Several Early Team Comparisons Ahead of 2020 NLCS

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While many of the initial playoff rounds of 2020 were somewhat lopsided in nature as far as overall team talent went, it is refreshing—in some senses—that two of the best teams in the National League are meeting up for the right to advance to the World Series.

Although they had the third-best regular season record on the senior circuit, the Braves won the NL East outright to earn the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. What’s more, the level of competition they faced during the regular season may have been far greater than the teams the Dodgers opposed. Based on the way they’ve been playing in recent weeks, they’re definitely representative of being one of the NL’s best. However, while they still have yet to lose in the 2020 postseason—just like the Dodgers— Atlanta has advanced after defeating both the Reds and the Marlins, suggesting that the team has yet to face any formidable opposition in October.

In many ways, the Dodgers and the Braves are very much alike. From all indications, the 2020 NLCS will be a battle, as the series could conceivably go very deep into the final games. The schedule is set up just like the NLDS with no off days, so both teams will play consecutive days until one wins four games, creating plenty of conjecture for both pitching staffs.

Obviously, there will be plenty of previews throughout the baseball blogosphere over the next few days, but here are a few initial thoughts and comparisons to get us started.

THE OFFENSES

As far as offensive numbers go, it’s ridiculous how close the Dodgers and Braves come in some areas. In team runs scored, the Dodgers finished first in the NL with 349 while the Braves were right there with them at 348. For overall team OPS, the Braves finished first in the league with a .832 mark while the Dodgers were second at .821. Slugging wise, believe it or not, both clubs finished tied for first among the NL with a .483 regular season slugging percentage mark. Nevertheless, Los Angeles generated many of their runs by the long ball while Atlanta was certainly more of a small ball team, as the Braves finished first in the league with a .349 team OBP.

Similarly, the teams are very much alike as far as star power goes. Freddie Freeman is perhaps one of the most consistent, purest hitters in the game, while Ronald Acuna Jr. is one of the finest five-tool specimens. In the same breath, Mookie Betts is one of the most respected offensive presences on the senior circuit, while Cody Bellinger’s raw tools rival those of just about anybody in the majors.

THE ROTATIONS

Both teams used just three starting pitchers so far during the postseason, although the start by righty Dustin May in Game 3 of the NLCS was more of a bullpen affair for Los Angeles. Regardless, Atlanta’s Max Fried has made a case for a postseason league award after going 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA over 11 starts. Over six starts, Ian Anderson posted a ridiculous 1.95 ERA, but the crazy stat surrounding him is that he allowed just one long ball over 32-1/3 regular-season innings. Slotting into the No. 3 slot for the Braves is Kyle Wright, but there’s not much starting pitching depth beyond him, indicating that we could be in for a few bullpen affairs. Fried is the only lefty among the trio.

We know the Dodgers will use at least two traditional starters in Walker Buehler (Game 1) and Clayton Kershaw (Game 2) to begin the series. We could see both Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin used in normal starting roles in subsequent games, or we could also see both of them used as small parts of bullpen games. Either way, once Game 4 rolls around, the matchups will certainly promise to be interesting.

THE BULLPENS

Considering some of the recent struggles of the Los Angeles bullpen, it’s hard to guess how the team will exactly utilize its relief corps in the NLCS. For now, perhaps Kenley Jansen is the team’s closer, but he may not be permitted to throw on back-to-back days. Next up on the totem pole are probably Blake Treinen and Brusdar Graterol. Matchup analytics might end up playing huge for the Dodgers in the later innings of the games. Los Angeles, though, has seemingly one of the hottest long men around in lefty Julio Urias.

Conversely, Atlanta has constructed their bullpen in a way that every arm pretty much has a specific role. In terms of a closer, Mark Melancon is the man, but all four of Chris Martin, Shane Greene, A.J. Minter and Will Smith have been closers at some point during their careers. Interestingly, as far as bullpen numbers go during the 2020 postseason, the Braves have compiled a ridiculous 0.44 bullpen ERA with a 0.69 WHIP, while the Dodgers have tallied a 1.64 ERA with a 0.95 WHIP.

27 thoughts on “Several Early Team Comparisons Ahead of 2020 NLCS

  1. I need to push restart in my thinking as I’ve been concentrating so hard on the Padres and the kind of threat they posed that I’ve been ignoring how good a team the Braves are.
    We should be able to beat them in a 7 game series but we’ll have to hit and pitch to our potential in order to do it.

