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Dodgers postseason preview: Position players

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Final postseason preview will look at the talented group of position players

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dodgers begin play on Thursday against the Nationals, they will put out a group of position players that helped the 2019 Dodgers become the best offense in Los Angeles Dodgers history.

This preview will look at that offense and what they will try do to get that elusive World Series title.

Real quick, the Nationals won the NL Wild Card Game, does that change anything?

Probably not, the Nationals will start a familiar pitcher, left-hander Patrick Corbin on Thursday but they likely will only have one other left-handed pitcher on their Divisional Series roster, reliever Sean Doolittle.

One has to imagine the Dodgers have been scouting the Nationals for some time now as they were likely first round opponent for weeks if not months.

There will be more on the Nationals in an upcoming story.

2019 Dodgers set several LA Dodger offensive records

Home runs were the operative words to describe the 2019 MLB season and the Dodgers did their part to make it a key part of their game.

  • Hit a National League record 279 home runs which was 30 more than the previous record of 249 home runs hit by the 2000 Houston Astros
  • Their .472 slugging percentage is the best in Los Angeles Dodger history and is second to the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers .474 slugging percentage
  • Their .810 OPS bested the previous Los Angeles Dodger record set by the 2006 Dodgers when they had a .781 OPS
  • Scored 886 runs and that broke their previous high of 842 runs scored by the 1962 Dodgers
  • Their +273 run differential is a new Dodger franchise record, breaking the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers +266 run differential

Dodgers found consistency at the plate in every situation

The 2018 Dodgers led the National League in runs scored while also giving up the fewest runs. As noted above, the 2019 Dodgers did the same. So why the 14-game difference in their final records?

Here’s the Dodger record when scoring three or less runs from 2017-2019

Dodgers record when scoring 3 or less runs

Year Total Games Wins Losses Runs Scored
Year Total Games Wins Losses Runs Scored
2017 62 19 43 108
2018 71 19 52 136
2019 58 19 39 112

And you’ll notice a pattern with their record when scoring four or more runs

Dodgers record when scoring 4 or more runs

Year Total Games Wins Losses Runs scored
Year Total Games Wins Losses Runs scored
2017 100 85 15 662
2018 92 73 19 668
2019 104 87 17 774

When you compare the Dodger team rate statistics in certain situations, you’ll note a few things, fewer strikeouts in all situations and the 2019 Dodgers did much better with runners in scoring position.

2018 - 2019 Offensive Rate Stats Comparison

Year Split PA AB R HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Year Split PA AB R HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
2018 Bases Empty 3559 3182 157 157 354 826 .248 .328 .463 .791 .288
2019 Bases Empty 3520 3147 165 165 324 776 .252 .331 .473 .803 .284
2018 Men On 2799 2390 647 78 293 610 .253 .339 .413 .752 .302
2019 Men On 2762 2346 721 114 283 580 .265 .346 .471 .818 .299
2018 RISP 1610 1338 551 43 197 355 .253 .349 .412 .760 .301
2019 RISP 1571 1299 594 63 189 318 .286 .374 .498 .872 .320
2018 2 outs RISP 736 618 188 15 109 186 .199 .327 .312 .640 .259
2019 2 outs RISP 729 623 246 30 99 157 .265 .372 .469 .840 .310
2018 Late & Close 1080 943 126 32 114 263 .256 .337 .418 .755 .318
2019 Late & Close 903 786 118 33 98 225 .254 .342 .429 .771 .312

Last season, the story of September 2018 was the Dodgers embracing platooning for all but Justin Turner and Manny Machado. And while the Dodgers will have slightly different lineups when facing a left-handed starting pitcher, their usage of platoons was far less in 2019.

2018-2019 Platoon Splits Comparison

Year Split PA AB R HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
Year Split PA AB R HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
2018 vs RHP as RHB 2208 1962 298 75 179 512 .256 .325 .434 .759 .306
2019 vs RHP as RHB 1965 1724 257 67 164 470 .245 .322 .418 .740 .295
2018 vs RHP as LHB 1997 1722 269 93 242 438 .255 .351 .485 .837 .289
2019 vs RHP as LHB 2359 2041 375 126 265 436 .274 .361 .535 .896 .290
2018 vs RHP 4205 3684 567 168 421 950 .255 .337 .458 .796 .298
2019 vs RHP 4324 3765 632 193 429 906 .261 .343 .482 .824 .292
2018 vs RH Starter 3849 3379 496 148 380 880 .250 .332 .446 .778 .294
2019 vs RH Starter 4291 3735 639 197 427 877 .264 .346 .488 .834 .293
2018 vs LHP as LHB 508 453 58 16 44 124 .221 .293 .386 .679 .265
2019 vs LHP as LHB 837 741 122 38 76 187 .254 .330 .457 .787 .288
2018 vs LHP as RHB 1645 1435 179 51 182 362 .246 .333 .417 .750 .293
2019 vs LHP as RHB 1121 987 132 48 102 263 .247 .323 .447 .770 .287
2018 vs LHP 2153 1888 237 67 226 486 .240 .324 .409 .733 .287
2019 vs LHP 1958 1728 254 86 178 450 .250 .326 .451 .777 .288
2018 vs LH Starter 2509 2193 308 87 267 556 .250 .333 .435 .768 .294
2019 vs LH Starter 1991 1758 247 82 180 479 .243 .319 .439 .758 .285

