The Dodgers will take on the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS starting on Monday. Both teams were the top two seeds in the National League playoffs, and each has advanced through the first two rounds without losing a game so far.
With the shortened 60-game season this year, the teams did not face one another, so this will be the first meeting between the two since last season. The Dodgers will be looking to appear in their third World Series in four years, while Atlanta will be trying to get to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1999.
Continuing this positional breakdown mini-series, below, we break down the pitching staff for each team, and see how they match-up with one another. Part 1 can be found here.
The Braves had one of the worst rotations in the game during the regular season, posting the highest ERA in the league at 5.51. After Mike Soroka went down with an injury earlier this year, Max Fried led the way for Atlanta, and he was great all season. But after Fried, their starters struggled.
The postseason has been a different story, however, as Atlanta has got two great starts by Ian Anderson, who came on late in the year and pitched very well. Fried and Anderson could be a potent 1-2 punch, but after those two, the Braves lack the same depth the Dodgers have.
During the regular season, the Dodgers had one of the top rotations in baseball. Their starters were first in the NL in ERA and WHIP, and second in BAA and K/BB. They have plenty of arms lined up behind Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw. Dave Roberts can go to Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias in some order for games 3-5.
Both teams had very good relief pitching in the regular season. The Braves’ unit was second in the NL in ERA and FIP, right behind the Dodgers in both categories. They can go to several options late in the game, and they’ve been lights out so far in the playoffs. With that said, I’m not sure I’d be so quick to say Mark Melancon is a sure thing to close out games given his track record.
The Dodgers bullpen ranked in the top of baseball in practically every major category this year, but those numbers are not the story right now. Instead, it’s the struggles of their long-time closer, Kenley Jansen. After a decline last season, Jansen has looked very shaky this postseason, and it would be surprising to see Dave Roberts stick with him at this point.
But who takes that role now?
Will it be a closer by committee approach based on matchups? That’s the question the Dodgers will be facing. However, even with the closer situation, you can’t overlook the Dodgers bullpen as a whole. There’s a reason they were tops in the league this year, and the fact that they might be able to employ some of their normal starters (May, Gonsolin, Urias) in relief roles, it makes that group even better.
Slight Advantage: Dodgers
Both teams are very good, with stars up and down their roster. The Dodgers were labeled the best team in the game before the season started, and they’ve lived up to those expectations and then some. But the Braves are not too far behind them overall, and they should give the Dodgers a run for their money. And, as we all know, playoff baseball can be volatile.
Drop your series predictions in the comments below!
And check out part 1 of this mini-series where we breakdown each club position by position.