While the Atlanta Braves have the best closer in all of baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers might have the most complete bullpen. These two teams are meeting in the NLDS, and the winning team may be decided based on whose bullpen performs better.
In the postseason, managers are more likely to have quick hook on a starting pitcher and also be ready to matchup lefty on lefty and righty on righty. With teams only needing four starters for the playoffs, most teams go with eight arms in the bullpen and occasionally a ninth one.
The two closers put up very similar numbers. Craig Kimbrel of the Braves led the MLB with 50 saves while Kenley Jansen had only 28 since he spent the first two months as a setup guy to Brandon League. Other than the save numbers, you could argue Jansen was as good as Kimbrel. The latter had an ERA of 1.21 and a WHIP of 0.88. He struck out 98 batters in 67 innings and blew only four saves. Jansen finished with an ERA of 1.88 and a WHIP of 0.86. He struck out 111 batters in 76.2 innings and also blew four saves.
If either of these guys falter, the Braves only have one reliever that has extensive closing experience and that is Jordan Walden. On the other hand, the Dodgers have Carlos Marmol, Brandon League and Brian Wilson, who have a combined 362 saves.
The Dodgers have two dependable lefty specialists in J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez, who held lefties to a .131 average in 99 at-bats, and Howell held lefties to a .164 average in 110 at-bats. The Braves have two lefty specialists in Scott Downs and Luis Avilan. The latter has been very successful this season holding lefties to a .144 average in 104 at-bats, but Downs has struggled in those situations. Lefties have hit Downs at an average of .259 in 81 at-bats this year. This is the big advantage for the Dodgers since they can throw Howell and Rodriguez out there against Freddie Freeman, Brian McCann and Jason Heyward the last two times through the lineup, whereas the Braves will have to wait for the right moment to use Avilan versus Adrian Gonzalez.
These teams ranked in the top two in most pitching categories. The Braves ended the regular season with the No. 1 bullpen ERA in baseball and the Dodgers finished 13th. However, with the match ups in this series, the edge will go to the Dodgers lefties coming out of the bullpen and shutting down the most potent bats in the Braves lineup.