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Morning Mound Visit: NLDS Previews

The Giants and Dodgers begin a battle for the ages. Also, the Brewers play Atlanta.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

In my NL Wild Card recap, I declared this matchup as the true World Series. There’s some other baseball going on this month, but we’re not going to see a better battle than the 107-win Giants taking on the 106-win Dodgers.

Unless you’re extremely pedantic, this is the first playoff series between Dodgers and Giants in their history, so it’s fitting they meet when they’re the two best teams in baseball. It’s less fitting that they’re meeting in the NLDS rather than the NLCS, but this will have to do.

If Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals were mad about FanGraphs giving them a five percent chance to make the postseason before their 17-game win streak, you can imagine how the Giants felt about their preseason projections. FanGraphs gave the Giants a 0.2 percent chance of winning the National League West, but really, that seemed about right. Not only did San Francisco have to hold off a team that went 50-21 in the second half, but the Giants also had to set a franchise record in wins to break the Dodgers’ eight-year streak of division crowns. They did so in a convincing fashion.

The Giants had the second-best offense in baseball with a 114 wRC+ ignoring pitchers. Revitalized seasons from Buster Posey, Evan Longoria, and Brandon Crawford drew most of the attention, but just about everyone the Giants sent to the batter’s box produced. LaMonte Wade Jr. mashed righties collecting clutch hit after clutch hit. Darin Ruf, Brandon Belt, and Wilmer Flores comprised a first base corps with a majors-best .930 OPS. Steven Duggar put it together at the plate while maintaining stellar defense.

In the rotation, the Giants saw continued excellence from Kevin Gausman, a breakout from Logan Webb, and consistency from Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Wood. The bullpen, from Tyler Rogers to Camilo Doval, was even better.

But as good as the Giants are, the Dodgers are their equals. Even without Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have the advantage in the rotation between Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and Max Scherzer. However, Scherzer hasn’t looked good in his last three starts (the Cardinals bailed him out several times on Wednesday).

LA’s bullpen has been just as good as San Francisco’s, but the Giants don’t have any relievers with the My Pillow guy’s website in their Instagram bio, so that tips things in their favor.

Here’s how their league rankings compare.

Giants and Dodgers Rankings

Stat Giants Dodgers
Stat Giants Dodgers
wRC+* 5 7
DRS 13 12
Position Player fWAR 3 5
FIP 2 1
Pitcher fWAR 5 2
*Includes pitchers

Prediction

Giants win in 5.

Milwaukee Brewers vs. Atlanta

While two teams that won at least 106 games duke it out, the Brewers will take on a team that might have lost their division to the Mariners and definitely would have lost to the Blue Jays. The playoff structure is inequitable, punishing good teams and rewarding mediocre ones, and this year, Atlanta is the beneficiary.

The Braves have underperformed, and that’s partly because they’re not at full strength. Ronald Acuña Jr. is out for the year as is Mike Soroka. Without a competent deadline strategy, Atlanta might have been watching another team try to beat Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta in a best-of-five. Atlanta picked up Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson midseason and those three filled out the offense behind Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, and Austin Riley.

Whether that offense is enough to take down Milwaukee’s pitching remains to be seen. The Brewers possess what might be the best rotation in the majors. Burnes and Woodruff will each finish in top-five of Cy Young voting, and Peralta broke out with a 3.12 FIP in 144 13 innings. Milwaukee led the National League in strikeout percentage at 27.0, and Atlanta’s offense had the fourth-highest strikeout rate in the NL.

The Brewers definitely have enough pitching to take on anyone, but they easily have the worst offense of the playoff field. Willy Adames is the only Brewer with a wRC+ of 120 or higher. Willy Adames! Excluding pitchers, the Brewers have a 97 wRC+ as a team, and they’ll have to take on Atlanta’s staff which isn’t exactly overmatched by Burnes and co. Max Fried threw the ball as well as anyone down the stretch, and Charlie Morton had a solid year. With Devin Williams nursing a broken hand, Atlanta’s bullpen corps of AJ Minter, Tyler Matzek, Will Smith, and Luke Jackson tips the scales in their favor when the starters are out of the game.

Here’s their league rankings.

Brewers and Atlanta League Rankings

Stat Brewers Atlanta
Stat Brewers Atlanta
wRC+ 23 13
DRS 6 8
Position Player fWAR 10 11
FIP 3 10
Pitcher fWAR 3 12

Prediction

Brewers win in 4.