We’ve reached the 3rd quarter of the MLB season and postseason baseball will be here before you know it. While no team is guaranteed by any means to make the playoffs in August, it’s a good time to evaluate the predictable postseason teams and how the Dodgers stack up against them.
The NL East and Central both seem to have their division winners locked in with the Nationals and Cubs opening up the two biggest division leads through out the MLB. That leaves the Marlins, Cardinals, Mets, Giants and Dodgers as teams hunting for a playoff spot. I’ll go through the division leaders and potential wild card teams the Dodgers may face and see how the Dodgers stack up against them!
NL Central – Chicago Cubs (73-41):
Let’s start with potentially the best team in baseball (record wise). The Cubs currently have a 14 game lead in their division, the biggest division lead in all of baseball. A 2016 division title would be their first title since 2008 season. The Cubs have started the second half on fire with an MLB best 19-6 record including a current 11 game winning streak. At first glance of the Cubs’ roster their big power bats are what stand out with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo anchoring the heart of their lineup, but their second half success has been due to the resurgence of their pitching. The Cubs have a 2.33 starting pitching era and a 1.93 bullpen era in the second half, combining for an MLB best 2.22 era in the second half. The addition of Aroldis Chapman before the trade deadline has solidified the back end of the bullpen.
The Dodgers and the Cubs have less than a 20% chance of facing one another in the NLDS according to Fangraphs. This series would be a matchup of two identical teams as both teams have Cy Young caliber aces and strong bullpens. What could be the deciding factor of the series is the depth of each team. Four of the Cubs five starters have an era under 3.0 and have won more than 10 games this season, while the Dodgers have Kershaw and McCarthy as the only two starters with an era under 3.0 (McCarthy at 3.0).
The Dodgers do have more postseason experience with this being only the second time this Cub team have played in October. This would make for a fun, entertaining series between the Cubs shut down pitching and Dodgers hot hitting, but personally a series I’d like to avoid if possible.
NL East – Washington Nationals (67-47):
Moving on to the Nationals who hold a 7.5 game lead over the Marlins and also likely to win their second division title in the last three years. They have a solid +31 run total to accompany a 2.86 pitching staff era in the second half. Dispute a down year from reigning MVP, Bryce Harper, the Nats have managed a top 10 ranking in most offensive categories (Home runs, Runs Scored & RBI) behind current NL batting leader, Daniel Murphy. Like the Cubs, the Nats have had their success this season by their pitching depth, they currently rank second in the MLB with a 3.21 team era. The Nats have perhaps the scariest 1-2 punch in all of baseball at top of their rotation with Strasburg and Scherzer. Tanner Roark has also had a solid season as their third starter. They make up a scary rotation to face in the postseason.
The Nats are likely to end up as the number 2 seed in the NL behind the Cubs, giving them home field advantage during NLDS. According to Fangraphs, the Dodgers and Nationals have a predicted 80% chance of facing one another in the NLDS. The Nats are a team that has been flying under the radar all season long, despite maintaining a monthly record around .600 winning percentage. The Nats are the team that no one talks about. That may be a mistake because they very well may be the most well-rounded team in the NL, with a good combination of speed, average, power, starting pitching, and a decent bullpen.
The Dodgers dominated the season series this year going 5-1 against the Nats, but that’s no reason for the Dodgers to look past them should they match up in the NLDS. The key for the Dodgers to be successful in this series would be a healthy rotation. Kershaw and Hill will need to be healthy to counter against the Nats’ two aces, from there it’s a matchup between bullpen and hitting. The Dodgers clearly have the better bullpen and past Octobers have proven that hot hitting trumps all, something which also favors the Dodgers. The Dodgers should come into the series as favorites and advance to the NLCS.
NL West – San Francisco Giants (65-50):
It’s worth noting that although the Giants lead the division by 1 game over the Dodgers, all major platforms (Baseball Reference & Fangraphs) predict the Dodgers to take over the division lead by the end of the season. Regardless, the Giants still have a 90 % chance of making the postseason possibly by Wild Card. The Giants have struggled the second half of the season (8-16) and lost their 8 game lead in the division. Like the Dodgers, they have suffered from several injuries that contributed to their second-half woes.
Unfortunately for Dodger fans, the Giants could see some positive regression as they are starting to get healthy (something the Dodgers can’t find to do this season). They are just getting their full lineup back to being healthy after activating Pence and Panik, adding Eduardo Nunez at the deadline help solidify their infield and brings speed on the bases. The Giants are never anything special on paper and the regression of their over-achieving pitching staff from the first half was predictable, but it is an even year and this season has shown flashes of their 2014 postseason season. Unfortunately.
The Dodgers have close to no chance of playing the Giants in the NLDS. Coming from the same division, whichever team doesn’t win the division would likely host the 1 game Wild Card play-in. Should they win they are likely to face the Cubs in the NLDS. The race for this year’s division title is going to be a classic. 9 games left against each other and 48 games left in the season, anything can happen. We don’t quite know how the division will turn out, but we do know that both teams would likely be in the postseason. Should they meet in the NLCS, it will be your typical Giant vs. Dodgers series that we’re all accustomed too, which means, clutch hitting and shutdown bullpen.
Just 7 games separate the Dodgers, Marlins, Cardinals, Pirates and Mets from the top Wild Card spot in the NL. The Marlins currently hold the second Wild Card spot with a .5 game lead over the Cardinals. Each of these teams contending for the final wild card spot have issues with their club.
The Marlins lack starting pitching outside of Fernandez. Should they find themselves in the wild card play in, they have to feel good about their chances throwing Fernandez. But Fernandez has drastic home/away splits and he’d likely be opposing Kershaw or Bumgarner in this play in game with an offense that hasn’t played as a whole all season long.
The Cardinals are the opposite of the Marlins and lack elite pitching. Fortunately for the Cardinals, they haven’t been bitten by the injury bug like the Dodgers. Even by avoiding injuries all season long, their pitching still ranks at the middle of the pack with a 4.0 team era. With Wainwright at the back end of his career and Wacha failing to live up to his potential, the Cardinals don’t have an elite ace to carry them past the NL Wild Card.
The Pirates are a product of playing in the toughest division in baseball. They have real young talent with McCutchen, Polanco, Marte and Cole, but they face the Cubs and the Cardinals 18 times during the year. The Pirates issue is similar to the Marlins, they lack pitching depth. Outside of Gerrit Cole, they really struggle to round out their rotation rostering pitchers like Ivan Nova and Ryan Vogelsong at the back end of the rotation.
The defending NL Champion, Met are perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season. A year removed from a World Series loss, the Mets find themselves at a .500 record with a 17% chance of making the postseason. The talent for the Mets is not the issue, their issue has been the inability to stay healthy all season long. The Mets have Cespedes, Duda, Wright and Reyes on the DL for their offense, not including Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler for the pitching staff. The Mets have not been able to recover from the injuries and inconsistent years from young starters Syndergaard, DeGrom and Matz have really sunk their playoff hopes. Should the Mets find a way to string it all together and get into the postseason, watch out NL.
It’s difficult to see any of these teams making a deep postseason run with considering the NL has at least 4 top teams that should be competing for the pennant. Should the Dodgers find themselves in the wild card game, they should be able to get by — but that would mean hurting their chances during the NLDS. The Dodgers are certainly one of the top teams in the NL. The Dodgers best bet to win a World Series is getting healthy, continue clutch hitting and providing some sort of rest for their overworked bullpen.
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