The Dodgers are officially the No. 2 seed in the National League and now wait to see who they will face in the NLDS. The Dodgers got within 2 ½ games back of the Braves for the top seed, but after their relatively slow start to the season, the Dodgers never caught pace with Atlanta.
The Dodgers falling short of the top record in the NL is perhaps more advantageous after all. The Boys in Blue have a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NLDS, but they will have to open a potential NLCS against the Braves in Atlanta should both teams get that far this October.
We won’t know who the Dodgers will officially play in the NLDS yet, but we do know they won’t be playing the Phillies, the No. 4 seed. We saw how the Phillies can turn it on in the postseason last year. Avoiding playing Philadelphia in the first round feels like a big win on its own.
The most likely scenario for the Dodgers is a matchup with the Milwaukee Brewers, the No. 3 seed and NL Central champs. Milwaukee will face the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Wild Card series which starts Tuesday at American Family Field in Milwaukee.
The Dodgers dominated the Brewers this year, going 5-1 in the six games they’ve played. That’s the best record for the Dodgers against any of their potential NLDS opponents this season. The Dodgers faced the Brewers in the 2020 NL Wild Card round and swept them in two games. The Dodgers and Brewers also battled in the 2018 NLCS, and the Dodgers beat them in seven games to clinch a World Series berth.
However, the postseason is an entirely different beast than the regular season. We know from painful past experiences, the MLB postseason is a crapshoot. You can win 100+ games over the course of the regular season but get quickly booted in October after a poor performance in a short series.
The Brewers’ offense has been mid-pack in the NL (+84 run differential), and their team slashline of .240/.319/.385 and 92 wRC+ is uninspirational. Their .705 team OPS is second to last in the league.
The Milwaukee bats may not have much pop, but they have been disciplined at the plate with a 23.2-percent strikeout rate and the third-best walk rate (9.7 percent), just behind the Dodgers (10.2 percent) in the NL.
Christian Yelich struggled to recreate the success he had after his 2019 MVP season. His 2023 slashline of .278/.370/.447 isn’t near his MVP numbers when he OPS’d 1.100, but the Southern California native has bounced back with a .816 OPS and 105 runs which is good for ninth-best in the NL. He’s also swiped 27 bases. His .925 OPS this season with runners in scoring position makes Yelich especially dangerous in the postseason.
Dodgers pitchers have held Yelich to a .191 batting average with only four hits in 21 at-bats.
William Contreras has had a solid season and led the team in average (.290), slugging percentage (.459) and hits (156). The Brewers’ catcher has also been clutch with runners in scoring position hitting .339 with .927 OPS. Against the Dodgers, this season, Contreras has only two hits in 20 at-bats (.200 BA).
Adames, the Brewers’ productive shortstop, hit 24 home runs and drove in 80 runs for the team lead. He’s also been neutralized by Dodgers pitching this season (.136 with eight strikeouts in 22 at-bats).
The Dodgers have slugged 84 more home runs and collected 131 more base hits than the Brewers this season. The Dodgers are definitely more dominant offensively (+207 run differential), but the Brewers have some nifty pitching that has got them this far. Milwaukee may be the smallest market in the league, but the Brew Crew has one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the game.
They have reached the postseason in five of the past six seasons without having a payroll higher than 16th in baseball, ranking 20th this season at $118.7 million. That’s a lot less than the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, their NL Central counterparts, who will be watching October baseball from home.
The Brewers have arguably the best starting rotation of the postseason teams with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and Wade Miley. They also have one of the top closers in baseball with All-Star Devin Williams.
But they won’t have Woodruff for at least the wild card round, and maybe longer.
Craig Counsell said Brandon Woodruff is out for the wild-card series with a right shoulder capsular injury.— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) October 2, 2023
"His availability for the postseason is up in the air at this point," Counsell said.
What horrible news for Woodruff and the Brewers.
Milwaukee’s pitching staff posted the best ERA in the NL (3.73). They also lead in WHIP (1.186), and opponents have hit .224 against them. The Brewers’ pitching squad has also pitched very well on the road (3.78 ERA).
The Dodgers have a good record (5-1) vs. the Brewers this season, but the offense only faced Peralta and Burnes once each in the six matchups. Peralta allowed one run on three hits in his win against the Dodgers in May. Burnes threw seven innings of shutout ball against the Dodgers in August.
NLDS Game 1 starter Clayton Kershaw is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA with 10 strikeouts in two starts this season (12 innings pitched).
The Diamondbacks earned the final NL Wild Card spot as the sixth seed. They were the No. 5 seed until the final weekend, falling behind the Miami Marlins.
The D-backs are considered the underdogs in the series, but should they defeat the Brewers and move on, it would create a rematch of the 2017 NLDS.
The Dodgers and D-backs have been division rivals since 2013. The Dodgers celebrated by diving into Chase Field’s pool after they clinched the NL West, and Arizona has been salty ever since. A big part of that is Arizona’s 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly.
The Dodgers have hit right-handers Kelly (.342/.430/.443) and Gallen (.341/.420/.659) hard this year. Gallen has surrendered four home runs to the Dodgers this season, and his ERA is 9.90 vs. LAD in two starts (10 IP).
The Arizona offense has more firepower than Milwaukee with a team slashline of .250/.322/.408 with 166 home runs and 166 stolen bases. Corbin Caroll’s .868 OPS was ninth-best in the league. Ketel Marte (.843) and Christian Walker (.830 OPS) have also helped lead the Snakes’ offense this season.
Who do we want the Dodgers to face in the NLDS? Milwaukee’s excellent pitching makes them the favorites to win over the D-backs in the Wild Card round this week. With Burnes and Peralta looming for the Brewers, the D-backs would be the preferred matchup for the Dodgers in the NLDS.