The Arizona Diamondbacks face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in what arguably will be the most intense Divisional Series of this postseason. This is a quick preview just in time for Game 1.
How They Got Here
D-Backs: The Diamondbacks came out of the gate quick competing for the NL West division through much of the first half. Even after the Dodgers shot past them, the Diamondbacks maintained an unexpected pace. Their record of 93-69 would have won the NL Central, and tied for the top in the AL East. They more than earned the top wild card spot. They dispatched another division rival, the Rockies, in an offense happy 11-8 Wild Card game at Chase Field.
Dodgers: The Dodgers started the year 9-11. Then Cody Bellinger got called up. The runaway NL Rookie of the Year set the National League record for home runs by a rookie, 39. He also contributed 97 RBIs, tops on the team. Since his call-up, the Dodgers went 95-47 and finished the year with the best record in all of Major League Baseball at 104-58.
D-Backs: The Diamondbacks carry two catchers who shared the load during the regular season: Jeff Mathis and Chris Iannetta. Mathis caught the Wild Card game and is the better defender of the two backstops. Iannetta brings a little more pop from the position.
Dodgers: The Dodgers carry three catchers. Yasmani Grandal figures to get the most reps behind the plate and provides a bat that hit over 20 home runs in 2017. Kyle Farmer might not see much time save for pinch hit appearances. The rookie is a quality bat off the bench. Austin Barnes could see a much more versatile role. He can play second, is a good baserunner, as well as a solid bat. He may see a start or two at catcher, but look to see him utilized as either a pinch runner or a utility man.
Edge: Dodgers. The Dodgers might have the best catching combo in the league. Add a dangerous Farmer to that mix, and they easily become the better of the two teams.
D-Backs: Paul Goldschmidt is arguably the NL MVP and for good reason. Smacking 36 dongs, driving in 120 RBIs, as well as hitting .297. His elite really cant be overstated.
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger, as mentioned above, was key to the Dodgers’ massive success this year. He provides a huge power and RBI potential just like Goldschmidt.
Edge: Draw. Two fantastic bats, two fantastic gloves. Goldschmidt has veteran experience, but Bellinger doesn’t carry himself like a rookie. This matchup will be fun to watch.
D-Backs: Daniel Descalso has postseason experience from his days in St. Louis. He’s a spark plug who can provide some surprising pop when he needs it. Utility man Brandon Drury could also fill in at 2B. He has been a valuable piece for the D-Backs this season.
Dodgers: The Dodgers will platoon the combo of Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe. Both are capable bats. Forsythe, who will specialize against lefties, has been quietly heating up in September. Austin Barnes might get some time here, especially if Utley struggles.
Edge: D-Backs. Descalso gets the edge based on his consistency. Drury also helps the D-Backs in this position. Utley can struggle and Forsythe struggled for much of the year. If the Dodgers’ players can step up though, they can regain the edge here.
D-Backs: Jake Lamb has been Paul Goldschmidt’s right hand man all year. He added 30 HRs and 105 RBIs, but batted a shade under .250, really the only separation between him and Goldy.
Dodgers: Justin Turner nearly won the NL batting title. He finished the year at .322 after starting off red (pun intended) hot, being up around .350 as he qualified for the race. Hit 21 home runs, but only drove in 71 runs. His defense can’t be ignored either.
Edge: Dodgers. Turner doesn’t have quite the pop that Lamb does, but he hits for a much higher average. This position was nearly a draw though.
D-Backs: Ketel Marte has electric speed and a quality switch hitting bat. He made postseason history hitting two triples, one from each side of the plate, in the Wild Card game.
Dodgers: Corey Seager is the beacon of consistency. Not a flashy year, but hit .295, smacked 22 dongs, and drove in 77 RBIs in a quality sophomore campaign.
Edge: Dodgers. Seager is a top shortstop in the game. Marte is good, but his speed can’t edge him past Corey in this matchup.
D-Backs: David Peralta will likely man this space for Arizona. His speed is an asset both on offense and defense. Batted .293 while hitting 14 home runs in the regular season.
Dodgers: Curtis Granderson will get the most playing time for LA, but Kike Hernandez may get some time there against left handers. Granderson struggled during his short time with the Dodgers, but they acquired him for the postseason, a time when he’s been able to perform.
Edge: D-Backs. Peralta provides a more consistent threat at the top of the lineup than either of the Dodgers’ options do. Superior defender as well.
D-Backs: AJ Pollock was a major piece missing from Arizona in 2016. He returned this year to give the D-Backs 20 stolen bases, but his average was lower than expected at .266, but still popped 14 homers and owned a .801 OPS.
Dodgers: Chris Taylor had what can only be described as a breakout year. Swing changes yielded a slash line of .288/.354/.496 from the leadoff spot. He also had surprising power with 21 home runs and 72 RBIs.
Edge: Dodgers. While Pollock is a better defender than Taylor, his offense leaves something to be desired when compared to Taylor. Slight edge to Taylor.
D-Backs: JD Martinez might have been the best trade this season. He provided the extra pop the Snakes needed and boy did he deliver some pop. Hit four home runs in a game at Dodger Stadium in September.
Dodgers: Yasiel Puig has surprised many with his solid year where he went over 20 home runs and stayed more or less healthy all year. Much more disciplined than in years past, especially defensively.
Edge: D-Backs. As quality as Puig is, its hard to really get close to JD’s level.
D-Backs: Taijuan Walker gets the ball for game 1. He has pitched well against the Dodgers so far. Just announced at the time of this writing, Robbie Ray will get game 2 and Zack Greinke will go game 3 at home. Ray’s usage will be intriguing considering he tossed 2.1 innings in the Wild Card game, where Greinke got roughed up a bit in his starting bid.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw goes game 1. His overstated postseason struggles will dominate the talk, but he is still the best pitcher in the game. Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, and Alex Wood round out the rotation, all easily capable of shutting down this potent D-Backs lineup.
Edge: Dodgers. Despite the talk, Kershaw is Kershaw. The Dodgers also win this matchup on the depth of their rotation.
D-Backs: Archie Bradley, Andrew Chafin, and Fernando Rodney headline the D-Backs pen. Rodney has struggled at times to close games, especially against the Dodgers.
Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, who co-led the NL in saves this year, will lead a group that does have question marks in Pedro Baez and Ross Stripling. There are potential showstoppers in Tony Watson and Brandon Morrow.
Edge: Dodgers. Despite Baez’s recent struggles, he owns solid numbers against key D-Backs hitters. Morrow and Jansen are also a formidable duo in the back end, and both can go longer than one inning if needed.
Final Tally: Dodgers 6-3-1
This series is much tighter than the final tally would suggest, but the Dodgers are all around the more talented team. This is a heated division rivalry between two of the top teams in all of MLB this year. Both teams are capable of sweeping each other, but I see this series going four or five games with the Dodgers coming out on top. Hopefully my nerves can survive this series.