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Padres-Dodgers position-by-position analysis

@feinsand
October 3, 2020

The Padres won 37 games during the regular season, the second most in the National League. Unfortunately for San Diego, that was only good enough for second place in the NL West, as the Dodgers won 43 games and cruised to their eighth straight division title. Now, San Diego gets

The Padres won 37 games during the regular season, the second most in the National League. Unfortunately for San Diego, that was only good enough for second place in the NL West, as the Dodgers won 43 games and cruised to their eighth straight division title.

Now, San Diego gets its chance to send Los Angeles home, facing off in a best-of-five NL Division Series that gets underway Tuesday at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 LAD 5, SD 1 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 7 LAD 6, SD 5 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 8 LAD 12, SD 3 Watch

The Dodgers won six of 10 meetings against the Padres in the regular season, but when division rivals square off in October, anything can happen. How do these two NL West powerhouses match up? Let’s take a look.

Catcher
Will Smith has been a strong regular-season performer during his first two years in the Majors, posting a .937 OPS in 91 career games. The postseason has been a different story. The 25-year-old is 1-for-19 in six playoff games, including going 0-for-6 against the Brewers in the NL Wild Card Series. Austin Barnes will catch left-hander Clayton Kershaw, likely shifting Smith to designated hitter.

Padres catcher Austin Nola went 0-for-8 in the NL Wild Card Series against the Cardinals, though he drove in a pair of runs on sacrifice flies. Nola’s defense is strong, as is his game-calling, which helped San Diego use nine pitchers in its Game 3 shutout of St. Louis to advance to the NLDS.
Advantage: Dodgers

First base
Los Angeles' Max Muncy slashed .192/.331/.389 in 58 regular-season games, but he went 0-for-5 in the NL Wild Card Series. However, he showed last year that he can be a force in a playoff series, slugging three homers with seven RBIs over five games in the Dodgers’ 2019 NLDS loss to the Nationals.

San Diego's Eric Hosmer performed well in his 38 regular-season games, slashing .287/.333/.517 with nine homers and 36 RBIs. He went 2-for-12 against the Cardinals, though he drove in three runs during the NL Wild Card Series, two of them in the decisive game.
Advantage: Padres

Second base
Chris Taylor went 3-for-6 in the Dodgers' NL Wild Card Series, carrying the momentum over from a strong regular season in which he posted an .842 OPS and a career-high 128 OPS+. The versatile infielder/outfielder gives Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts plenty of options in the lineup.

Padres rookie Jake Cronenworth has been sensational all season, but he opened eyes nationally with a huge NL Wild Card Series showing. The 26-year-old slashed .625/.750/1.250 in the three games, hitting a solo home run that put Game 3 away.
Advantage: Dodgers

Shortstop
Corey Seager had only one hit for Los Angeles in the Wild Card Series, though it was timely. His solo homer in the seventh inning of Game 1 gave the Dodgers an important insurance run against the Brewers. Seager had an outstanding regular season, slugging 15 home runs with a .307/.358/.585 slash line.

Padres shortstop sensation Fernando Tatis Jr. was an NL MVP Award favorite through August, but a September skid left some wondering how he would handle his first postseason. Those questions were answered in a major way, as Tatis hit two homers in Game 2 with the Padres’ season on the line, finishing the three-game series with a .455/.571/1.091 slash line against the Cardinals.
Advantage: Padres

Third base
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner went hitless in eight at-bats against the Brewers, but the 35-year-old is a .298/.398/.500 hitter in 56 career postseason games, coming through in the clutch on many occasions. Turner didn’t have much pop during the 2020 regular season (four homers in 175 plate appearances), but he remains a high-average, high-on-base-percentage player hitting in the middle of Los Angeles' loaded lineup.