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  2. Considering the weak offenses the Braves faced in the first two rounds, I think that stat is skewed. The Dodgers faced a weak sister in the Brewers, but the Padres are a much better hitting team and they held them to 9 runs in 3 games, The Braves pitching 4 shutouts in 5 games would be more impressive if they were playing better offenses.

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    1. Very true. However, I think some would still argue that Atlanta has the advantage in the relief pitching department, especially in light of what happened to the Dodgers in Game 2. The Braves have a ton of experience back there.

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      1. So do the Dodgers. Treinen, Baez, Kelly, Alexander, Kolarek, McGee, Wood, Urias if needed. I do not see where Atlanta has an edge at all. Dodgers stats were as good if not better. And the Braves have not seen an offense like this except for when they faced the Yankees.

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      2. They added Rios and Wood, dropped Lux and Gore. So they will be going with 15 pitchers. Hall of famer Joe Morgan passed away. RIP Joe.

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      3. So they made a big deal about having Gore for late inning pinch running, so now they drop him and Lux the two fast guys on the bench. Rios deserves a spot if healthy, but Wood has been terrible. They are taking a risk by not carrying Ruiz as the third catcher. Ruiz and Beaty are somewhat redundant. I would have kept Lux for speed and IF depth.

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      4. Problem is, Lux is not hitting. He is no where near the fielder that Kike and Taylor are. Rios gives them lefty pop off of the bench. Admittedly, Wood is a wild card in all this, BUT, he has playoff experience and he has had some success in the playoffs. Anything that is wrong with Wood is more about rust than talent. Would not have helped tonight. Trienen imploded in the 9th,, and the offense never got going. McGee sees his first action since the end of the season and gives up a homer. But it would not have made any difference, they went down meekly in the 9th. CK tomorrow against the kid, Anderson. They need to score early, and take the pressure off. Tommy Pham recovering after being stabbed in the back.

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      5. I was keeping Lux to have some speed on the bench. The early season “stellar “ bullpen is now not. Kelly, Wood and Jansen were already on the list of shakey performers. Now we can add Treinen and McGee. I understand bringing Treinen in the 9th. But why not Baez to face the right handlers Coming up. The announcers mentioned all game what a great fast ball hitting team the Braves were. McGee only throws fast balls and from the left side. Neither guy located and were punished. They cannot keep sending May out there in a seven game series, unless the plan is to comeback with both Buehler and Kershaw on short rest. That would seem to be anti their MOA. As you said, the bats need to come alive early today.

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      6. I disagree. And since McGee had not pitched since September, him leaving one over the plate can be attributed to being a little rusty. Trienen allowed most of the damage. The one run from Albies was inconsequential since they went down like bowling pins in the 9th. Trienen had one job, and did not do it, so they lost. You seem to forget how good the bullpen, other than Jansen’s near debacle has been over the previous 9 games. They had a 9 game winning streak and the starters, except Kershaw had very little to do with winning those games. Gonsolin will probably start game 3. May’s little warm up would set him up for game 4. With Urias a possible game 5 starter. Then Buehler and Kersh for 6 and 7 if needed. As for Lux, he has little experience as a pinch runner, and does not steal bases all that much. Using him off the bench as a pinch runner is as much of a waste of a roster spot as Gore.

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      7. It’s not clear what you are disagreeing with. You don’t think Lux has speed and knows how to run the bases? Not able to score from 2B or advance on a WP, when Turner or Rios couldn’t. The Dodgers were enamored with having Gore for the first two series. You think bringing the Lefty McGee in to face fastball hitting RHs was a better choice than Baez and a normal move for the Dodgers? You don’t agree that Kelly With his 1.50 WHIP and Wood with his 1.82 WHIP are shaky options? You don’t think Treinen and McGee both failed to locate their pitches? You don’t think Beaty Is somewhat redundant to Rios. You don’t think their is risk of only having two catchers? You do think the bullpen is just as strong now as it was the first 30 games or so?

        Urias and Gonsolin should be starting games 3-4, May game 5. The starters need to go deeper. Buehler cannot keep walking almost a batter per inning. Historically he’s been roughly 2.3 per nine innings. It’s great that batters are patient but drives me nuts, when they take one down the middle, than swing at one in the dirt. There are guys that only seem to have interest in getting that one pitch they can pull.

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      8. I do not agree with using Lux simply as a pinch runner. Everyone else on the roster can play multiple positions. Lux is one dimensional so far, and he is not hitting. Beaty and Rios are totally different players. Beaty is more of a contact hitter. Rios is the big boom off of the bench. Kelly and Wood are there because they are more experienced than most of the others in post season play. As for why Roberts used McGee instead of Baez, it is probably because RH were hitting only .135 against him this year. And he struck out 28 RH hitters compared to only 5 lefty’s. So I think Roberts had more of a handle on his pitchers than you do. Gonsolin is starting today because Kersh had back spasms. Stick to being a fan, and let the pro’s make the decisions on the field.

