The National League Division Series’ get started tonight, so let the real fun begin. One of the most intriguing match-ups in the entire post season will be between the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers. During the regular season these two teams played seven times with Atlanta winning five of the meetings. Atlanta swept the Dodgers at home in the middle of May and the two split a four game set in Los Angeles in early June. Both of the meetings happened before the Dodgers hot streak of winning 42 out of 50 but Yasiel Puig was apart of the Dodgers when the two played in Los Angeles. So what does that mean for this series? Really it means nothing, but the one thing that sticks out is the sweep in Atlanta. All three of those games were lost by the Dodgers bullpen. So that is where I will be begin.
The Los Angeles Dodgers will have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke up against Kris Medlen and Mike Minor respectively. Clayton Kershaw is without a doubt the best starter in the National League right now, and you could put Greinke in the top seven of the National League. While Atlanta is a totally different story. Kris Medlen and Mike Minor aren’t two guys you think of as a one-two punch in the post season. The Braves will rely heavily on their bullpen that has been very good this season. The Dodgers on the other hand, will need Kershaw and Greinke to go as long as possible staying away from their lackluster bullpen.
Clayton Kershaw was ridiculous this season on the mound. His record isn’t that great but his 1.83 ERA is absolutely insane. He also has a WHIP under one at 0.92. Kershaw just doesn’t give up hits. Opponents are hitting just .195 on the seasons. He has faced 684 right handed batters this season and they are only hitting .202 off of him. He should end up being the Cy Young of the National League and in the top 5 in MVP voting.
Kris Medlen will be getting two starts for the Braves if the series goes five and his stats aren’t as spectacular. He comes into the post season with a 3.11 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. Lefties and righties are both hitting over .250 against him this season. He will be getting the start in Game 1 at home where he is very good. He has only given up four home runs at Turner Field this season. That is a good sign, going up against Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig.
There is no question that the Braves have the better offense when clicking, but that is a huge question mark as well for them. They have had parts of this season where their entire line-up couldn’t hit a baseball, if it was as big as a beach ball coming at them. Look for Kershaw and Greinke to take advantage of that as much as possible, with their high velocity fastballs and very good breaking stuff.
Depending on how the first two games go in Atlanta, the Dodgers could be in really good shape having Hyun-Jin Ryu going in game three for them at home. Ryu started 30 games this season, 15 at home and on the road, while his ERA was at 3.69 on the road, it was a fantastic 2.32 at home. That is a huge difference. Most pitchers do throw better at home but that is almost a point and a half difference.
On the other hand Atlanta will have Julio Teheran going for them in game three. He will be pitching in Los Angeles which really shouldn’t make that big of a difference for Teheran. He is about the same on the road as he is at home. He gives up more home runs on the road but has given up the same amount of earned runs at home and on the road.
This series has the ability to be one of the best division series out of the four. It could easily end up going five games, if Atlanta can put some pressure on either Kershaw or Greinke at home. It will always be fun to watch Yasiel Puig play the game hard, but he has to be careful not to injure himself and be out for the rest of the playoffs if the Dodgers do advance. Let’s not forget about MVP candidate Freddie Freeman on the Braves side of things. Freeman can change the game with one swing of the bat, so look for Atlanta to rely on him to drive in runs in big situations.