No More California Songs – Dodgers NLCS Preview: The Lineup

This is not much like what the Cubs saw last year. Where last year they got to work through an already-clinically-dead Adrian Gonzalez playing first base, now it’s Rookie Of The Year Cody Bellinger. Where once there was Joc Pedersen and his inability to hit anything that wasn’t middle-in is now Cody Taylor and his .496 slugging and 126 wRC+. Where there was a scuffling Yasiel Puig that everyone hated is now… well, Yasiel Puig except he’s hitting the ever-loving shit out of the ball and everyone loves him. And where Chase Utley was leaving a foul smell it’s now, at least on occasion, Austin Barnes is crushing when he’s not replacing Yasmani Grandal. This is a better lineup than they just negotiated in DC, or at least deeper. The Nationals were great 2-6, but Werth, Turner, Wieters were pretty easy outs. There simply aren’t any in Los Angeles.

1. Chris Taylor – CF

We’re always skeptical of players that bust out at 27. It used to be something the Cardinals claimed was their way until that stopped working, if it ever did. Taylor barely had over 100 games in the majors over three seasons, and then suddenly this year was hitting .288 in The Show. So the .361 BABIP is certainly something to peruse over, and his 32.4% hard-contact rate is good though not other-wordly. To get at him, Taylor should be attacked with curves as much as possible. He hits .196 against them, and it doesn’t matter from which side those curves are coming. Get them below the zone and he has a hard time laying off.

2. Cory Seager – SS

What we all wish Addison Russell was, at least at the plate. Seager actually isn’t quite having the year he was last year, as his average has dipped a bit and as has his power. But his walk rate has jumped up to 10.9% this year. Seager has also crushed lefties this year, with a  144 wRC+. There isn’t really a way to attack Seager that’s sure-fire, though much like Seager breaking stuff seems to be the best route. But you there’s isn’t the margin for error. Get it below the zone you might get a whiff. Even at the bottom of the zone though he crushes them, to a .412 average.

3. Justin Turner – 3B

Much like Seager, Turner has improved his walk-rate this year to over 10%. He’s making more contact in the zone as well, and combined with his greater-discipline he’s become an absolute mutant at third. And he looks like one, too. Turner had career highs in average, slugging, on-base, and wRC+. Unlike the first two hitters, there isn’t one pitch that Bootstrap here is susceptible to. Looking at his zone profile, if you can keep fastballs and cutters low and a way from him you take away most of his power, but again you can’t miss because he crushes everything else in the zone and he’ll simply lay off anything that’s outside of the zone.

4. Cody Bellinger – 1B

Sigh, I’m already tired. You know the story here. No rookie has displayed such power. He’s basically displaced Gonzalez from first, though can shift out to left if needed to get Gonzalez into the lineup. He strikes out a lot, but also walks a lot. This is basically Adam Dunn v2.0, except he can actually not hurt himself in the field. To get to Bellinger, he does have a problem with fastballs on the top of the zone and breaking pitches below the zone that bend and break. But like everyone else in this fucking lineup, the margin of error is minuscule and if you miss there are going to be a lot of Rawlings traveling a long way.

5. Yasiel Puig – RF

Well, we know who Cubs fans are going to hate the most right off the bat (get it?). Puig seemed like he was mere minutes from being booted out of L.A. if anyone had offered anything of value. If you’re getting tired of hearing this, I don’t blame you, but Puig’s career has turned around by actually taking more pitches and walks. His walk-rate is 11.2%, a career-high. Puig is swinging at less pitches in the zone he can’t do much with and making more contact on the ones he does offer at. His contact-rates are all about the same, in terms of hard and soft and line drives and fly balls. Puig is still vulnerable to breaking pitches from righties that sweep out of the zone, but not as much as he was against lefties. You can bust him up and in with hard stuff too, if you’re so inclined.

6. Curtis Granderson – LF

Finally, a breather. Grandy-man was an absolute disaster when he came from the Mets, hitting .161 and striking out a quarter of the time, which has always been kind of his thing. He’s 36 now and it seems time has caught up. In fact, you might see Granderson benched with Taylor sliding over and Kike Hernandez and his leather pants moving into center. Or Andre Ethier, that Cubs-killer and asshole, getting some time in left too.

7. Austin Barnes – C

It’s not certain this is how this would go, but Barnes has mostly supplanted Grandal behind the plate. He was nails in the Division Series, but obviously that was only three games. Barnes is another who toiled in the minors basically until this year, his age-27 season. And then he exploded for a 142 wRC+ with a  .289 average. Barnes doesn’t hit a lot of homers but he does get his share of doubles. He can also play second if need be, giving the Dodgers more flexibility. You have to stay at the top of the zone with the hard stuff on Barnes, and he struggles to get on top of it. You can’t keep the breaking stuff in the zone either, he doesn’t get fooled much. More vulnerable inside on those than outside.

8. Logan Forsythe – 2B

After a nice start in April Forsythe was pretty disappointing in his first season in Southern California. His power went away and mostly seemed to be waiting for walks, which he did get at a pretty silly 15% rate. He strikes out plenty though. He’s dropped the rate at which he swings at pitches both outside and inside the zone which indicates more that he’s basically looking to walk. He’s basically Jayson Werth. He could lose ABs to Chase Utley, who you can hear fossilize.

Bench – Yasmani Grandal, Chase Utley, Andre Ethier, Kike Hernandez

It’s hard to identify most of these guys as bench players because all of them can get into the starting lineup. Grandal still has a lot of pop even if he’s lost most of his starting role, and he was a problem in the LCS last year. Hernandez isn’t much of an offensive threat but has a little power. Ethier has seen his body give up on him the past few years but you know is going to have an annoying pinch-hit somewhere along the line.

It’s a big ask. There may be some breathers at the bottom of the lineup, but they can set it up so there’s not. Unlike the Nats, the Dodgers don’t have main guys coming back from injury like Bryce Harper.

No one said it’ll be easy. Nothing worth having ever is.

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