Last weekend, the Dodgers played the Atlanta Braves in a series that felt like a surefire NLCS preview. They didn’t live up to the moment, dropping two out of three, but this weekend presents an opportunity to pass a likely bigger test. The New York Yankees are rolling into town for a three-game set that I and many others feel is a World Series preview.
I predicted a Dodgers-Yankees World Series in my MLB predictions roundtable in March. While acknowledging the potency of the Astros, Indians, Rays, and even the Twins, I’m sticking resolutely with that prediction. Yet this series is more than just a likely trial run for late October. The meeting does carry urgency in the present too, as the two clubs are currently battling for the best record in the game, and thus home field advantage in the World Series.
— littlefoot? (@ashleyannelopez) August 22, 2019
With that in mind, let’s see how the Dodgers measure up against their likely Fall Classic adversaries this year.
Starting Pitching Match-Ups
If there’s one area where the Dodgers are vastly superior to the men in pinstripes, it’s the starting rotation. The Dodgers rank #1 in MLB in sortable pitching according to ESPN, with an MLB-best 3.33 ERA and 13 shutouts. The Yankees, meanwhile, rank a middling #16 on the same list with a cumulative 4.52 ERA, with even their best starters’ individual marks around or above that number.
Thus, pitching match-ups for this weekend favor L.A. on paper. Tonight’s game pits Hyun-Jin Ryu against another southpaw in James Paxton. Saturday will be one of polar opposites, in which rookie Tony Gonsolin will start against C.C. Sabathia, who’s on his farewell tour. The best pairing is fittingly saved for last, in which Clayton Kershaw will face off against Domingo German, who leads the majors with 16 wins.
The one that likely favors the Yankees is the second game, as Gonsolin is a rookie about to be tested by perhaps the best offense in baseball. However, Ryu and Kershaw’s respective ERAs of 1.64 and 2.71 are a stark contrast to Paxton and German’s 4.53 and 4.15.
Here’s where things are a lot more even, arguably more favoring the Yanks. New York’s lineup is one worthy of comparison to their many decades of punishing offenses known as “the Bronx Bombers.” Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela…there’s no true easy out. LeMahieu is currently battling Houston’s Michael Brantley for the best batting average in all of baseball. It’s no surprise ESPN ranks them #1 as a team in sortable batting, with the most RBI of all 30 teams.
Granted, the Dodgers aren’t too far behind. They’re close to the Yanks in categories like home runs, RBI, OBP, and hits, and even lead them in doubles and triples. They sport their own deep lineup of Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Will Smith, Corey Seager, and Max Muncy, and a potent bench. No team in the National League can match up with the Yankees man for man like Los Angeles. But I’d give the slight edge at the plate to New York.
Obviously, this series is going to boil down to how much Dodger pitching can contain the Yankees’ offensive onslaught. With two lefty All-Stars bookending things, I feel the first and third games will be the best chance to do that. The middle game feels like the opportune one for NYY as they face a largely untested (if highly capable) rookie.
Especially after back-to-back WS losses to teams that could hammer the ball at will, it would be reassuring to see Dodger starters (and relievers) neutralize the 2019 iteration of Murderer’s Row this weekend. Should they meet again in October, it certainly won’t get any easier then.