Things to look forward to in the postseason

Expect the Dodgers to put their best foot forward when facing a right-handed starting pitcher with a top five consisting of Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager.

  • Joc Pederson leads all potential postseason batters with 36 home runs against right-handed pitchers. His .920 OPS in 464 plate appearances ranks among the best against right-handed pitchers in October. Pederson had just over 90% of his plate appearances against right handed batters (464 out of 514 plate appearances) so he will sit against left-handed starting pitchers.
  • Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger were among baseball’s best as left-handed batters against left-handed pitching. Bellinger led all left-handed batters with 18 home runs against southpaws, Muncy’s 11 home runs is the second-most among all potential postseason batters.
  • No question that the Cody Bellinger that played through April 2019 was a version that one likely won’t see too often, but since May 1st he put up numbers like his 2017 self, hitting .274/.381/.566 with 33 home runs in 529 plate appearances. His .947 OPS from May 1st would still rank him 10th overall if you remove his complete 2019 season from the top ten in that category.
  • Fans won’t know for sure until tomorrow’s lineup is announced but the Dodgers need a productive Justin Turner to balance out the left-handed strength on the team. Turner quietly had another fine season hitting .290/.372/.509 with 27 home runs.
  • Corey Seager not only had to come back from his two surgeries but he had a hamstring injury that meant he had to work to get back to where he was just before he was hurt. Seager appears to be peaking at the right time, in September hitting .291/.322/.616 with seven home runs in 90 plate appearances.

When they do platoon, look for these Dodger stalwarts

David Freese and Chris Taylor will try to continue their postseason success as primary inserts when the Dodgers face a left-handed starter. Also, A.J. Pollock will probably play nearly every game but his strength this season was against left-handed pitchers.

  • Freese has hit .291/.365/.546 in his postseason career and he did nothing in 2018 (.364/.423/.773 in 26 plate appearances) to think he still doesn’t have life in that bat. Freese hit .287/.385/.515 in 117 plate appearances against left-handed pitcher in 2019. He also excelled as a pinch-hitter, in 36 plate appearances, he hit .400/.500/.733.
  • Chris Taylor had a slow start but then in May and June, he was one of the best hitters in the National League, hitting .307/.357/.564 in 182 plate appearances. Then he was hit by a pitch in the Dodgers first series after the All-Star break and he has slowly worked his way back into that form. Taylor will likely split time at second base with Gavin Lux or in the outfield with Joc Pederson against left-handed pitching. He hit .255/.342/.518 against left-handers this season.
  • A.J. Pollock had a very good second half of the season and the Dodgers will play him in left-field with the idea that he can continue his strong play. In 227 plate appearances post All-Star Break, Pollock hit .288/.348/.537 with 13 home runs. And he was productive against both right and left-handed pitchers. Pollock hit .272/.342/.515 with eight home runs in 152 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers; and he hit .319/.360/.580 with five home runs in 75 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers.
  • Where that leaves Kiké Hernández is unknown right now, he likely would be a late-inning defensive replacement and he was a very good pinch-hitter. Given that both Bellinger and Muncy will start against Corbin, the only thing that could tip the balance to Hernández is his experience in right field.

Youth will be served but Dodgers will put them in situations where they can succeed

On Thursday, it would not be surprising if Gavin Lux and Matt Beaty join their rookie teammate Will Smith on the Dodgers 25-man NLCS roster. Lux started 19 of the final 23 games and while he struck out 24 times in 75 at-bats, he showed maturity in dealing with a few slumps that he had.

Beaty will be the primary left-handed pinch-hitter. He had a poor September as compared to his strong play prior to that, but the Dodgers will still carry him, though Edwin Rios could be in the mix too.

Will Smith and Russell Martin will be the Dodgers postseason catchers. Smith started September with a 3-for-31 stretch but over the week of the regular season, Smith hit .385/.529/.692 going 5-for-13 with a home run and five RBI. Overall, Smith hit .253/.337/.571 with 15 home runs in a 196 plate appearances.

This article could not be written without the use of the Play-Index Tool on Baseball-Reference.com, check out that site for the most up-to-date baseball statistical information you need.