Braves vs. Dodgers NLCS Preview
David Troy (@FuturePrez2024) - October 9th, 2020
For a shortened season where you might have expected variance and upsets, we don’t find any in the National League. The Dodgers come into the series a perfect 5-0 winning four out of five covering the run line. The Braves have a similar postseason success of 5-0 record, also covering the run line in four out of five. At the beginning of the season, the Dodgers were projected to be here. No one questioned the Braves hitting ability, but many wondered if they had enough pitching to advance through the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the matchup and what we can expect.
From a hitting perspective, the teams are relatively even in most categories. They have identical slugging percentages, scored almost the exact same number of runs, and are close in OPS and batting average. Where there is disparity is in the pitching staffs. The Dodgers have an ERA of a full run lower and have issued 80 less walks than the Braves staff this year.
The Braves have not faired all that well against the four main starters for the Dodgers. Although this was all previous to 2020, we have to take into account historical data as we try to find an edge for our bets. Kershaw has seen the most of the Braves, and they have a .228 average against him (it changes to about .230 if you take out Sandoval who likely won’t be on the roster). Kershaw’s only start against the Braves in 2019 wasn’t great, giving up four runs in 6.2 innings. Buehler lost to the Braves in a postseason start in 2018, but overall, the games he has pitched in have been solid. May and Urias have not seen much of the Braves to speak of, but Braves hitters are 0 for 13 against Urias so far.
The Braves pitching staff has less name recognition but has done a very respectable job this year and in the postseason. Max Fried pitched like a Cy Young contender for much of the 2020 season and the Braves will need that version of him to win. However, his past performances against the Dodgers leave a lot to be desired. In only two appearances against the LA team, he has given up 10 hits in 27 at-bats. Ian Anderson has been a great pitcher so far, but the Dodgers are significantly more potent offensively than the Reds and Marlins. He has no history against LA. Kyle Wright will also be a pitcher the Dodgers have never seen before.
How the Braves could win: Everything goes right. The pitching, mostly unseen by Dodgers hitters, locks them up and the Braves bullpen is lights out. This is obviously a tall task as Wright for example has a .185 average against him the first time through the lineup. The second time… .345 average against. I also think the Braves will need to rely on small ball – the Dodgers have only given up the home runs in five games. If the Braves can steal a game that Buehler pitches, they can beat Urias and May. Then you must win one more of three that Buehler or Kershaw starts. If that sounds like a tall task, it is, but other teams have done it already.
How the Dodgers could win: They keep doing what they’ve been doing. They aren’t solely relying on the long ball now, and they are playing smart baseball. If LA can get to Anderson, I don’t think the Braves have any shot at winning this series. If they can lock down Acuna and Freeman it should be a short series.
Personally, I have the Dodgers in 5 games. How about you?
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