Los Angeles Dodgers Series Preview: 8/23 to 8/25

(MLB Gifs)

In what the Yankees hope is a World Series matchup, we get one of baseball’s oldest rivalries renewed. Beat LA!

Their Story Thus Far

At 85-44, the Dodgers have baseball’s best record, one game ahead of the Yankees. They are the presumptive favorite to represent the National League in the World Series for the third straight season.

Baseball’s hottest team has something for everyone: An MVP favorite in Cody Bellinger, the Cy Young leader in Hyun Jin Ryu, Maximum Muncy, MTV’s Dan Cortese. They’re second in position player WAR to the Astros and fourth in wRC+, first in the NL at 113. They have a 3.35 ERA as a team and have the best rotation in baseball.

The Dodgers are such a ridiculous collection of talent that they have a 25-year-old two-time All-Star that won Rookie of the Year just three years ago, yet he’s an afterthought (Corey Seager). The Yankees miss Walker Buehler this series, but they get LA’s other two ace-level starters.

Unfun fact for the Yankees: The Dodgers lead baseball with 12 walk-off wins and are coming off back-to-back walk-offs. Gulp.

Injury Report

The Dodgers have a busy 10-day IL with 1B David Freese, UTIL Kristopher Negron, OF Alex Verdugo and 1B Tyler White on there, in addition to RHPs Ross Stripling and Dylan Floro. None are likely for this series.

The Dodgers only have two players on the 60-day IL: Reliever Scott Alexander and starter Rich Hill, the latter who should be back in September.

Player Spotlight: Cody Bellinger

Son of two-time Yankees World Series champ Clay Bellinger, Cody has maintained the weirdest and most impressive streak in baseball. In every season a Bellinger has been in baseball, their team has made the World Series. Cody should make it 7-for-7 this year.

At just 24, Cody leads the NL with 6.9 fWAR and 8.0 bWAR and is batting an absurd .316/.413/.666. Formerly a constant strikeout victim, he’s cut his K rate to 16 percent and is walking 14 percent of the time. He’s tied for the MLB lead in home runs at 42. His uppercut swing is a marvelous thing to watch, and he plays elite defense at both first base and right field.

Even with two lefties going for the Yankees, he’s probably going to demolish some dingers and make some cool defensive plays this weekend. Here’s some video to prepare you.

Extra Spotlight: Will Smith

No, not that Will Smith. Not that Will Smith either. This Will Smith is the Dodgers rookie catcher hitting the ball like 2016 Gary Sanchez right now. Not hyperbole.

In just 28 games, he’s hitting .318/.392/.818 with 12 home runs, eight doubles and 31 RBI over just 102 plate appearances. Keep in mind, he’s solely a catcher. This is bonkers production from your backstop.

The 24-year-old was a top-100 prospect for both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus going into the season. He supplanted incumbent catcher Austin Barnes with veteran former Yankee Russell Martin working as his backup (and occasional battery mate).

Potential Lineup

  1. A.J. Pollock, CF (.265/.332/.460, 106 wRC+)
  2. Max Muncy, 1B (.258/.375/.538, 137 wRC+)
  3. Justin Turner, 3B (.294/.378/.504, 132 wRC+)
  4. Cody Bellinger, RF (.316/.413/.666, 171 wRC+)
  5. Will Smith, C (.318/.392/.818, 197 wRC+)
  6. Corey Seager, SS (.272/.344/.465, 112 wRC+)
  7. Chris Taylor, LF (.271/.344/.476, 113 wRC+)
  8. Enrique Hernandez, 2B (.238/.309/.427, 92 wRC+)
  9. Pitchers Hitting!

Off the bench, the Dodgers feature Martin (72 wRC+), OF Joc freaking Pederson (109 wRC+), 1B/OF Matt Beaty (124 wRC+) and former Cardinal Jedd Gyorko (55 wRC+)

Pitching Matchups

Friday (10:10 PM ET) James Paxton (vs. Dodgers) vs. Hyun Jin-Ryu (vs. Yankees)

Agreeing to the qualifying offer last offseason, Ryu was one of the least heralded free agent signings, yet he’s pitched his freaking mind out this year. He leads baseball with a 1.64 ERA in 148.1 innings, striking out 126 and walking just 18. He does everything well, allowing just 12 homers. His main problem in recent years has been injuries, but the southpaw has been healthy for most of the season.

Ryu has five distinct pitches: A four-seamer, changeup, cutter, sinker and curveball, each of which he uses between 11 and 28 percent of the time. His changeup has been one of the best in baseball this year, though all of his pitches are effective despite below-average velocity.

Ryu (Baseball Savant)

Saturday (4:05 PM ET) CC Sabathia (vs. Dodgers) vs. Tony Gonsolin (Rookie)

A rookie making just his fifth MLB appearance, Gonsolin looks like my dad attending a Grateful Dead concert in the 1970s. The 25-year-old is a former college outfielder and reliever who the Dodgers took and slowly turned into a starter. It’s been a success thus far: Gonsolin tore up the Minor Leagues before reaching the Majors in just his fourth professional season.

Gonsolin allowed six runs (four earned) in his debut and has allowed just two runs over 14 innings since, striking out 12 and walking just one. He works off a mid-90s fastball with high-spin before going to a mid-to-high 80s splitter and slider (and an occasional curveball).

Gonsolin (Baseball Savant)

Sunday (7:05 PM ET) Domingo German (vs. Dodgers) vs. Clayton Kershaw (vs. Yankees)

A three-time Cy Young winner will toe the rubber against the Yankees on Sunday as Kershaw makes his 23rd start of the season. In all 22 of his previous outings, he’s gone at least six innings.

Kershaw was in decline — for him — last year as his ERA rose to 2.73 for the first time since 2010. This season, he’s stemmed the aging curve by going 13-2 with a 2.71 ERA in a rising offensive environment. He made in back to the All-Star Game and raised his strikeout rate despite a continued decline in velocity.

How has Kershaw done it? He’s improved the separation between his fastball and slider while throwing the slider a heck of a lot as it’s his best pitch. He still has the same fastball-slider-curveball mix as he always.

He’s still essentially an ace, just with diminished velocity. Kershaw’s mistakes can get crushed more often now, but he doesn’t make many. I thought his back injuries would have spelled a less graceful decline, but he’s spitting in the face of Father Time.

Kershaw (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Here’s who they have:

RHPs: Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly, Yimi Garcia, Dustin May, Casey Sadler
LHPs: Caleb Ferguson, Adam Kolarek

Jansen is their closer, though he’s blown six saves, which is more than he has the last two seasons combined. He’s flanked by Baez, Kelly and Garcia, with Kelly improving after a horrid start to his Dodgers tenure. If this team has any flaw, it’s the bullpen, though LA will be able to move some of their starters to the pen in the postseason.

May is their top pitching prospect and has often been referred to as Gingergaard. He’s taken his flamethrowing talents to the bullpen for the time being and I’d like to get a look at him in this three-game set.

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1 Comment

  1. Joy Illimited

    Since the parity push, the WS-quality teams appear to be getting better and better, especially 2016-onward. This Dodgers squad is even better than last year, it seems, and either the Astros or Yankees (if they get halfway healthy!) would be very strong representatives for the AL. Fun baseball to be had this October.

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