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2017 NL Division Series: Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks Position Match-up

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How do the teams compare around the diamond?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

As for the wild-card game, we can take a look at how the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have performed in general this season, by looking at the production each has obtained from the nine positions on the diamond, and their bullpens. Having already covered the D-backs last time, I’ll be concentrating mostly on the opposition this time around.

To do so, I’ve used Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Average, which breaks down the bWAR for every NL team by position. Note it’s above average, and not replacement, so a zero figure means the position has produce at league level. Below, you’ll find the results at each, for both teams in this Division Series. I’ve noted the “regular” starters at each spot, as the main contributor towards the tally, though this may or may not be who starts there on the day in question.

C. LAD (Yasmani Grandal) +1.5 vs. ARI (Chris Iannetta) -1.3

The switch-hitting Grandal has 22 home-runs, but hasn’t been one of those “all bat” catchers: he also ranks second for pitch-framing. It’s almost as if you took the best parts of D-backs’ catchers Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta, and combined them into one single player. I’m still miffed that the Padres gave him to the Dodgers, in exchange for... Matt Kemp. About the only weakness is, Grandal led the league in passed balls three of the last four years. Edge: Los Angeles.

1B. LAD (Cody Bellinger) -0.2 vs. ARI (Paul Goldschmidt) +3.3

I was surprised to see Bellinger had most PAs here, with Adrian Gonzalez largely relegated to a backup role, between injury and ineffectiveness. His -1.2 bWAR is the bulk of the deficit here, and despite his $22.3 million salary, started only 15 games in the second-half. Won’t be active here, with Bellinger and his NL rookie record 39 home-runs the only anointed first-baseman on the Dodgers’ NLDS roster. But he’s still no Goldschmidt... Edge: Arizona

2B. LAD (Logan Forsythe) +1.1 vs. ARI (Brandon Drury) -0.6

Forsythe (277 PA) has split the time almost evenly at second base with Chase Utley (260 PA), and we will probably see a platoon there during the playoffs as well. Neither have been particularly effective at the plate, although Utley has come around a bit after a truly awful start which saw him hitting below .100 on May 6. Forsythe’s defense has been excellent, and both men will take their walks. Edge: Los Angeles

3B. LAD (Justin Turner) +3.8 vs. ARI (Jake Lamb) -0.9

Turner was the Dodger’s MVP by bWAR - yes, even ahead of Kershaw. He hit .322 to finish third for batting average in the NL, with 21 home-runs and he had more walks than strikeouts. However, a bit like Lamb - though to a lesser extent - Turner was less effective in the second half. Since July 18th, he has batted only .265, with his OPS of .826 more than two hundred points below what it had been to that point (1.053). Edge: Los Angeles.

SS. LAD (Corey Seager) +3.9 vs. ARI (Ketel Marte) -0.7

The scary thing about this incarnation of the Dodgers is their ability to draft and develop young talent, not just buy it in. Bellinger is barely old enough to drink, and Seager just 23, yet has already been to two All-Star Games. The question here is one of health, with Seager having various ailments down the stretch. He’s also entirely pwned by Robbie Ray: 0-for-6 with six K’s. But he’s still scary good. Edge: Los Angeles

LF. LAD (Chris Taylor) +0.5 vs. ARI (David Peralta) -1.7

The gap here is certainly narrower than the stat shows. The Dodgers won’t have Bellinger here, and neither will the D-backs have Yasmany Tomas. Indeed, Taylor is more likely to play CF in the post-season, and a Curtis Granderson vs. Peralta comparison would be much more favorable to Arizona. Still, we didn’t argue about the numbers at first-base, so we can’t argue here! Edge: Los Angeles

CF. LAD (Joc Pederson) -0.5 vs. ARI (A.J. Pollock) +0.9

After being an All-Star in 2015, Pederson built on that performance in 2016. However, he regressed significantly this year, was sent to the minors in August, and is not on their NLDS roster. As noted above, it’ll likely be Taylor here, which will narrow the gap considerably compared to the overall season stats. A healthy Pollock will definitely be a big plus for Arizona, especially if they look to ramp up the running game against a Dodgers’ staff which caught more base stealers than only the Rockies. Edge: Arizona

RF. LAD (Yasiel Puig) +1.5 vs. ARI (J.D. Martinez) +2.0

As noted previously, Peralta actually had most playing time here for us. But the vast bulk of the production comes from the first D-back to hit four home-runs in a game, who will be returning to the scene of the crime. On the Los Angeles end, the Puig has had a much better 2017 than 2016. Though the relationship between him and manager Dave Roberts remains around North Korean levels, Puig being benched for showing up late, as recently as Sep 25. Edge: Arizona

SP. LAD +5.5 vs. ARI +14.0

Top to bottom, the Diamondbacks’ rotation has unquestionably been superior to the Dodgers. However, that doesn’t matter so much in a short series like this, where you’ll not need a fifth starter and catch at least one pitcher twice. Then, being top-heavy works to your advantage: and rotations don’t come much more top-heavy among playoff contenders than in Los Angeles. Clayton Kershaw will be a tough opponent, but after Alex Wood, the drop-off is steep, with Rich Hill and Yu Darvish posing nowhere near as much of a threat. If the D-backs can split the first two games in Los Angeles, there’s a real chance the series won’t go back there. That is an “if”. Edge: Arizona

RP. LAD +0.7 vs. ARI +2.3

Kenley Jansen’s 1.32 ERA is why the Dodgers are 90-0 when leading after eight innings this year. At the risk of stating the obvious, you do not want to be trailing at that point in the game. But getting the ball to him has been considerably more fraught, with Pedro Baez becoming a lightning-rod for their fans’ criticism, despite a sub-three ERA. Brandon Morrow has proven reliable down the stretch for Los Angeles. However, reliever volatility is an extremely real thing on both sides - as we saw with Archie Bradley in the wild-card game! Past performance is absolutely no guarantee of success in this series. Edge: Arizona

Conclusion

Overall, this metric tells us that the Dodgers have better hitting, while the Diamondbacks take things on the pitching side. It’s an old baseball truism that good pitching will beat good hitting (it’s one of edbigghead’s favorite mantras), but to me, that’s pretty much a self-fulfilling prophecy: if your pitching gets hit, it can’t be any good! However, in this series, it is probably safe to say that the Diamondbacks will do as well as their starting pitching allows. If Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke can perform at the level they didn in the regular season against Los Angeles, it will make it tough for the Dodgers. If ever a series had trap over it for LA, it’s this one. Hopefully, we can spring it.