It’s the playoffs, so our staff at Dodgers Nation got together to answer a series of questions to serve as your primer. If you enjoy what each member has to say, give them a follow on twitter. We love to discuss any and all of what you read below, so hit us up if you agree or disagree with some of our answers!
Who is your PostSeason Darkhorse Team? Player?
Brook Smith (@BrookeMe3): I think the Rockies are the dark horse in this year’s playoffs. The AL is essentially everyone you expected to be in, but the NL is not what anyone expected. I think Colorado is riding enough of a hot streak to carry them pretty far. As for player, I’d keep an eye on the A’s Matt Chapman. The kid is ridiculous, even Arenado thinks he may be better.
Gary Lee (@MrGaryLee): The Rockies absolutely have to be considered the darkhorse team, especially with their explosive offense and underachieving bullpen. If everything clicks, they could easily take this all the way. With that being said, a lot of their past month’s success came from defeating underperforming teams, but since they are one of the lucky ones to be here, they take this honor running away.
Brian Robitaille (@BriRobitaille): Although I picked the Rockies to beat the Cubs, I have them losing to the Brewers in the divisional series. So, I think the dark horse team could be Atlanta, although I know that’s not what Dodgers fans want to hear. I think they have a real deep lineup, and Fotlynewicz may be the best starter in the N.L playoffs along with Walker Buehler.
Clint Evans (@Diamondhoggers): For me it’s the Cleveland Indians. I have a gut feeling on them; it seems like the AL is wide open with heavyweights. I think they’re a lot like the Dodgers but more consistent with RISP; they have the horses in the rotation and pen to make a move. To me – these guys aren’t dark horses but the combination of Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez is scary night-over-night. Dodgers wise? Cody Bellinger of course.
Clint Pasillas (@realFRG): (This was written before the start of the ALWC game) I’ve been looking at Oakland as that sneaky good team with nothing to lose. That lineup is fire top to bottom, but the pitching might not be enough to keep them from getting swept immediately. They’re a team that will need to out-hit their pitching woes for sure, but they’re also one of the few teams that actually can out-hit those woes.
Watch out for Matt Chapman on the big stage.
Isaac Castro: He’s hardly a dark horse after the incredible numbers he put up during the regular season, but I fully expect Josh Hader to carry the Milwaukee Brewers into the NLCS and possibly the World Series. 81 innings pitched, 143 strikeouts, .81 WHIP, .132 opponent BA, and the ability to go multiple innings—this is what Hader brings to an already deep bullpen. He shined under the spotlight of game 163, shutting down the Cubs in the 8th and 9th inning to seal a Division Championship. I fully expect to see that kind of dominance from him throughout the postseason.
AJ Gonzalez (@Ajontheguitar): I think the Rockies could be a dark horse. If they manage to beat The Brewers–everyone is in trouble. Their pitching is volatile, but their home field is the real x-factor. It neutralizes pitchers, and it makes the offense a complete question mark. As far as dark horse players–everyone be careful with Trevor Story.
I’d also like to believe Yasiel Puig could come alive.
Tim Rogers (@SDDodger): The darkhorse team for me is the Rockies. Their pitching is quite good and I think they will beat the Brewers. The Brewers are bullpenning game 1 and are going with Chacin in game 2 on short rest. They have better than average pitching and outstanding infield defense. My darkhorse player is Yasmani Grandal. For the first time he seems healthy for the playoffs and has been showing some good signs of getting hot. The Dodgers have never had a hot Grandal in the playoffs.
Which teams left have the most to lose this postseason? Why?
Brook Smith: The Dodgers and Red Sox are probably the two with most to lost. The Dodgers especially considering their World Series drought. But especially since they came so close last year. The fan base is getting agitated and need that title back in Los Angeles.
Gary Lee: Let’s talk about what you can lose here. Fans who are tired of losing. Players that no longer want to be here. A market who might have other things to do.
If you haven’t guessed Dodgers yet, I just don’t know what to say. . . . . tbd
Brian Robitaille: It’s the teams with the highest expectations, and I believe that’s the Dodgers and the Red Sox. The Dodgers just won their sixth straight division title but have no World Series rings to show for it. They just lost a heartbreaking seven game series last year, in which they gave a couple of games away. Fans expect them to get back. They expect to get back. Anything less would probably be viewed as a failure of a season. Not saying that’s right, just saying that’s the reality.
With the type of regular season Boston had, they too have pressure to finish the job. If they don’t win, or at least make the World Series, it will be a disappointment.
Clint Pasillas: I may echoing a similar sentiment as we’re seeing above, but Dodgers and Red Sox certainly stand to lose a lot of credibility if they can’t at least for a game 7 in the LCS. You have the Dodgers who want so badly to rectify the wrongs of 2017, and you have the Red Sox who won 108(!) games in the regular season. Don’t come up short, guys.
