Giants vs Dodgers
Interesting how an assistant general manager left one team and built a new team in the image of the old one. Yes. Curious.
Farhan Zaidi has the magic touch, based in data, trends and predictions…of course. The MIT grad who was the General Manager in Los Angeles is now the President of Baseball Operation in San Francisco. And now the two teams are squaring off in the National League Divisional Series. With the Giants’ 107 wins and the Dodgers’ 106, it is the most combined wins of any two teams in any postseason series…ever.
So how do you pick a winner? You look at pitching. You look at managing. You look at depth.
The Dodgers lead the arms race with Walker Buehler (2.47 ERA), Julio Urias (2.96) and Max Scherzer (2.46). But it’s not as big of a lead as you might think. Kevin Gausman (2.81 ERA), Logan Webb (3.03), and Anthony Desclafani (3.15) are right there. You obviously can’t give up .47 of a run or .81 so, essentially, they all give up about a run every three or four innings.
In the Dodgers bullpen, Joe Kelly (2.86) has been superb for the Dodgers, but his ERA is bettered by seven other relievers. Get used to seeing Phil Bickford, Alex Vesia and Corey Knebel followed by Blake Treinen (1.99) and Kenley Jansen (2.22). Jansen found new life and movement this year which made rumors of his decline seem silly. It will be interesting to see how Dodger manager Dave Roberts uses Vesia as he is the only left-hander in the bullpen. It looks like Urias may start, but he might be more valuable in relief.
For the Giants, there were 10 pitchers with ERAs under 3.00 in the bullpen. Camilo Doval has recently emerged as a filthy option from the right side. In this series, lefties Jake McGee, Jose Alvarez, and Jarlín García will take on the Dodgers’ lefties.
This is key since L.A. will trot Cory Seager, Cody Bellinger and Matt Beaty to the plate from the left side. Yes, Bellinger hit .165 for the season. He also had a leg injury and a shoulder injury that he tried to play through. He has looked much better in recent weeks. He is no longer pulling off pitches and is beginning to hit balls up the middle and to the opposite field. I expect him to surprise the Giants and to have a big series.
The Dodgers could use that as Max Muncy‘s injury in the season finale against Milwaukee is huge. Muncy leads the Dodgers in home runs with 36 and walks. He dislocated an elbow and might not be back for the postseason. He’s good for 25-30 pitches viewed per game as well as being a huge part of L.A.’s power numbers. Muncy was being considered for MVP for a time. His loss also limits the Dodgers’ flexibility on defense since he can play multiple infield and outfield positions.
Up north, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt led the team in home runs with 29 and was on a roll before he took a pitch off the thumb and landed on the injured list…again (five seasons since 2014, he’s spent significant time hurt).
The Giants will replace him with Darin Ruf and Kris Bryant. Bryant can play both corner positions and the outfield and provides power offensively. The Giants have nine guys besides Belt with double-digit homers. Lamonte Wade Jr. is one of them and is typical of a Giants team that finds a different way to win every night.
The Dodgers have Chris Taylor, AJ Pollock and Gavin Lux as reliable members of their bench, to go with Beaty. Only Pollock can’t play in either the infield or outfield. No one else on the bench hit better than .215. That’s a problem.
How is it going to play out? The Dodgers should have a slight edge in the starting pitching and the relievers should be equal. The real difference is likely going to be who shows up every night to be the next guy to contribute to a win. The way these two teams came back from deficits, we could see several epic, extra-inning games.
The Giants won the season series 10-9 and have home-field advantage here. One thing to consider: Gabe Kapler has zero experience managing in the postseason. Sure, he has Farhan to help outside of the dugout, but the same management that put the 2020 World Champion Dodgers on the field is still in Los Angeles, too.
As even as they are, it seems like the last team to strike will win. San Francisco has home field advantage.
Prediction: Giants in five