MLB Playoffs 2013: Los Angeles Dodgers Have A Better Lineup Than Atlanta Braves
2013 NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers have a better lineup than Atlanta Braves
October baseball is officially underway, ladies and gents. After 162 games (or 163 for some), the postseason is finally here. Naturally, the one-game Wild Card playoffs are must-see games – the Pittsburgh Pirates’ win over the Cincinnati Reds proved that – but there is another intriguing matchup in the National League side of the bracket: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves.
The Dodgers were like IcyHot this year. They began the season 23-32 as their lineup was plagued with injuries and ineptitude. Then, in the time it takes Yasiel Puig’s bat to get through the hitting zone, they became the hottest team in the league. They matched the best 50-game stretch in the history of baseball by going 42-8 through July and August, en route to winning the NL West. In addition to the offensive output that Puig catalyzed, Los Angeles has a dominating pitching staff led by NL CY Young favorite Clayton Kershaw.
The Braves led the NL East all year – they’ve basically had the division wrapped up since Memorial Day. Like the Dodgers, they have had injuries, most notably to starting pitcher Tim Hudson. Still, they have a great young pitching staff, including one of the game’s premier closers in Craig Kimbrel, and their offense is led by MVP candidate Freddie Freeman.
Both teams have great starting pitching and outstanding bullpens, anchored by two of the best closers in baseball. Both teams boast stars and MVP candidates. It is baseball’s best home record (Braves) against baseball’s best road record (Dodgers).
But which team has the better lineup? Let’s break it down position by position.
The Dodgers have A.J. Ellis behind the dish. The Braves have Brian McCann.
Ellis has had a good year, but McCann is still one of the best catchers in the game. He batted .256/.336/.461, which isn’t overwhelmingly impressive, but it’s better than Ellis' batting line of .238/.318/.364. McCann also hit 20 home runs to Ellis’ 10.
But it’s not only about statistics. McCann adds veteran leadership to his team, an intangible factor that doesn’t show up in the box score. The Braves will need him to step up in this role to have any chance at advancing to the NLCS.
This one’s a little tougher. The Dodgers have Adrian Gonzalez. The Braves have Freddie Freeman. Both add ridiculous left-handed power to their respective rosters.
Gonzalez batted .293 this year with 22 home runs and 100 RBIs. He’s one of the most feared hitters in baseball with his ability to drive the ball the other way, but he’s not the only Dodger who can play first base. Michael Young provides depth at the position. They could potentially pinch run for Gonzalez late in a game and not lose much production because Young can come off the bench.
Still, Freeman leads Gonzalez in just about every offensive category besides doubles. He batted .319 with 22 home runs and 109 RBIs. He also scored 89 runs to Gonzalez’s 69.
Freeman is a favorite to win the National League MVP Award.
Here’s where the Dodgers strike back. They are incredibly versatile at second base with four different players who can start at the position.
Mark Ellis has seen the most innings at second. He batted .270 this year and drove in 48 runs, second highest among NL second basemen in the postseason.
Nick Punto has also platooned at second base. In a utility role, Punto batted .255 and drove in 21 runs, and is still one of the best defensive players in the league. Similarly, Skip Schumkaer batted .263 with 30 RBIs, also in a utility role.
Though Michael Young has seen more time at first and third, he can also play second base, which only adds more flexibility.
All of these guys are a better option than what the Braves have. Dan Uggla hit 22 home runs, but set career lows in batting average (.179), hits (80), runs (60) and RBI (55). Uggla’s also a liability in the field. He made 14 errors at second base this year, good for a .976 fielding percentage.
As a result, he was left off of the Braves' postseason roster. Instead, Elliot Johnson will take over duties at second base, having batted .209 with two home runs and 19 RBIs between the Kansas City Royals and the Braves.
The Dodgers will most likely start Juan Uribe at third base. The Braves will definitely start Chris Johnson.
Uribe batted .278 with 12 homeruns and 50 RBIs. The aforementioned Punto and Young have also seen innings at the hot corner.
No matter whom the Dodgers play at third, they are not better than Johnson for the Braves. Johnson has had a career year, batting .321 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs. He’s one of Atlanta’s best hitters, and was arguably the best third baseman in the National League in 2013.
The Dodgers have Hanley Ramirez at shortstop. The Braves have Andrelton Simmons.
Ramirez’s outstanding year was overlooked amid the Puigmania. Though he only played in 86 games, he batted .345 with 25 home runs and 57 RBIs. He also scored 62 runs.
Simmons is well known for his defense. In addition to supplying an elite glove, he hit 17 home runs with 59 RBIs and scored 76 runs – great offensive numbers for a shortstop. But with a .248 batting average, he’s just as likely to frustrate the Braves' offense with his bat as he is to stop the Dodgers' offense with his glove.
Simmons had a solid year, but Ramirez put up better or comparable numbers in half as many games.
The Dodgers’ versatility makes it impossible to break down the outfield by each position. Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and rookie phenom Yasiel Puig form maybe the best outfield in baseball.
As good as the Dodgers are in the outfield, the Braves are just as bad. Jason Heyward is nothing special, and B.J. Upton has been horrible all season. His .184 batting average was second-worst among NL center fielders, ahead of only Roger Bernandina (.181).
Justin Upton is the only Atlanta outfielder that Los Angeles needs to worry about. He led the Braves in home runs with 27 and drove in 70 runs – but he only batted .263.
The Dodgers are better at more positions, and even where the Braves do have the edge, they only have a slight advantage. L.A. is better top to bottom. They don’t have to rely on the same players to come through for them every game, and their versatility is unmatched. Simply put, they have the better lineup.
Combined with a high powered pitching staff, the Dodgers should be able to beat the Braves and advance to the NLCS.