Isaac Castro: I’ll try and add a new perspective here. The Yankees came up a game short of the World Series last year. Their young stars have another season of experience under their belts, and they’re bringing with them some talented rookies and a veteran pitching staff. They’re a big-payroll team in the country’s largest market, and it’s been nearly a decade since their last championship. There’s no denying that this is an incredibly talented team, with the ability to win a World Series — they won 100 games this season in a relatively competitive division and yet it all comes down to a single game. If it ends up being an early exit for them, expect fans and analysts to describe it as a failed season. Then again, you could say most of these things about the Dodgers as well.
Clint Evans: I think the Dodgers in a way. You have made this climb, you’re here; anything less than a World Series berth is going to feel like someone upset you now. I think Boston is in a similar position and I don’t think they are going to get the job done either. Everyone has them as the odds-on favorite, so if they fall short they will have ‘failed’.
AJ Gonzalez: Boston. The super teams of the year always have the most to lose (Dodgers and Astros did last year) and I think everyone expect Boston to give everyone a wallopin’. I’m going to disagree entirely and say the Dodgers don’t have nearly as much to lose as people think. The pulse I got this entire year is that we weren’t going to be there at the end. A lot of Dodger fans expected us not to win the division, I think. Dodger fans are frustrated–but after the MAGIC that was 2017, losing this year will sting a lot less to me. We seemed destined last year, almost storybook. This year hasn’t seemed that way.
Tim Rogers: Both the Red Sox and Dodgers. The Red Sox have traded multiple prospects and spent a ton of money to get where they are at. They made the playoffs last year and fired their manager. Drilling down further, David Price has been a certified playoff dud. I don’t know how he lasts in Boston if he fails again and the Red Sox don’t win. He has an opt out on his contract but no way he opts out as his contract way too much. He’ll stay and have a fan base that hates him. For the Dodgers, they blew it last year. The expectation is a title, no matter how tough the season has been.
Which teams have the most to gain this postseason? Why?
Brook Smith: The A’s are in the absolute best position with everything to gain and nothing to lose. Free Agents are more likely to want to come to Oakland now that they’ve proven how far they can get on a budget. Imagine if they had spent some money. Big names are going to want to play next to Matt Chapman.
Brian Robitaille: A World Series Championship would be a lot to gain for any team. But I don’t think many expected teams like the Atlanta Braves and Oakland A’s to be in the post season this year. So, in that case, they’re probably the two teams with the least amount of pressure on them.
Clint Pasillas: Simple, Atlanta and Oakland. A couple of teams well ahead of schedule in terms of being relevant. Oakland alone went from 75 wins in 2017 to 97 wins in 2018! Do they get a prize automatically?
Isaac Castro: I’d hate for this to be an echo-chamber, but Atlanta and Oakland are two exciting teams that few analysts predicted would be in the hunt for a Championship this late in the season. Under a new GM, Atlanta undertook a pretty massive rebuild and yet here they are having outplayed the Nationals and Phillies for a Division Championship, at least a year ahead of schedule. Oakland, with a minuscule payroll and a 5th place finish in the AL West last season, are bringing a 97-win team with a lineup full of sluggers and a lights-out bullpen to the 2018 Wild Card game. If they can get past the Yankees in the one-game playoff, I think they’ll end up giving the Red Sox a run for their money.
Clint Evans: I think the Colorado Rockies. You collapse and lose the NL West. You’re left for dead and have to fly to Chicago after playing a game 163 – only to knock off the major-market Cubs. Milwaukee is everyone’s sweetheart team – if you can get past them you get a shot at the Dodgers again and you’re playing with house money the entire way really. No one will pick the Rockies to do much, so they have the most to gain.
AJ Gonzalez: The A’s. Moneyball part deux? Nobody expected them to get this far. They are playing with house money despite how damn good they have been.
Who is the most vulnerable team right now?
Brook Smith: I think out of everyone, the Dodgers are unfortunately the most vulnerable. They look to be in good position against the Braves, but who knows how they will handle Milwaukee if they beat Colorado. The Dodgers barely snuck into October thanks to a last effort push, but they would be my vulnerable team.
Brian Robitaille: I wish I could have got in my real choice for this question, the Chicago Cubs, before they lost last night. Other than them, I’m not sure I see a particularly “vulnerable” team out there. It’s the MLB playoffs. They’re all vulnerable.
Clint Pasillas: Surprisingly, it’s Houston. The evil Astros won 103 games, and led baseball in run differential, but they’re also being driven to the ballpark in an Uber ambulance. Cleveland may be able to take advantage of the ‘stros weakened trio up the middle.
Clint Evans: Since I care the most about the Dodgers, I feel like they’re the most vulnerable. Kershaw starts feel like they’re vulnerable. I’m waiting for the platoon lineups to go cold. I am a paranoid mess in general about Los Angeles.
