Playing Postseason Pepper 2015: Los Angeles Dodgers

We have arrived at the last first day of the playoff series, as the National League kicks off its series this afternoon.  While, of course, we’re much more focused on the Cardinals and the Cubs, there are two other teams that are looking for a trip to the NLCS, two teams that would probably love to take a crack at St. Louis if they had the chance.

Our first look today is at the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers are probably hoping to get another crack at the Cardinals to pay them back for the last couple of seasons, but there’s still an obstacle in their way.  Still, LA was able to hold off San Francisco (helps that it’s an odd numbered year, of course) and this looks to be a pitching-dominated series.

Today we’re talking with Adrian Garcia from the FanSided blog Dodgers Way.  It’s Adrian’s first crack at Playing Pepper but he takes to it like an old pro.  Be sure to follow them to get all the takes from the “other” NLDS.  Think of it as potential advance scouting.

C70: If you had to sum up this season in a word or phrase, what would it be?
DW: A Windy Road, the Dodgers were always supposed to win the West, that’s kinda what happens when you win 2 straight division titles. Compound that with the biggest payroll in the entire universe, and expectations were going to be sky high. Ultimately the team planned well enough to weather a pretty long list of injuries, and never cratered deep enough for pressure to be put on skipper Don Mattingly or some of the players, but they got to where they needed to be ultimately despite some bumps in the road.
C70: What worries you the most about the Mets?
DW: Generally i’d say their pitching because Jacob deGrom might have the best command in the NL East, Noah Syndergaard is an absolute monster, and Matt Harvey is the Yasiel Puig of pitching in the best way possible, however thanks to prior experiences in the postseason (thanks Matt Adams, Jimmy Rollins, Matt Stairs!), the possibility of a Kelly Johnson series shifting walk off home run in game 3 off of Chris Hatcher in a tie game during the 9th inning lingers so I suppose the biggest thing is the Mets catching a “team of destiny” anecdote in a bottle and riding that past the Dodgers.
C70: What has to happen for the Dodgers to have a deep October run?
DW: Basically what has happened the entire regular season has to repeat itself in October. This season the Dodgers rode one of the best regular seasons combinations in history to 92 wins. Zack Greinke allowed 43 total runs this season, 21 less than he allowed when he won the Cy Young in his 2009 campaign and Clayton Kershaw‘s historic 2nd half was overshadowed by Jake Arrieta‘s slightly more unreal half season campaign, but a 1.31 ERA and a 1.47 FIP is nothing to sneeze at, oh he also struck out 300 batters. The Dodgers probably have to be close to perfect record wise when they start, otherwise there are legitimate mismatches in the games that they don’t start. I don’t feel particularly good about Alex Wood or Brett Anderson versus Matt Harvey or, a potential Wood/Anderson versus John Lackey matchup.
C70: Is there a player that will be the key to the postseason?
DW: There was a time this season where big time media types were comparing Justin Turner to Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera from an offensive standpoint which is frankly absurd. Absurd for two reasons, that the comparisons were made in the first place, but absurd because he’s been good enough to even dare bring it up! Since joining the Dodgers, he’s hit .314/.384/.492, but since coming off of the disabled list with an MRSA infection, he’s hit .237/.340/.351, while that’s not putrid, him producing closer to an elite offensive third baseman would go a long way in being able to score runs versus some absolutely incredible pitching. I figure that you could lump Yasmani Grandal in this category, but A.J. Ellis‘ resurgence mitigates that concern enough, personally.
C70: How high is confidence running among the Los Angeles faithful?
DW: Uhhm… Not real high! I mean amongst most of the fanbase. Fangraphs pegs the Dodgers as pretty heavy favorites (http://www.fangraphs.com/coolstandings.aspx) to win the whole darn thing, so people who read that site regularly have to be pretty confident in the team, but mostly I sense the sentiment that the fanbase isn’t all that confident. Some of that is probably due to a lengthy world series drought, more of that is due to recent playoff failures, like the enormous bullpen implosions that occurred regularly throughout the 2014 season. Personally? I subscribe to the opinion that no NL team should really be all that “confident” in their team, only because the NL is so flippin good this season, any one of the teams could reach the world series and any devoted baseball fan would see exactly why.
C70: What’s the minimum that counts as a successful postseason for the Dodgers?
DW: Oh at the minimum an appearance in game 6 of the NLCS. Anything else means that they were knocked out for the 2nd straight season in the NLDS, or they bowed out meekly in the NLCS. It isn’t World Series or bust necessarily but a deep run in the Championship Series is what I’m hoping for. Everything after that is gravy, but anything else is a pretty definitive failure in my view. Considering the payroll, considering the hype bestowed upon them by the majority of the baseball media, considering the season that Kershaw and Greinke had, game 6 is the threshold that I feel the team has to reach in order to be considered a worthy/successful postseason.
Thanks for the questions, and best of luck against all the non-Dodgers teams.

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