They have Trea Turner now, who has not been missed by anybody in the NL East.
After the Braves took care of the Brewers and did a great job of dealing with their lineup, Atlanta will have a much sterner test on their hands for the NLCS. As it turns out, the Braves will be getting a NLCS rematch with the Dodgers. Naturally, the Braves are very well acquainted with this team after going seven in last year’s NLCS and also playing them not all that long ago during this season. With that being said, this is still an extremely talented and extremely deep group of batters that the Braves will have to deal with going forward.
As a team, the Dodgers have hit like you would expect a 106-win team to hit. They’ve collectively hit for 106 wRC+, with a team wOBA of .327 and an Isolated Power number sitting at .185. The Braves are not far off when it comes to wOBA (.323) and are actually hitting for a higher ISO (.191), but the Dodgers walk more (9.8 percent walk rate compared to Atlanta’s 9.1 percent) and strikeout less (22.6 percent strikeout rate for Los Angeles, 24 percent for the Braves) so there’s that. Both teams can hit the ball but the Dodgers are deeper and more versatile and you’re about to see why.
First and foremost, we’re going to start with the most familiar member of this Dodgers team when it comes to facing the Braves: Trea Turner. In what is obviously proof that the baseball gods are always going to make Atlanta’s path to a World Series as difficult as it possibly can be, the No. 1 Braves Boogeyman within the NL East from the past few seasons is now with the Dodgers and if anything, Trea kicked things into overdrive upon arrival in Los Angeles. He finished his regular season stint with the Dodgers with a wRC+ of 153, an Isolated Power number of .227 and a wOBA of .399. He’s an extremely tough customer and the Braves have known first-hand about this dude for a while now.
Then there’s Mookie Betts, who is their leadoff hitter and most likely to be the man who gives this offense a spark. You know you’ve got a gem of a player on your hands when a guy hitting for 131 wRC+, .354 wOBA, and a .223 ISO is considered to be having a down year — yet that’s what you could say when you put his lofty expectations in comparison to the season he’s having. Either way, he’s incredibly dangerous with the bat and can steal plenty of outs with the glove. He hasn’t been as good defensively this year but I wouldn’t put some fantastic defensive moments from him out of the realm of possibility when it comes to this series.
The middle of the Dodgers lineup is very tough to deal with. The other Will Smith is going to be catching and if it’s not abundantly clear that he’s dangerous then I’m sure the Will Smith that we’re familiar with will make it known how dangerous their Will Smith is. Corey Seager has basically been hitting at the same level where he was hitting in 2020 (150 wRC+ last year compared to 147 wRC+ this year). His power may be a tiny bit down when compared to 2020 but he’s more than capable of giving the Dodgers some offensive fuel if they need it.
Justin Turner is in his age-36 season but is showing no signs of a significant slowdown. Similarly to Seager, Turner nearly copied-and-pasted his 2020 performance onto the 2021 season. His overall production dropped a tick when compared to 2020, but he compensated for it by adding a bit more power to his bat as well. Needless to say, he’s yet another dangerous hitter lurking right in the heart of this Dodgers lineup. The same can be said of Chris Taylor. You know they’ve got some real sluggers over there when Taylor’s wRC+ of 113 can be considered to be “modest” when compared to the other regulars of this lineup. His .183 Isolated Power number is nothing to sneeze at, either.
Again, you know things are going well when you can stick a guy like AJ Pollock anywhere in the lineup and do pretty well for yourself. He actually spent the first couple of games of the NLDS hitting in the eighth spot, and having a 137 wRC+ hitter at the bottom of the order means that things are going to be rough for whoever’s having to deal with them. This is quite easily the best season that Pollock has been having since arriving in Los Angeles and he’s definitely going to be someone to keep an eye on as this series progresses.
Then you get into the real depth, which includes Albert Pujols. He’s been utilized in a slightly bigger role than expected due to Max Muncy’s injury and because these are the Dodgers and everything seems to work out for them, Pujols has pulled out some of his best hitting in years. That’s still not saying much and he’s still very far from being the monster that he used to be, but he’s been a pretty average hitter since moving from Anaheim to Los Angeles and that’s all they’ve asked of him, really.
Matt Beaty has done a really good job of helping to fill the void at first base and he’s another guy who is likely going to be seeing some decent action during this series. Other than that, if you’re seeing guys like Billy McKinney, Steven Souza Jr., Gavin Lux, and Austin Barnes, that’s the only time where you can expect a bit of drop-off when facing off against a Dodger at the plate. Outside of those guys, there are a whole lot of big boppers here and the Braves pitching staff will have a major task on their hands during this series.
There are two names that I haven’t really talked about yet: Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger. As far as Muncy goes, there were small murmurs that Muncy could be ready to play in time for the NLCS. As of right now, the chances of Muncy coming back in this series are slim-to-none and that’s a pretty big blow since he had himself an incredible season at the plate this year. Meanwhile, Bellinger has just had an absolutely calamitous season where his production just fell off of a cliff. With that being said, Bellinger did end up being the hero in Game 5 of the NLCS so even he needs to be taken extremely seriously in this series.
Now, I have spent a lot of time lavishing praise upon the Dodgers and their lineup. With that being said, this is not a collection of bats that has been perfect or clipping at a juggernaut-type level. They’re just as susceptible to being shut down by good pitching and defense as any lineup is and they’ve also been known to go into slumps where their pitching staff has to carry them. Their pitchers are perfectly capable of doing this, so the Braves will have to be firing on all cylinders in all facets of the game if they’re going to make it to the World Series in 2021.