AJ Gonzalez: Ugh. Unfortunately it’s the Dodgers. Kenley Jansen is a mess, and our split lineups are terrifying. Beyond the Dodgers, the Rockies park is both a blessing and a detriment to them, and their bullpen looks amazing sometimes and terrible at others.
Tim Rogers: Yes, it is the Dodgers and it is because of the mess Kenley Jansen has become. He hasn’t had many glimpses of his former self. The management of the bullpen by Dave Roberts needs to improve. He cannot run out of bench players in the 8th inning by switching out too early. If he pinch hits for his starting position players in the 5th or 6th without anyone on it is a waste.
What do you expect from the Dodgers in the 2018 Playoffs? How do you see their finish?
Gary Lee: With the Cubs out of this, I see the Dodgers going back to the World Series. They have too much veteran leadership and playoff experience to let a hot team like the Brewers take them out over a 7 game series. As long as Kenley is put into save situations where he can thrive and our big 3 rotation of Buehler, Ryu and Kersh can lock down the games, we are primed to get back to the World Series with a shot at winning it all. If you put a gun to my head, I’m going to say the Dodgers win it all in 6 this year.
Clint Evans: I think the Dodgers will ultimately make it back to the World Series. All year I have told anyone who would listen to me that if they were able to get back in; they would go back. I think that the projection systems and odds out there tell us this much. The games still need to be played; but no one is better tooled for a run with the experience and depth the Dodgers can offer. There is a slight concern on my part with a hot team like the Brewers, but I think that their bullpen ultimately gets used too hard and in a long series could wear down (like the 2017 Dodgers eventually did).
Isaac Castro: There’s little doubt in my mind that the Dodgers are the most talented team in the National League. From top to bottom, the Dodgers lineup, rotation, bullpen and defense have the capacity to contend with and/or dominate the rest of the field in the NL. Their achilles heel this season has been the inconsistency of those pieces. In the regular season you can squeeze out wins with one or two of those factors playing to their talent level, but in the postseason you have to find a way to bring them all together. I’d be thoroughly disappointed if the Dodgers don’t make it back to the World Series. I realize it’ll be a difficult path, and the Brewers are a scary team, but ultimately I think the NLCS champ will be the team that can keep their arms rested and fresh ? I like the depth of our staff/bullpen and our matchup with the Braves in the NLDS.
Brian Robitaille: First and foremost, the MLB playoffs are a crapshoot. It’s not like the NBA, where the best teams are practically guaranteed to reach the Finals. Any team truly does has a shot at getting to the World Series. It doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season, it’s a whole new ballgame.
I think the divisional round against the Braves will be very competitive. Atlanta is a young team who almost no one thought would be here this year. Sometimes, teams like that play loose, with nothing to lose. Also, Mike Foltynewicz is a legit ace and could be dominant in a Game 1 and possible Game 5.
Dodgers’ fans are going to kill me for this, but I think the Dodgers lose to the Braves in the division round. With that said, I would also not be surprised at all to see them beat Atlanta and make another run to the World Series. I’m just going with my gut feeling, which I obviously hope is wrong.
AJ Gonzalez: It’d be easy for me to say we lose in the first round, to be honest. We’ve been wildly inconsistent and at times, and even terrible at times. I think much like last year where the Dodgers sort of stumbled into the playoffs–I think much of what the Dodgers do will come together well, just like last postseason. Our starting pitching is arguably BETTER than last year. We have the luxury of not starting Kershaw game 1. Our bullpen is the thing that worries me most. Kenley just isn’t Kenley, and as much as I love Maeda/Floro/Ferguson–they haven’t been perfect. I think they beat the Braves, and I think we then see the Brewers vs Dodgers. The Dodgers can beat Milwaukee–whether they execute and do so, I honestly am not sure. Should be a big series.
Brook Smith: I think they’re riding a pretty good streak and I expect it to carry over to the playoffs. I don’t think the Braves are all that great and I think Los Angeles will handle them in four games. Having Ryu, Kershaw, and Buehler all going is going to be the difference maker in this one. I do worry about the NLCS and World Series though. The Brewers will likely walk all over the Rockies and will be a tough matchup for LA. Any AL team is going to be tough to beat in the WS, but the Red Sox are a juggernaut. I can’t imagine the Dodgers beating them in a best of seven series.
Clint Pasillas: I expect good things from this team in 2018; as I’ve been preaching on our Blue Heaven Podcast, and pre game show “Two Clints, One Pavilion”, I’d take our 40 man roster over anyone in baseball. There is a lot to say about depth — depth allows us to have Matt Kemp in a platoon, and three good starting pitchers in the bullpen (Stripling, Wood, Urias).
However, there is always the fear of bravado… this is a team that is supposed to get back to the big stage — hell, they need to just avoid being failures. That pressure can weigh on a team; you almost have to look at game one as a must win. And what better way to set yourself up for success than to roll with the rotation’s left-handed ace on the mound?
