LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers catching has been a strength both on offense and defense this season, though especially on offense the year can be divided into two distinct periods for both main parties. Yasmani Grandal and A.J. Ellis both figure to factor heavily in the Dodgers' plans in the National League Division Series and beyond this postseason.
Dodgers catchers this season hit .241/.360/.411 with 23 home runs and 97 walks, leading the National League in on-base percentage, OPS, wOBA (.341), wRC+ (120) and walks, while second in the league in home runs and third in slugging percentage.
Grandal started 100 games this season, with Ellis starting 55 times, and for the most part the playing time was divvied up based on the opposing pitcher. The Dodgers faced 40 left-handed starters when Ellis was on the active roster, and he started against 35 of them. Grandal is a switch-hitter, but hit 15 of his 16 home runs from the left side, so he got the bulk of the starts against righties.
"A.J. has been swinging well down the stretch. We feel comfortable with either guy," manager Don Mattingly said on Wednesday before a team workout at Dodger Stadium. "Yas is really good defensively, and at framing, blocking. You'll see a mix of both guys."
Ellis, who hit just .191/.323/.354 in 2014, started off the season 5-for-43 in limited duty, but in May found a new swing he had success with, and it worked. From May 26 through the end of the season, Ellis hit .275/.398/.496 with seven home runs in 48 games, including 42 starts.
Grandal on the other hand started strong, made the National League All-Star team, and on Aug. 2 was hitting .292/.400/.514. Then the Dodgers made a road trip to Pennsylvania to play the Phillies and Pirates, during which time Grandal hurt his left shoulder, and he hasn't been the same at the plate since.
Grandal took a week off in September to help the inflammation die down, but for the most part this is just something he has had to deal with and play through.
"He's not on the injury report. It doesn't mean that he's still ot dealing with it in some way," Mattingly said. "What hits the injury report are guys in danger, or if they need rest or need a day. Yas hasn't been on that in a while. So I would say he's pretty good, but that he's also feeling something.
Grandal struggled down the stretch, with four hits in his final 84 at-bats, though he also walked 19 times during that stretch.
"I've always felt that if I'm in a five-, six-, seven-pitch at-bat I've done a pretty good job no matter the outcome is," Grandal said. "At times I felt like I've gotten away from that just because I want to swing. I feel like the more I swing, the better idea I have at the plate.
"There will be days out there when I'm not too sure whether I want to swing or not, and I just try to get deep counts. ... I'm literally looking for one pitch. If I get it, I get it, and if I miss it, I miss it. I'm just trying to work the count."
Grandal said his left shoulder affects him more when swinging left-handed than when hitting right-handed - "For me it's not on the follow through. It's more on the push," he explained - and his one home run since Aug. 1 did come from the right side.
But even when his offense is slumping, Grandal has been valuable to have behind the plate, both as a receiver and as one of the widely-regarded best pitch framers in baseball.
"When I talked to the doctor, he said there will be days you will feel it, and it's just a matter of whether you can go or not, or there will be days you think nothing happened until you make a certain movement," Grandal said. "I've been taking it day by day and seeing how it feels."
For the NLDS, who is catching any given game might also be a day-by-day endeavor.