardly anything to pull out the “NOBODY THINKS WE CAN WIN” BS. Not even fans of the Braves appear that deluded. Sheesh.
In any case, my pick is the Dodgers in five.