ROUND 1 OF 2015 NLDS: GOING TO WAR AGAINST MONEY
Brought to you by knower of every insignificant sports stat you can think of, Superb Sperb.
Round one is set to begin tonight; it will mark the first time in nine years that the New York Mets will play in a playoff game. Regardless of the outcome, tomorrow will be a truly beautiful day. While postseason rosters weren’t due until this morning, I am going to give an as-accurate projection as I can of both rosters along with a positional breakdown of the series. Finally, I will conclude with my NLDS prediction, which – full disclosure – will confirm the belief that this series is going to be a war.
Game 1: Jacob deGrom vs. Clayton Kershaw
Game 2: Noah Syndergaard vs. Zack Greinke
Game 3: Matt Harvey vs. Brett Anderson
Game 4 (tentatively): Steven Matz vs. Alex Wood
Analysis: It is clear that the Mets have the advantage in pure rotation depth. If the Mets can take one of the Greinke-Kershaw games, they will be in fantastic shape. However, beating those guys this season has not been easy, to say the least. Zack Greinke might have just pitched the greatest statistical season since Greg Maddux, and Clayton Kershaw does Clayton Kershaw things whenever he steps on the mound. Additionally, the Dodgers have postseason experience, and this Mets team does not – if the Mets were to lose both games in L.A it would be an excruciating task to come back. I will even go as far to say that they are toast unless they take one game in L.A. Even though Greinke and Kershaw are two of the filthiest pitchers alive, I like my chances whenever deGrom and Syndergaard are on the mound. Throw in the fact that the Mets pitching will clearly be superior in games 3 and 4 and I’ll take my team’s staff.
Dodgers Projected ‘Pen: J.P Howell, Kenley Jansen, Chris Hatcher, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, Joel Peralta.
Mets Projected ‘Pen: Erik Goeddel, Bartolo Colon, Hansel Robles, Jonathon Niese, Addison Reed, Tyler Clippard, Jeurys Familia.
Analysis: Both bullpens leave more to be desired. With the dominant starting pitching already set-in-stone with some nasty pitchers, scoring runs is going to be at a premium. Do not be surprised if this series is decided after the 6th inning when the starting pitchers might be battling fatigue and the call to the ‘pen has to be made. The battle of bullpens will be key. In the 9th inning, Kenley Jansen is good but Jeurys Familia is just better. Familia is superior to Jansen in every statistical category aside from WHIP and blown saves (albeit Familia pitched 24 more innings than Jansen). While Familia can certainly give the diehards heart palpations (he always makes it interesting!), that splitter of his is filthy, and nobody seems to be able to figure it out. Finally, Familia never looks fazed by the moment; he has a bubbly personality and that’ll suit him well in the game’s most pivotal inning.
In the 8th inning there is Tyler Clippard vs. J.P Howell – Clippard is another pitcher that never likes to take the easy way out, and Howell has been downright filthy against lefties. Howell against right-handed hitters, however, is another story; the way Terry Collins chooses to use his bench against Howell will be a thing to keep an eye on. As for the rest of the bullpen, the Dodgers have a variety of veterans with big-spot experience. Jim Johnson, Joel Peralta, and Luis Avilan would have made for a dynamic postseason bullpen just a few seasons ago. However, this season all three of those pitchers have been very hittable. The Mets will keep two starters, Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese, in their bullpen. The transition of Niese from starter to LOOGY is something to watch; it could make Terry Collins look brilliant or delusional real quick. Colon could also prove to be a pivotal swingman should one of the young-guns get hit early. The Mets will carry the dominant (since he joined the Mets) Addison Reed, the quick pitching Hansel Robles, and Erik Goeddel. Bruce Bochy has proven to us just how important bullpen maneuvering is in the postseason – the final three innings becoming almost like a chess match between managers. With both bullpens being shaky, I do not see an inherent advantage for either team.
STARTING POSITIONAL PLAYERS
Catcher: Yasmani Grandal vs. Travis d’Arnaud
Analysis: While d’Arnaud did not prove that he can go a full season injury free, he did prove that when he plays he is a threat. Grandal was an All-Star this season when he got out to a torrid first half and had a slash of .282/.401/.526. Ever since, he has been falling off a hitter’s cliff. After the break, Grandal hit .162/.280/.218 – making himself present everywhere but the basepaths. Both catchers are average defensively and have no prior post-season experience.
First Base: Adrian Gonzalez vs. Lucas Duda
Analysis: At 33 years old, Gonzo has showed no signs of declining offensively as he is still a very formidable middle-of-the-order force. Duda put together a second consecutive solid power season for the Mets, but there were times this season when Duda looked absolutely lost. Specifically in June and July when he batted .180 – Duda did respond with a strong end of the season that included a huge September power surge. The edge has to go to the more accomplished hitter, though.
Second Base: Howie Kendrick vs. Daniel Murphy
Analysis: Both have been very solid hitters throughout their respective careers. However, Kendrick used to be more than just a bat as he used to provide outstanding defense as well. This season Kendrick was awful defensively.. not that I’m crowning Murphy the next Ozzie Smith by any means. Nevertheless, Kendrick’s defensive woes made this choice closer than it used to be. We are going to give the advantage to Murphy because he has been on the Mets his entire career, they have been awful his entire career, and he will probably be gone next year. In short, I’m biased – this one’s for you Murph.
