2020 POSTSEASON Preview: Dodgers V. Brewers
Can the Hollywood Hammer Crew crush the Brew Crew?
Strange thing, the strikeout. Five of the top eight teams in all of Major League Baseball with the fewest offensive strikeouts made the playoffs … as did the five worst teams. Maybe it’s not always the strikeout that’s the problem. Maybe it’s the type of strikeout. Maybe the patience to lay off the pitch you don’t want that also leads to more walks, and more wins. According to sabre.org only 28 percent of strikeouts are on called third strikeouts. Of the top 18 teams in terms of walks taken, all but one –the Los Angeles Angels– either made the playoffs or were within a game of doing so.
What does this have to do with anything? Hell if I know, but you’re going to be inundated with the notion that the Los Angeles Dodgers have great eyes at the plate and walk a ton. For the record, they’re 10th overall in walks, first in slugging, first in home runs, and first in runs.
The Milwaukee Brewers by contrast struck out the second-most times, stole the second-fewest bases, hit into more double plays (53) than any other team all while hitting a feeble .223.
We’re also going to hear a lot about how reigning MVP Cody Bellinger couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat for much of the year. This is absolutely true as Bellinger got into the nasty habit of stepping toward the first base dugout while looking at the area where Pete the popcorn vendor used to chuck snacks at patrons. Neither of these things would be an issue except he was trying to hit a baseball at the time. In the last week however, his step out has decreased markedly, made more contact and hit .250. That’s great news for Dodgers fans who watched him hit a buck-something for most of 2020. Also heating up are catcher Will Smith (.316) and outfielder Joc Pederson (.375) as is Justin Turner (.400) who is coming off the injured list in time for the playoffs.
Don’t be fooled by the .143 batting average Christian Yelich posted in the last week or the .205 average he posted for the year. In his last 14 at-bats, he walked seven times. He’s not swinging at junk. The question is what he’ll do when he gets pitches to hit which –with the Dodgers pitching staff– he should have plenty of.
On the mound, L.A. has been struggling in the bullpen department. In seven of the last 14 games the team has given up five or more runs. A strong closing series against the Los Angeles Angels may have bolstered their confidence.
Confidence is a funny thing. Someone like Walker Buehler is young enough to have tons of it. Veterans who have been crushed from time to time –like Clayton Kershaw— may have lost a little. Buehler’s coming off a blister issue, so that’s a concern. Kershaw has finally accepted the fact that his fastball isn’t what it was and is using his breaking stuff to set up the fastball better. He also likely won’t have to worry about any teams banging on trash cans to let the batters know what is coming. Carrot Top clone Dustin May and Julio Urias have been just as good the other two. It’s possible any of the four could be called on for long relief.
Not that I think it will be needed. Brewers DH Daniel Vogelbach started off his season on fire, and was the team’s best hitter. But he hit .143 the last week of the year. There are a bunch of swing-and-miss guys on a team that lucked its way in to the playoffs after a “What time’s my flight?” game calling balls and strikes from home plate umpire Rob Drake in the San Francisco Giants 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres. The Giants would be in the playoffs perhaps if their strike zone hadn’t been the size of a Home Town Buffet.
The Brewers’ best hope will be to have right fielder Jace Peterson lead off, followed by Vogelbach. They have a combined on-base percentage of around .400 and then Yelich and second baseman Keston Hiura. Hiura’s only hittin .212 but he leads the team in homers.
Milwaukee tried the opener last year and it kinda worked. They’ll go with Brent Suter in game one and then likely Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes (not to be confused with over-actor Corbin Bernsen, who played Roger Dorn in the Major League series).
Josh Hader may be 13 of 15 in save opportunities, but he’s hittable (3.79 ERA). He could be the latest in a long list of edge-of-their-seat relievers who cough up a postseason series. Milwaukee might want to consider the miniscule ERAs of Devin Williams and Eric Yardley when figuring who’s going to close.
In the end, one team won 43. One won 29. The Dodgers are too deep and can hurt you in too many ways. They win in three.