Dave Roberts (and, of course “the computers”) made the absolute right call to tab Hyun-Jin Ryu as the game one starter for the NLDS. Roberts newfound love affair with managing slightly outside of his box may prove to be extremely beneficial for a deep postseason run in 2018.
People may forget how good Hyun-jin really is, I mean, we’re talking about a guy that was “Ace 1c” back in the Kershaw/Grienke era… dude is good. And he’s been there (2.81 ERA in 3 career postseason starts).
We’re talking about how I think the team finish the 2018 playoffs, and I’m still stuck on game one… ask me this question again on Saturday.
Tim Rogers: It will all depend on the offense. If they can provide some cushion for the bullpen they can go all the way. I also feel that Walker Buehler could go on a Madison Bumgarner 2014 type run. My head says that the Astros win it again but my heart says Dodgers.
What do you see from the playoff field? Who are your Championship Series and World Series teams?
Gary Lee: It’s going to be Brewers vs. the Dodgers for the NLCS and Boston vs. the Astros for the ALCS. I’m hoping the Red Sox and Astros push each other to the limits and the Dodgers make quick work of the postseason newbies. With those final four, I’m taking the Dodgers over the Red Sox in 6.
Clint Evans: I’ll say an NLCS of the Brewers and Dodgers. The ALCS will be the Red Sox and Indians. In the World Series, I’ll go Los Angeles and Cleveland. Being in Ohio, I see the Indians a lot and they do a lot of things very similarly to the Dodgers. The storyline will end up being the teams that lost the last two heartbreaking game seven’s squaring off.
Isaac Castro: I’m on the same page as Clint here. I think the Brewers and Dodgers will meet up in the NLCS. The Brewers are going to ride that stellar bullpen through a tough NLDS, backing up an offense that’s just a little too potent for the Rockies’ staff to keep at bay. On the flipside, I think the Dodgers will have the benefit of bringing a relatively fresh staff/bullpen to the NLCS. The Braves are good team, and I would hate to underestimate them, but I think we see something that plays out similarly to last years’ NLDS. With home field advantage and some favorable pitching matchups (Ryu has been outstanding this season and Kershaw has limited the Braves to .211 average over his career)?the Dodgers play up their potential (like we’ve seen in the last week) and cruise through Atlanta relatively unscathed. I can’t speak too much to the AL, which is sure to be bloodbath, but I wouldn’t bet against the Astros (at least according to Vegas).
Brian Robitaille: I have the Braves and the Brewers in the National League and the Red Sox and Astros in the American League.
AJ Gonzalez: Dodgers and Brewers in the NLCS, Astros and Red Sox in the ALCS.
Brook Smith: Dodgers and Brewers in the NLCS, Red Sox and Astros in the ALCS. I think Boston tops Cleveland in five and the Dodgers top Milwaukee in seven.
Clint Pasillas: To keep this short and sweet, NLCS will be Dodgers vs Rockies — that Rockies v Brewers series will be electric, by the way. Dodgers take the NLCS in 7.
In the ALCS, I feel that the Red Sox will trample an injury-laden Astros team in 5.
Dodgers/Red Sox World series, here we come!!(?)
Tim Rogers: The Astros and Red Sox and the Dodgers and Rockies. The Dodgers and Astros will have a rematch. The Astros are the one team I really fear.
Who is your World Champion for 2018?
Gary Lee: Dodgers.
Clint Evans: I am simply not ready to comment on this. My feeling all along is that the Dodgers get to the World Series. My vision stops there. I’ll let it play out and see what my colleagues say. (I will end up telling everyone on twitter Indians over Dodgers soon enough).
Isaac Castro: While my heart yearns for a rematch of the 1988 A’s and Dodgers World Series, with Los Angeles bringing home the Championship on the eve of the 30th anniversary – my wallet says Astros or Red Sox v Dodgers. And from there?as history has shown us time and time again?anything can happen
Brian Robitaille: Like I mentioned above, the best team doesn’t always win in baseball. However, this year, I think they do. The Red Sox have been great all year, and I think they keep it going in the playoffs. Rex Sox over Braves in 5 games.
AJ Gonzalez: My heart’s answer is The Dodgers. My brain says the Red Sox. Hard to argue with their well-rounded team.
Brook Smith: I think the Dodgers give the Red Sox a good fight but ultimately fall short. I just don’t see how anyone can beat that team this year, they’re ridiculous.
Clint Pasillas: Let me be wrong… Boston in 6.
Tim Rogers: Astros – they are the most complete team and have one of the best managers in the game.
[button color=”yellow” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-braves-nlds-preview-comparing-position-players-br0105/2018/10/03/”]NLDS Preview: Comparing Position Players vs. Atlanta[/button]