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      9. I would have agreed about Beaty vs Rios last year. This year Beaty has struck out in 26.9% of plate appearances while Rios only 22.5%. The redundancy, is that they both play the same positions and both bat LH. Neither are speedy. There will be limited PH opportunities considering the mostly set lineup.
        Having playoff experience is great but not helpful, if they are poor pitchers this season like Wood and Kelly. I agree McGee has had a great season after coming off the Rockies scrapyard. I wasn’t aware of his reverse splits. Thanks for pointing that out. Let’s hope the bats break out tonight and Gonsolin is as solid as he has been all year.

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      10. Kike and Taylor are even more redundant. But that is beside the point. I think the whole thing is because the Dodgers at this point do not trust Lux. He has not shown enough to warrant a post season roster spot. Last year second base was more in flux than this year. Kike and Taylor are superior fielders to Lux. And they like Beaty’s bat. Beaty did not have a whole lot of opportunities this year, and I think the lack of playing time definitely affected his performance. So far, they cannot get to Anderson. Had the bases loaded, but with 2 outs. Smith has left 5 runners on base, and Freeman’s two run shot has the Braves up 2-0. Urias gets game 3.

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      11. Well, the offense perked up, but didn’t quite get there. Good to see Pollock putting some wood on the ball this post season though. Gonsolin, was much better than his line showed, but several in the bullpen failed again. I think our staff had the fewest walks of any staff in the NL this year, but walking too many in these first two games. Quite a few of the walks became runs.
        Roberts probably will stick with the same lineup tomorrow, but one thing I’d like to see is flipping Seager and Muncy. Muncy has 9 walks in the seven post season games so far. I think Seager is the best hitter right now, so I think he would be best at number 4. It was nice to see Muncy launch, one tonight.
        Gotta win tomorrow. Braves are a good team. Will be a challenge to win 4 of next 5.

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      12. They did it in 55 and 81. They can do it again. Just think how much worse it would have been had Bellinger not run down Albies sac fly.

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      13. I expect this to act as a positive for the team rather than a downer. I expect some major offensive production over the next few games.
        If CK can’t come back at all this year it will be interesting to see if they add White/Gray or a short reliever like Sborz or Alexander. The kids have performed very well so far so I’m definitely hoping for White or Gray if it becomes necessary.

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  3. Urias has proved he should be getting a start. Gonsolin hasn’t pitched in a long time now, since he wasn’t used in either series so far. I thought the game three pitching strategy was nonsensical. Pitching May one inning and then bringing in Kolarek. We were very fortunate that the Padres didn’t score a bunch in that second inning. Fortunately, Urias saved the day pitching wise and the offense put up a big number. We have 5 starters who pitched well this season, just use them. The scenario that might change that would be if Buehler has a short start in game one (let’s hope not), and he could then be brought back on short rest.. We do not need to have any so called bullpen games 8n this series. Leave that to other teams who don’t have our depth. I would also drop Gore, and add C Ruiz as a safeguard at that,position. If Rios is over his injury, he deserves a spot also, meaning either Lux or Beaty gets dropped.

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  4. Offence is a toss-up, especially when you eliminate the home run factor. Braves are much better at manufacturing runs, although we did a very good job manufacturing runs when faced with the necessity. To me the key will again be producing runs without Homer’s. And I had no idea there bullpen was that good in this shortened season. Are those figures right ? Because I still think our bullpen is a disaster waiting to happen, especially if they continue to use jansen in close games. Its gonna be a fun series.

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  5. The Dodgers had the best bullpen all year. Combined ERA was 2.74. Braves BP was over 5. Dodger pen won 26 of their 43 games. They had 10 blown saves, 5 of those by pitchers who are not on the post season roster, Ferguson, Alexander, and Santana. Kelly, for all his wildness has a 0.00 ERA. McGee despite giving up the homer has been outstanding out of the pen. None of the Dodger starters except Kershaw won more than 3 games. Only Kershaw consistently went more than 6 innings. The pen has had the bulk of the workload all year and you guys keep saying how bad they are? Ridiculous. If this pen was not as good as it has been, the Dodgers would not even be in the playoffs.

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      1. Yeah, I got them reversed; the starters ERA was over 5. My bad, but that is still more than a half run a game higher.

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