Game 1 – Fri, 10/9 at LA
Game 2 – Sat, 10/10 at LA
Game 3 – Mon, 10/12 at NY
Game 4 – Tue, 10/13 at NY (if necessary)
Game 5 – Thu, 10/15 at LA (if necessary)
Los Angeles Dodgers: 92-70 (fourth best record in the National League). 51-39 (third) before the All-Star break, 41-31 (fifth) since.
- Run differential: +72 (fourth), won-lost four games better than Pythagenpat projection. Before the All-Star break: +62 (third), won-lost one game worse than Pythagenpat. Since the All-Star break: +10 (seventh), won-lost four games better than Pythagenpat.
- Splits: 55-26 at home (tied for first), 37-44 on the road (tied for sixth), 67-51 vs. righties (fourth), 25-19 vs. lefties (fourth), 64-33 vs. teams with losing record (first), 28-37 vs. teams .500 or better (tied for fifth)
- Scoring: 4.12 runs scored per game (eighth in the league), 3.67 runs allowed per game (second fewest). Before the All-Star break: 4.18 runs scored per game (fifth), 3.49 runs allowed per game (third). Since the All-Star break: 4.04 runs scored per game (twelfth), 3.90 runs allowed per game (fourth).
- Offense: Batters’ slash line: .250 (tenth)/.326 (second)/.413 (third), 106 wRC+ (second) . Before the All-Star break: .252 (ninth)/.329 (first)/.428 (second), 110 wRC+ (first). Since the All-Star break: .248 (twelfth)/.323 (sixth)/.393 (eleventh), 101 wRC+ (fifth).
- Pitching: 3.46 ERA (fifth), 3.41 FIP (third), 3.33 xFIP (first), 3.77 DRA (first). Before the All-Star break: 3.30 ERA (fourth), 3.33 FIP (third), 3.34 xFIP (first). Since the All-Star break: 3.64 ERA (fourth), 3.50 FIP (fifth), 3.31 xFIP (second).
- Defense: .692 DER (sixth), -2 DRS (seventh), 1.0 UZR (eighth).
New York Mets: 90-72 (sixth best record in the National League). 47-42 (sixth) before the All-Star break, 43-30 (fourth) since.
- Run differential: +70 (fifth), won-lost one game better than Pythagenpat projection. Before the All-Star break: -2 (eighth), won-lost three games better than Pythagenpat. Since the All-Star break: +72 (first), won-lost one game worse than Pythagenpat.
- Splits: 49-32 at home (tied for fourth), 41-40 on the road (fourth), 70-56 vs. righties (fifth), 20-16 vs. lefties (tied for fifth), 62-34 vs. teams with losing record (second), 28-38 vs. teams .500 or better (seventh).
- Scoring: 4.22 runs scored per game (seventh), 3.78 runs allowed per game (fifth fewest). Before the All-Star break: 3.48 runs scored per game (second the last), 3.51 runs allowed per game (fourth). Since the All-Star break: 5.11 runs scored per game (first), 4.12 runs allowed per game (seventh).
- Offense: Batters’ slash line: .244 (third to last)/.312 (eleventh)/.400 (sixth), 99 wRC+ (fourth). Before the All-Star break: .233 (last)/.298 (third to last)/.363 (last), 85 wRC+ (twelfth). Since the All-Star break: .257 (sixth)/.328 (third)/.443 (first), 114 wRC+ (first).
- Pitching: 3.45 ERA (fourth), 3.41 FIP (third), 3.60 xFIP (fifth), 4.14 DRA (fifth). Before the All-Star break: 3.23 ERA (third), 3.43 FIP (sixth), 3.65 xFIP (fourth). Since the All-Star break: 3.72 ERA (seventh), 3.66 FIP (fifth), 3.55 xFIP (fourth).
- Defense: .697 DER (second), -7 DRS (tenth), 6.3 UZR (seventh).
Both of these teams won their divisions by a comfortable margin, although they got there in very different ways. In a division that was supposed to be the most foregone conclusion in baseball, the Mets got off to a hot start, looked as though they would at least be locked in a battle with the Nationals to the season’s end, and ultimately cruised to a division title as Washington utterly failed to make good on their potential for the second time in three years. Despite a lineup that boasted both quality and depth, two of the finest pitchers in baseball, and another incredibly optimistic PECOTA projection, the Dodgers took a little longer to dispatch the Giants and finished at a relatively modest 92 wins, five behind both the second wild-card team and the aforementioned PECOTA projection.
In most series, the Mets would be considered to have the clear edge with their rotation. Unfortunately for New York, the Dodgers will get to start two of the three best pitchers in the NL this season, including the game’s best starter for the past three seasons. Nonetheless, having Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz to compete with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will definitely help. There are still questions surrounding Harvey’s innings limit, and indeed whether he – or Scott Boras – really has the Mets’ playoff success as a number one priority. Matz gave the Mets a scare with a mysterious shoulder issue that forced him to skip a scheduled start in the final week of the regular season, but it seems the rookie is past that now and will be an excellent fourth starter for the NL East champs.
The fact that Jake Arrieta’s ludicrously good season isn’t enough to hand him the NL Cy Young on a platter tells you everything you need to know about how good Kershaw and Greinke have also been. Although they give the Dodgers arguably the best one-two punch of recent years, the rotation behind them is far from formidable. Brett Anderson might have shocked many – including Ben and Sam – by staying healthy for 180 innings, but with a FIP barely under 4 and a DRA of 4.37, he ranked clearly behind all four of the Mets’ hurlers. Alex Wood may be the fourth starter if Don Mattingly doesn’t decide to use Kershaw on short rest. It’s been an up-and-down season for the former Braves left-hander, and the numbers don’t entirely know what to make of him: he rates as below-average by cFIP, but is right behind Syndergaard when it comes to DRA-based PWARP.
In Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have one of the most dominant relievers in baseball, with his cFIP of 55 ranking third-best in MLB this year. Jansen’s 80 strikeouts to just 8 walks in just over 52 innings show that, if anything, he is becoming even more dominant. Jeurys Familia might not be that overpowering, but there’s no doubt he’s developed into a significant asset from the bullpen himself, with a strong 21.8% K-BB% over almost 80 innings. Behind them, the confidence levels won’t be quite as high. Pedro Baez has the best peripherals amongst the other Dodger relievers but not outstanding results, and doesn’t appear to be the go-to man in the high leverage situations; that role has been more frequently given to Chris Hatcher, Juan Nicasio and, since his arrival from Atlanta, Luis Avilan. None have been spectacular and Mattingly will hope that he can come as close as possible to giving the ball straight from his starter to Jansen. JP Howell will handle lefties reliably, a group he has held to a .607 OPS over the course of his career, with a .518 mark this season.
Tyler Clippard seems to have maintained great numbers on the surface despite a huge decline in his peripherals. The bespectacled right-hander struck out his lowest percentage of batters since 2008 while also increasing his walk rate by two percent, barely punching out twice as many as he walked. He’s no longer a pop-up machine but somehow is still getting away with an incredibly low BABIP. He’ll still get handed setup duties, with hard-throwing (and not much else) rookie Hansel Robles and the seemingly revitalised Addison Reed also ranking highly amongst Terry Collins’ favourites in high-leverage spots. Reed’s 1.17 ERA since arriving in New York is eye-catching, but so is his 95.9% strand rate, for the opposite reason. Much like the Dodgers, the gap between the closer and the rest of the ‘pen is such that the Mets should be desperate for their starters to hand the ball straight to Familia.
There was a point not so long ago when the Mets appeared to have the one of worst lineups in the league. That actually isn’t hyperbole: they had the third-worst wRC+ in the first half. Then Yoenis Cespedes arrived and started hitting like an MVP (.394 wOBA since arriving in New York), Michael Conforto came up and wasn’t all that far behind, and Curtis Granderson and Lucas Duda were so enthused by the presence of other major-league calibre hitters that they too began mashing. David Wright returned from what felt like an interminable injury absence and started to hit like David Wright of old, while Travis d’Arnaud made a similarly strong comeback from injury. Somehow, the Mets went from being a lineup that nobody feared to the league’s best offense by wRC+ in the second half.
The Dodgers, by contrast, already seemed to have more talent than they knew what to do with when the season started, characterised by Alex Guerrero’s inability to crack the lineup despite seeming to homer every time he came to the plate early on. Justin Turner continues to impress with the bat, while Adrian Gonzalez remains as reliable as ever, finishing his third consecutive season in LA with a wRC+ over 120. Injuries to the likes of Turner, Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick meant they had to do some lineup juggling at various points, but it was hardly difficult for LA to find replacements, especially considering they had the luxury of bringing up Corey Seager later in the year. After some dissembling, the Dodgers finally admitted that Seager had displaced Jimmy Rollins at shortstop for the playoffs, which could hardly be described as a surprise given the youngster’s .337/.425/.561 final line. Some cracks started to appear in the second half, particularly for Joc Pederson, who retained the ability to hit home runs but apparently nothing else after a stunning start. Overall, though, this remains an incredibly balanced team with a ton of options.
Both teams grade out as fairly average on the various defensive metrics. DER is high on the Mets, but apart from that the numbers are middle-of-the-pack, and without the ailing Juan Lagares in center, New York’s best defender is probably d’Arnaud. Catcher might also be the Dodgers’ best spot, as Grandal and Ellis are both excellent catchers. Turner is also a big plus at third, but again there’s not a whole lot in the way of standout performers.
One note for future series, as observed by BttP’s Rob Mains: both teams have performed particularly badly in the regular season against other teams with good records. Whoever makes it through will have to face a team that won at least 97 games. Grant Brisbee looked into the Mets’ and Dodgers’ sub-par records against teams over .500 and found that if either did win the World Series, they would in fact have the worst record against such teams of any World Series winners in history.
Sizing Up the Series: The edge that the Mets have in rotation depth is fairly well negated by the fact that Kershaw and Greinke can start three, or even four games, should LA be willing to pitch them both on short rest. Given the quality of the pitching on show, this series will now inevitably be characterised by 9-8 thrillers in which the starters are knocked out in the third inning.
Conforto is unlikely to see a huge amount of playing time, given that the Dodgers will start three left-handers and the Mets have been incredibly reluctant to start the rookie against southpaws. That lefty-heavy rotation is a big point in the Dodgers’ favour, as it not only will cause Collins to limit the use of Conforto, but also significantly hurts Granderson, Duda and Daniel Murphy, all of whom have significant platoon splits. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are fourth in wRC+ against both left- and right-handers. They also have a deeper bench (depending a little on what you think of Rollins and Chase Utley at this point in their careers) and, despite Familia’s excellent season, an edge in the bullpen (he’s called Kenley Jansen).
In spite of the Mets’ second half outburst and exciting rotation, I feel fairly strongly that the Dodgers are the better team, with fewer weaknesses in the lineup and the game’s best pitcher to count on twice if needed. I don’t think it will get that far. Dodgers in three.
Many thanks go to Rob Mains for all of the statistics and help with this preview.Next post: Joe Sheehan on the Postseason
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