Shortstop: Corey Seager vs. Rueben Tejada
Analysis: The Mets’ Achilles Heel, shortstop. Collins has stated that he would value Tejada’s defense over Flores’ bat, not that it matters. Top prospect Corey Seager has been filthy since his promotion in September. While some might say the big scene might faze him because he has not even been in The Show for a month, I would still rather have a fazed Seager then whomever the Mets will throw out there. Furthermore, the presence of Jimmy Rollins on the bench provides great insurance. Sorry, Wilmer, you can’t cry yourself out of this one.
Third Base: Justin Turner vs. David Wright
Analysis: The former Mets castoff has found himself a nice little niche in L.A. Turner has been playing at an All-Star level for two seasons now, so he appears legit. I would like to give credit where credit is due; Justin Turner is a solid MLB player whose services would fit on any team. However.. do you honestly think I am going to give Justin Turner the nod over Captain America, bro? Or is it Breaux? You do not bet against David Wright, you do not bet against David Wright after he has not been in the playoffs for nine seasons, and you do not bet against the fact that Wright is more ready for this moment than ever. So while David Wright has been substantially less valuable over the past two seasons then Justin Turner, I will disregard the stats. This is not even about my Mets fan bias.. this is my pure expectation; the old David Wright will show up to this series. Old David Wright vs. Justin Turner, CAPTAIN AMERICA vs. JUSTIN FREAKING TURNER?!?!?!?!?! You don’t bet against the captain.
Right Field: Yasiel Puig vs. Curtis Granderson
Analysis: Puig is coming off his first sub-par major league season. He was often injured and had a very high strikeout rate. Is this simply an anomaly due to injury or have pitchers figured out how to pitch Puig? On the other side you have Curtis Granderson, who is coming of a renaissance season and was probably the best leadoff hitter in the majors this year. Puig’s talent and age would be much more desirable if we were deciding on a right fielder for the next five years; however, I am supposed to decide who I would prefer for this series only. I’ll take the guy coming off a career year.
Center Field: Yoenis Cespedes vs. Joc Pederson
Analysis: Boy do the Dodgers wish they could have the Joc Pederson of the first half back. While he still provides plus defense and good speed, Pederson has been absolutely atrocious the past three months. He has been batting under .200 since the All-Star break and is still striking out in about a third of his at-bats. Pederson is not necessarily a lock to start because of how bad he’s been, but the outfield needs his defense so I think he should. While, Cespedes has been human with the big stick recently, he will still give opposing pitchers heartburn. This is easy, Cespedes can play at 50% and probably still put better offensive numbers up then Joc, not saying you should do that Ces but point made, right? Right.
Left Field: Andre Ethier vs. Michael Conforto
Analysis: While Conforto might be the messiah who takes the torch from David Wright, I think the expectations of his first postseason should be tempered. Additionally, he is no lock to start, as Michael Cuddyer could wiggle his way into the lineup if Terry Collins feels they need his veteran presence. I think Conforto should start because of his arm in the outfield and fielding ability (he might not be the best, but anybody can field better than Cuddy), and just to have Cuddy as a veteran bat off the bench. Meanwhile, after hearing his name come up in a bevy of trade talks, Ethier had a solid bounce-back season. A veteran who has seen this stage before is more valuable to a playoff-roster then a rookie who has never been in a scene this big. Your time will come, Michael, we understand if you suck this postseason.
Dodgers Projected Bench: Carl Crawford, A.J Ellis, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Enrique Hernandez.
Mets Projected Bench: Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares, Kevin Plawecki, Wilmer Flores, Kelly Johnson, Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Analysis: The Dodgers bench is flush with veterans who have played on a big stage before. Carl Crawford, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are all shells of their former selves; however, they are still very capable of producing big hits in big moments, especially Utley. A.J Ellis would not have a job if it were not for Clayton Kershaw, and Enrique Hernandez is a nice utility infielder. The Mets have two good veteran hitters in Cuddy and Johnson, making the real X-Factor Wilmer Flores. If he sinks, the bench will need another bat to step up and it probably won’t be Plawecki or Lagares – both defensive replacements. Nieuwenhuis is a quadruple-a player who had a three-homerun game and then another homerun that put the nail in the Nationals coffin. Defensively the Mets are better, and the Mets are probably a more well rounded bench altogether. However, in the postseason I think the bench’s main job is to produce big hits, and by those standards I think the Dodgers hold the advantage.
Don Mattingly vs. Terry Collins
Analysis: Don Mattingly is coaching for his job. Let’s face it, if he cannot get to the World Series with a $300 million dollar payroll, he will likely be canned. The idea floated around last offseason but did not come to fruition. The Dodger ownership won’t be so gracious this time around, especially after another season of owning the league’s top payroll. Meanwhile, by winning the division, Terry Collins has all but assured himself a contract extension. Mattingly has the added pressure, but he also has the experience. For that reason, and because the managers do not play, I am saying this is a draw.
Not being biased at all (ok maybe a little), the Mets will steal one in Los Angeles and then take the crown in New York in 4. While the Mets had a mini late-season offensive swoon, I believe the week off will correct that. I believe that the Mets have clear advantages in their lineup and starting rotation. The fact is, the Mets are the better team in this matchup. The only thing in their way from the NLCS is two back-to-back shutouts to start the series. I believe in the lineup, and I believe that come October 13th the Mets will be celebrating their advancement to the NLCS in front of their home fans – a euphoric thought at the very least. Mets in four, Ya Gotta Believe.
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