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Who has edge in historic NLDS?


Tale of tape: Do Giants or Dodgers have edge in historic NLDS? originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

It feels like we were always going to end up here.

Fate. Destiny. Call it what you will. The Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers were neck and neck all season. Only one game separated them in the 162-game marathon. LA scratched and clawed to catch the Giants in August and September, but the Giants never gave in.

The Dodgers went 43-13 after the start of August. They picked up just two games on the Giants.

That one-game cushion gave the Giants the NL West crown and sent the Dodgers to the one-game NL Wild Card Game. Then, Chris Taylor’s walk-off home run Wednesday night set up what will be a historic National League Division Series matchup between the 107-win Giants and 106-win Dodgers.

With the NLDS beginning Friday at Oracle Park, let’s see who has the edge.

Offense

Like their race for the NL West crown, every category is going to be incredibly close.

It’s no secret how powerful the Giants’ offense was this season. San Francisco led the National League with a franchise-record 241 home runs. The Giants had 17 players hit at least five home runs and smashed 18 pinch-hit home runs.

There was LaMonte Wade Jr., who had six game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning, the most by any player in the last 40 years. Wade hit .377 with a 1.040 OPS with runners in scoring position, .407 with a 1.373 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs, and .565 with a 1.409 OPS in the ninth inning.

Buster Posey found his old form, slashing .304/.390/.499 with an .889 OPS, his highest since he won NL MVP in 2012. Brandon Crawford set career highs with a .298 average, 24 homers and 90 RBI, and a 141 OPS+.

The Giants were almost impossible to keep down.

On the downside, San Francisco will be without Brandon Belt, who put together a career year with 29 home runs and a .597 slugging percentage. Trade deadline acquisition Kris Bryant has just one home run and posted a meager .321 slugging percentage since Sept. 2. The Giants need Bryant to come alive to beat the Dodgers.

As for the Dodgers, LA’s lineup boasts a lineup that has five players with a wRC+ of 130 and a sixth, Justin Turner, at 127. Trea Turner won the batting title going away.

The Dodgers have a deep lineup but have a couple of important question marks heading into the NLDS.

Just as the Giants will be without Belt, the Dodgers will be without Max Muncy, who suffered an arm injury in Game 162. How the Dodgers choose to replace Muncy at first base will be interesting. Dave Roberts turned to Adam Beaty in the Wild Card Game win over the Cardinals. Roberts’ other options are Albert Pujols, a huge negative defensively, or moving Cody Bellinger from the outfield to first, but that takes Bellinger’s plus-arm out of the Dodgers’ outfield.

Pujols has started just nine games since the beginning of August. He has mashed left-handed pitching all season, slashing.294/.336/.603 with 13 home runs, but has been borderline useless against right-handers slashing .180/.233/.266 with four homers in 150 plate appearances.

Now, the good news for the Dodgers is that last year’s World Series MVP Corey Seager has been downright scorching in the previous two months. Since Aug. 1, Seager batted .335/.419/.600 with 12 home runs, 28 extra-base hits, and 35 RBI. Pretty, pretty good.

But for the Dodgers’ lineup to be a true force, LA will need Bellinger, he of the subterranean 45 OPS+, and Chris Taylor, who is slashing .187/.271/.293 since the beginning of August with a 34.5 percent strikeout rate, to come alive. Taylor launched the bomb that sent the Dodgers to the NLDS, but that can’t be his only heroics for the Dodgers to advance.

Edge: Dodgers

Defense

Once again, both teams are superb at flashing the leather.

The Giants ended up 12th in MLB in defensive runs saved, per SportsInfoSolutions, and had the most effective infield shifting in baseball. The Dodgers ranked 10th in defensive runs saved.

Per Baseball-Reference, the Dodgers led MLB in fielding efficiency. The Giants ranked sixth. The Giants were seventh in fielding percentage while the Dodgers tied for 15th.

San Francisco was ninth in Total Runs Above Fielding Average, which calculates the number of runs above or below average the team/player was worth based on the number of plays made. The Dodgers ranked 11th.

The Giants ranked right around league average with 20 outfield assists while the Dodgers were tied for last with 12, per Baseball-Reference.

I like the trio of Mookie Betts-Cody Bellinger-AJ Pollock in the Dodgers’ outfield, but I’ll give the Giants the edge here thanks to Crawford and their elite shifting.

