Using the words “Dodgers” and “on paper” in the same sentence can provoke many followers of Los Angeles baseball into a spiel about how their favorite club could be the most talented team in baseball, yet, at the same time, one of the most underachieving. The Dodgers, far and away, had the most talent and potential in the National League West, but it still took the squad 163 games to secure a spot in the 2018 playoffs. Sure, there were plenty of ups and downs regarding injuries and player personnel, but theoretically, the Dodgers should have ran away with the pennant rather than making it appear to be a bit of a struggle. They made the NLDS against the Braves a lot closer than what it should have been. Additionally, they were probably even more talented than the Brewers, even though Milwaukee finished the regular season with the NL’s best record.
Of course, I’m writing with a bit of bias, but I believe the Dodgers are right up there with the Red Sox in terms of overall player talent. Boston has finally surpassed Los Angeles in team payroll, but it doesn’t necessarily show when it comes to player potential. Andy and I plan on putting together several preview-type posts over the next few days, but I figured I’d get the ball rolling with a several concise player comparisons based on a few general numbers.
Catcher—It’s hard to say who will see the bulk of the catching duties for the Dodgers in the World Series, but if I had to guess, I’d say Austin Barnes will see the most time. And it’s a shame, because if Yasmani Grandal is the primary catcher, he’d run circles around all four catchers offensively. Barnes is strong mechanically behind the plate, but he’s not as quick to second base as either Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon. During the regular season, Vazquez and Leon hit .207/.257/.283 and .177/.232/.279 respectively, so I’m going to say the catcher’s comparison is pretty much a push.
First Base—We could see a number of combinations for each club at first, but for all intents and purposes, I believe the regulars will be Mitch Moreland for the BoSox and Max Muncy for the Dodgers. I like Moreland’s glove much better than Muncy’s, but I feel that Max definitely has the upper-hand with the bat. Both hit from the left side of the plate, but Muncy’s .263 regular season average and 35 long balls trumps Moreland’s .245 average and 15 home runs, considering that both saw relatively the same amount of playing time. Despite Muncy’s questionable glove, I’m still giving the advantage to the Dodgers.
Second Base—At the keystone, it’s hard to say who will be starting any given day for either club. Enrique Hernandez began the postseason as the primary second baseman for the Dodgers, but because of his performance offensively, the Dodgers have been using a combination of several players, mainly Muncy and Chris Taylor and Brian Dozier. The Red Sox are in a similar situation, as anybody from Ian Kinsler, Brock Holt, Eduardo Nunez or Rafael Devers could conceivably see time. Regardless, Boston fans may argue, but if I’m comparing a 36-year-old Kinsler to Taylor, I’m giving the edge to Taylor and the Dodgers.
Shortstop—Shortstop features two of the best young talents in the game: Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts. Between both leagues, Manny hit .297/.367/.538 with 37 long balls, while Bogaerts slashed .288/.360/.522 with 23 jacks. Both have outstanding gloves. Advantage Dodgers.
Third Base—No combination that the Red Sox can field (Nunez, Devers) at the hot corner can even come close to Justin Turner, defensively or offensively. Clear advantage to the Dodgers.
Outfield—Unquestionably, the trio of Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Mookie Betts is the backbone of the Boston squad both offensively and defensively. A Los Angeles outfield of Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig can no doubt stack up to anybody with the bats and the gloves, but because the Dodgers have so many moving parts, I’m giving a slight advantage to the Red Sox, mainly because of uniformity and consistency.
Designated Hitter—It should be interesting to see who the Dodgers slot into the DH spot when they play at Fenway, but knowing how management operates, it will likely depend on the handedness of the pitcher and the impending matchups. We could see Matt Kemp get some hacks, perhaps auditioning for a spot at the same position for next season. Or, fans may even see Grandal appear at DH. Either way, nothing that Los Angeles can offer will come close to Boston’s J.D. Martinez. Clear advantage to the Red Sox.
Bullpen—We may see some roster fluctuation from both teams in the relief corps, but for the sake of comparison, I took a look at the Top 4 relievers from both sides. It seems as if Kenley Jansen is throwing without any issues at all, so the Dodgers have the edge right off the top. The three Boston setup arms—Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelley—have been absolutely outstanding in the postseason, as none of the trio have an ERA above 1.70. In the same breath, it’s plausible to say that the key members of the Dodgers bullpen behind Jansen—Pedro Baez, Caleb Ferguson and Kenta Maeda—hung pitch-for-pitch with the highly-acclaimed Milwaukee bullpen. I’m giving the advantage to the Dodgers, primarily because Craig Kimbrel has surrendered runs in each of his last four playoff appearances.
Starting Rotation—Three years ago, the quartet of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi would have definitely out-pitched a crew of Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill; however, throw in the youthful energy of Walker Buehler, alongside a rejuvinated Ryu and a healthy Kershaw, and I’m giving the advantage to the Dodgers. Besides Sale, nobody in the Boston rotation had a regular-season ERA below a 3.30 or a FIP below 2.88. On the other hand, aside from Hill, every member of the Dodgers’ playoff rotation had an ERA below 2.74 and a FIP below 3.20.
The 2018 season could very well be a role reversal from the 2017 campaign. This year, the Red Sox with their 108 wins could be labelled as the overachievers of baseball, while the Dodgers could be viewed as the underachievers—complete opposites from what fans saw last year. Regardless, despite the Dodgers having a slight talent advantage, how the teams compare on paper matters little in the World Series. Execution is king at the end of the day, and the squad who outperforms the other will carry home a World Championship title, regardless of their level of talent and potential.