Manny Machado finished the regular season as an NL MVP candidate, helping the Padres get to the postseason for the first time since 2006. He went 2-for-14 in the NL Wild Card Series, but one of those hits was a crucial game-tying homer in Game 2, helping San Diego save its season.
Advantage: Padres

Left field
Los Angeles' AJ Pollock had a stellar regular season, belting 16 home runs with an .881 OPS in 55 games. This marks the third time in four years that Pollock is in the postseason, and he’s still waiting for a breakout performance; his 1-for-5 showing in the NL Wild Card Series gives him four hits in 32 career playoff at-bats (.125).

Tommy Pham had a disappointing regular season for San Diego, posting a .624 OPS with three homers in 31 games. He’s trying to make up for it in October, going 6-for-13 (.462) in the NL Wild Card Series. Jurickson Profar could also see a game or two in left field during the NLDS.
Advantage: Dodgers

Center field
By Cody Bellinger’s standards, his 2020 regular season was average at best, as he hit 12 home runs with a .789 OPS in 56 games. Since winning NL Championship Series MVP honors in 2018, Bellinger has a .395 OPS with 15 strikeouts and no RBIs in his past 12 postseason games, including a 2-for-7 performance in this year's NL Wild Card Series.

Trent Grisham was a bright spot for the Padres during the regular season, posting an .808 OPS with 10 home runs while playing plus defense in center field. He looked overmatched during the NL Wild Card Series, going 0-for-11 with six strikeouts.
Advantage: Dodgers

Right field
Mookie Betts’ first postseason with the Dodgers couldn’t have started off much better. The four-time All-Star went 3-for-7 with three RBIs in the two-game sweep of the Brewers, carrying the momentum from his superb regular season (.927 OPS, 16 homers in 55 games) into October. He’s also as good a defensive right fielder as anyone in the Majors.

For all the offseason talk about a trade, where would the Padres be without Wil Myers? He had a .959 OPS and 15 homers in 55 games in the regular season and was one of the keys to San Diego's NL Wild Card Series comeback, homering twice in Game 2.
Advantage: Dodgers

Designated hitter
The Dodgers don’t have a true DH on their roster, so we could see a combination of Smith or possibly Joc Pederson in that role.

Mitch Moreland should see the bulk of the DH at-bats for the Padres, though Pham could get the nod when Profar plays left field. Moreland struggled (.609 OPS) in 20 regular-season games after being acquired from the Red Sox, but he went 3-for-6 in the NL Wild Card Series.
Advantage: Dodgers

Starting rotation
Dodgers right-hander Walker Buehler has dealt with blister issues that have limited him to eight innings since Sept. 8, including four in his Game 1 start against the Brewers last week. Clayton Kershaw had no such problems, throwing eight scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts in Game 2 to clinch the NL Wild Card Series. After those two, Los Angeles will likely turn to Dustin May, Julio Urías and Tony Gonsolin in some order.

Simply put, the Padres’ rotation is a mess. Injuries sidelined Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet in the NL Wild Card Series, leaving Chris Paddack and Zach Davies to pitch the first two games before San Diego went with a bullpen game in the clincher. Clevinger and Lamet could be back for the NLDS, though that’s far from certain at this point.
Advantage: Dodgers

Bullpen
Kenley Jansen remains the Dodgers’ closer, yet after he earned the save in Game 1 against the Brewers, it was Brusdar Graterol pitching the ninth in a save opportunity in Game 2. Blake Treinen, Victor González, Jake McGee, Adam Kolarek, Pedro Báez and Joe Kelly provide depth in the bullpen.

The Padres have a deep group of relievers, as they showed during the NL Wild Card Series when Drew Pomeranz, Garrett Richards, Craig Stammen, Pierce Johnson, Adrian Morejon, Emilio Pagán, Luis Patiño and Tim Hill combined for 17 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. Closer Trevor Rosenthal gave up a home run while earning a save in Game 2, but he slammed the door in Game 3, helping San Diego advance.
Advantage: Padres

Mark Feinsand, an executive reporter, originally joined MLB.com as a reporter in 2001.