Edge: Giants

Starting Rotation

The good news for the Giants is that the Dodgers sent Max Scherzer to the mound in the Wild Card Game, so he won’t toe the rubber until Game 3.

The pitching matchup for Game 1 is fantastic, with the Giants giving Logan Webb the nod against Walker Buehler. Webb has been sensational since May 11, going 10-0 with a 2.40 ERA, 125 strikeouts and just 22 walks. The Giants are 18-2 in those starts.

Buehler was one of the best pitchers in the National League all season, going 16-4 and a 2.47 ERA. He faced the Giants six times this season and went 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA. However, Buehler’s last start vs. the Giants didn’t go as planned, as he gave up a season-high six earned runs in three innings.

Buehler has been dynamite in the playoffs during his career, posting a 2.35 ERA in 11 starts. He didn’t allow more than two runs in any of his five playoff starts last season.

Gausman should also be in the Cy Young conversation with Buehler as the Giants ace, who will start Game 2, posted a 2.81 ERA and struck out 227 in 192 innings. Gausman’s splitter has been one of the best pitches in baseball as hitters are batting just .133 against the splitter in the 1,062 times Gausman threw it.

The Dodgers will turn to MLB wins champion Julio Urias who went 20-3 with a 2.96 ERA. In five starts against the Giants, Urias went 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA, including when the Giants tagged him for seven runs and 11 hits in May.

Clayton Kershaw will miss the postseason due to a forearm/elbow injury.

The third spot in the Giants’ rotation is where the question marks might come in. The Giants will either have to turn to Anthony DeSclanfani, who went 0-3 with a 7.33 ERA in six starts vs. the Dodgers this season, or Alex Wood, who went 0-2 with a 4.76 ERA in three starts vs. LA.

Webb and Gausman have been lights out for most of the season, but postseason baseball is an entirely different animal. I’ve seen Scherzer, Buehler and Urias thrive in October.

Edge: Dodgers

Bullpen

This might be the closest section of the tape.

While Giants fans were busy complaining about the back-end arms in the bullpen for much of the season, San Francisco went and put together a dominant ‘pen with six relievers who threw at least 50 innings with an ERA of 3.00 or less. That’s Tyler Rogers (2.22 ERA, 81 innings), Zack Littell (2.92 ERA, 61 2/3 innings), Dominic Leone (1.51 ERA, 53 2/3 innings), Jose Alvarez (2.37 ERA, 64 2/3 innings), Jarlin Garcia (262 ERA, 68 2/3 innings) and Jake McGee (2.72 ERA, 59 2/3 innings).

Let’s not forget about the NL Reliever of the Month Camilo Doval. The 24-year-old has serious Francisco Rodriguez in 2002 vibes. He throws 99-mph with a wipeout slider. In 15 games since September 5, Doval did not surrender a run while walking just three and striking out 20.

In a word: Nasty.

The Dodgers’ pen is no slouch, though.

Ever since Kenley Jansen boosted the Giants’ NL West chances by coughing one up on July 22, he has a 1.17 ERA and has struck out 45 batters in his last 31 innings.

The Dodgers loaded their bullpen with past closers. Blake Treinen saved 38 games for the A’s in 2018, and Cory Knebel saved 29 for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. Joe Kelly has closed games and pitched in big postseason games. Hard-throwing right-hander Brusdar Graterol is destined to be a closer at some point.

But what might hurt the Dodgers’ bullpen is that with Kershaw and Dustin May both out for the season, Dave Roberts won’t be able to use Urias in the hybrid role bullpen role the left-hander enjoyed success in last season. Now, Urias won 20 games, so starting him isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just takes a potential weapon out of the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Edge: Giants

 

RELATED: 107 reasons Giants won 107 games

Manager

I’m going to keep this one short.

Gabe Kapler has pushed all the right buttons this season. Every. Single. One.

It reminds me a lot of what John Farrell did with the 2013 Boston Red Sox. Oh look, Daniel Nava is in the lineup and hit a three-run home run. Oh, there goes Mike Carp delivering a go-ahead, pinch-hit double. Yeah, of course, David Ross went yard.

Roberts is a fine manager who has made several questionable decisions at the helm of the Dodgers.

Kapler hasn’t missed this season.

Edge: Giants

Prediction: An epic series

 I can’t pick a winner. The Giants have made everyone look foolish this season, but the Dodgers are loaded and still are the World Series favorites on the odds board. Get your popcorn ready.

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