The Dodgers are far and away the best team in Major League Baseball this season. They will likely coast to 105+ win season. But, as we all know, that doesn’t automatically guarantee success in the postseason. With Walker Buehler undergoing season-ending surgery and Clayton Kershaw’s health in doubt (he’s gone home to Texas for a few days), the Dodgers may be headed into the postseason with Julio Urias leading the rotation.
Now, Kershaw should be back by early September, but because it’s his recurring back issue that put him on the IL, there should be some concern as it could flare up again prior to the playoffs. The Dodgers do get Dustin May back but it’s currently unclear whether he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen or from the rotation. With or without Kershaw, the Dodgers will have to rely heavily on Tony Gonsolin and either Tyler Anderson or Andrew Heaney, or both. All three of those guys are having sensational seasons, but don’t have much in terms of playoff resumes.
Now the Dodgers bullpen and lineup are great, but that rotation when lined up against the likes of the New York Mets leaves something to be desired. Carlos Carrasco is set to miss significant time, but he’s the #5 starter. Taijuan Walker exited Tuesday’s start but isn’t expected to miss much time. But it’s the three-headed monster of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and Chris Bassitt that will carry the Mets through the playoffs.
Now deGrom only has 4 postseason starts, all in 2015, but was very good with a 2.88 ERA He pitched at least 6 innings and gave up less than two runs in three of those 4 starts– with the World Series start against the Royals being the exception (5 innings, 4 ER). Max Scherzer’s postseason resume is much more extensive with 26 appearances and 21 starts. As Nats fans, we all saw what he could do in the 2019 World Series, even without his best stuff as he contained the Astros historically good offense to 4 ER over 10 innings pitched. That doesn’t seem impressive on paper, but watching him live (and many replays since), he grinded and it felt like he kept the Nats in the game by sheer determination.
Even if Clayton Kershaw is healthy, we are all aware of his postseason shortcomings. Gonsolin has an ERA over 10.00 in his postseason career. Tyler Anderson was actually really good in his one postseason start for the Rockies against the Brewers in 2018 in which he went 6 innings and only gave up 1 run. But other than that, he’s unproven. Andrew Heaney has never even pitched in the postseason. Chris Bassitt has 2 postseason starts, both in 2020 for the Oakland A’s, and with mixed results. But he’s an even better pitcher now and matching up as a #3 in the playoffs give the Mets the advantage.
The Dodgers have a great lineup with Mookie, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman all having great seasons. Max Muncy is getting hot. But not enough is being talked about the Mets lineup and how they’re built for October. Last week, I talked about how the Yankees were in trouble come October because of their over-reliance on the home run. Success in the playoffs typically comes from stringing baserunners together and getting clutch hits. That’s where the Mets’ newest acquisitions come in.
Starling Marte and Mark Canha seemed like under-the-radar moves for the Mets after they made their big splash by signing Max Scherzer, but they fit the type of team the Mets were aspiring to be. Yes, Canha doesn’t have the splashy numbers, but he gets on base at a .370 clip and has pop in his bat. Starling Marte is exactly who the Mets envisioned he’d be, a table setter at the top of the lineup to pair along with Brandon Nimmo for the likes of Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso to drive in. The Mets have 6 starters with an OPS of .740 or better (Nimmo, Marte, Lindor, Alonso, McNeil, and Canha).
The Mets’ quiet trade deadline acquisitions of Daniel Vogelbach (fan favorite) and Darin Ruf have likewise been productive. In 21 games Vogelbach is hitting .274 with a .900 OPS. Ruf has only played in 6 games for the Mets, but is 6/18 with 3 doubles and 5 RBIs already. Even with a terrible James McCann and Dominic Smith and a struggling Eduardo Escobar, the Mets have dominated the NL East, had have been in first every day of the season except one.
The Dodgers lead the NL in OBP and OPS. They’re third in home runs and second in average. The Mets are right behind them in OBP and OPS and strike out less. In fact, only the Nationals strike out less than the Mets in the National League, which will be big come playoff time. The Dodgers have a team ERA of 2.87, which leads the Majors. The Mets are second in the NL, with a 3.55 ERA. But we established why I like the Mets arms more come playoff time. The Mets also have more quality starts (53-48) and strike batters out at a much higher clip.
Speaking of pitching, the Mets bullpen features the best closer in baseball right now in Edwin Diaz. In 48 games, he’s 2-1 with a 1.30 ERA and 27 saves. He has 96 strikeouts in just 48.1 innings. Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo bring closer experience to set-up roles, while Trevor May and Michael Givens have struggled this season in very limited time for the Mets but should bounce back (May has only pitched in 13 games and Givens in only 7 for the Mets). Givens did have a 2.66 ERA in 40 games for the Cubs prior to his trade to New York.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have good numbers overall as a bullpen, but their best relievers are injured. Blake Treinen has been out quite a while, but should return soon, as should Brusdar Graterol. Treinen could replace the struggling Craig Kimbrel as closer, while they’ve also gotten a lot of production out of Evan Phillips and Alex Vesia. Daniel Hudson is out for the year. But Dustin May could return and pitch out of the bullpen come playoff time. But if you’re asking me to choose which bullpen I’d want in October? I’m taking Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Adam Ottavino, and the Mets bullpen.
Again, the Dodgers are easily the best team in all of baseball from top to bottom. But the New York Mets, with that rotation, a lineup that can get on base and string hits together, and the best current closer in baseball? They have to be the favorite for the NL pennant for me, especially with a talented Braves team pushing them within the division (the Padres are not a threat to the Dodgers in any way, going 2-13 in their last 15 against them). Sure, there might be a LoLMets moment, but I don’t think so this time given manager Buck Showalter and the leadership ability of Max Scherzer. The only way they don’t the pennant in my eyes is if they run into a hot Wild Card team, but ultimately, my money is on the Mets to go to the World Series.