NLDS position-by-position: Mets-Dodgers
The last time the Mets took part in the postseason, way back in 2006, they swept the Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Nine years later, the two teams will meet up there again Friday in Game 1 of the NLDS on TBS at Dodger Stadium, though both have only one player remaining from that series: the Mets' David Wright and the Dodgers' Andre Ethier.
While New York's NL East championship came as a surprise to many, the Dodgers are coming off their third consecutive division title. Now they will try to make it back to the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 1988 -- when they toppled the Mets in the NL Championship Series.
Here's a position-by-position breakdown of the two clubs, whose season series ended 4-3 in favor of the Mets.
Catcher: Dodgers catchers rank in the top five in the Major Leagues in wins above replacement (WAR) this season, according to FanGraphs. Yasmani Grandal has combined above league-average offense with league-best pitch-framing numbers (via Baseball Prospectus), while A.J. Ellis has mashed lefties, albeit in a small sample. However, Grandal finished the season in a 4-for-82 slump (with 19 walks) while battling shoulder inflammation, presenting the Dodgers with some tough choices. The Mets' Travis d'Arnaud, meanwhile, returned from the DL on July 31 and ranks among MLB's best offensive catchers since then. He also grades out well as a receiver. Advantage: Mets
First base: The Mets' Lucas Duda is a dangerous hitter, as he showed in going on a 9-for-17 tear with three doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs over five games from Sept. 23-29. For the first time in his career, he also has put up strong numbers against left-handed pitchers, who figure to start at least three games in the series for Los Angeles. On the other hand, Duda is 1-for-10 with seven strikeouts against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, so Michael Cuddyer could see time here as well. Either way, defending NL Gold Glove winner Adrian Gonzalez has an edge on defense and is a consistent force at the plate, producing an .830 OPS while leading the Dodgers in home runs and RBIs. Advantage: Dodgers
Second base: The Mets' Daniel Murphy and the Dodgers' Howie Kendrick both provided above league-average offensive production for the fifth straight season. Yet Murphy also has posted a sub-.700 OPS against lefties four straight times, while veteran Juan Uribe -- a potential platoon partner -- is dealing with a chest injury. Kendrick also has an advantage with the glove over Murphy, who is second to last among second basemen in defensive runs saved since 2012. Advantage: Dodgers
Third base: The Mets had to make do without Wright for much of the season, but since their captain returned to the lineup on Aug. 24, he has looked like, well, David Wright. In 38 games this season, including 30 post-DL, he hit .289/.379/.434, leaving him just shy of his career OPS+ of 134. Justin Turner turned into an under-the-radar offensive star for the Dodgers after the Mets let him go following the 2013 season, but he hasn't been quite the same hitter in the second half, and has only nine extra-base hits in 157 plate appearances since returning from the DL on Aug. 13. Los Angeles also has used Chase Utley and Corey Seager a bit at the hot corner down the stretch. Advantage: Mets
Shortstop: Seager has been one of the best shortstops in the Majors since making his debut on Sept. 3, with the top prospect supplanting veteran Jimmy Rollins as the starter by producing a .986 OPS. There's no reason to think the 21-year-old isn't ready for the October stage, but Rollins gives the Dodgers the comfort of a backup with significant postseason experience. The Mets have received solid production from their Wilmer Flores-Ruben Tejada tandem, but the addition of Seager gives Los Angeles more firepower. Advantage: Dodgers
Left field: Michael Conforto has made a huge impact since joining the Mets in July, but with the Dodgers starting a lefty in as many as four of five games, most of his chances might come off the bench. The Mets have options, however. Cuddyer could see starts here, as could Yoenis Cespedes and his .937 Mets OPS, if Juan Lagares mans center. The Dodgers figure to go mainly with Carl Crawford, who enjoyed a resurgent final month but doesn't possess the same kind of offensive thump. Advantage: Mets
Center field: When the Mets start Cespedes in center, they'll be sacrificing some defense for a potent bat that has been one of baseball's best since the momentous Trade Deadline deal with Detroit. When they start Lagares, they'll be sacrificing some offense for a Gold Glove, even if Lagares' advanced defensive metrics are down this year while his bat has perked up in limited action over the past couple of months. Dodgers rookie Joc Pederson was an All-Star, but he has struggled mightily at the plate throughout the second half. Utility man Enrique Hernandez also is an option, though he has done most of his damage against left-handed pitchers. Advantage: Mets
Right field: This is a tough one, because Curtis Granderson has been the Mets' best position player on a season-long basis, easily leading their lineup in WAR. But as with other Mets, he will be affected by the Dodgers' lefty-leaning rotation, whether he plays -- with his sub-.700 career OPS against southpaws, and sub-.600 this season -- or sits in favor of Cuddyer. Ethier can't match Granderson in a vacuum, but the Mets will start mostly (or only) righties, against whom Ethier owns an OPS of nearly .900 in his career. The wild card here is Yasiel Puig, who possesses enormous talent but only returned Saturday from more than a month on the DL with a hamstring injury. His potential role is unclear. Advantage: Dodgers
Bench: Both teams have plenty of good options in reserve. If the Mets don't start Conforto, Duda or Granderson in a particular game, they turn into dangerous left-handed pinch-hitting weapons, along with Kelly Johnson. Same with Cuddyer from the other side, though the injury to Uribe is an unfortunate blow. For the Dodgers, Justin Ruggiano and Hernandez offer potent bats against lefties, even with Scott Van Slyke nursing a wrist injury. Rollins and Utley obviously aren't the same players they were during their playoff runs with the Phillies, but they have played more postseason games (46 apiece) than anyone else on either roster. Advantage: Mets
Rotation: These teams arguably have the two best rotations in the playoffs. During the regular season, both ranked in the top six in the Majors in starters' ERA, FIP and WAR (per FanGraphs). However, the Dodgers get the edge because Kershaw and Zack Greinke, both top-three NL Cy Young Award candidates, will start at least three times in a potential five-game series. They even could get two starts apiece if the Dodgers elect to use Kershaw on short rest in a potential Game 4. Meanwhile, the Mets will use Matt Harvey just once due to his innings situation, and it's unclear if lefty Steven Matz will be cleared to join the rotation for Game 4. New York could elect to go to veteran Bartolo Colon instead, or bring back Game 1 starter Jacob deGrom on short rest. Advantage: Dodgers
Bullpen: This is another close one, but neither team can have as much faith in its relievers as it does in its starters, especially in bridging the gap to closers Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) and Jeurys Familia (Mets). Los Angeles' bullpen ERA this season approached 4.00, although righty Chris Hatcher has been excellent since coming off the DL in mid-August, and J.P. Howell didn't allow an extra-base hit to a left-handed batter all season. New York has to be a little concerned with Tyler Clippard's September struggles, but at least Addison Reed gave up a run in only one of 17 appearances after joining the Mets, while fellow righty Hansel Robles and lefty Sean Gilmartin have enjoyed strong rookie campaigns. Advantage: Mets
Closer: Familia took over the job this season for the Mets, and they couldn't possibly ask for more, as the righty went 43-for-48 in save chances with a 1.85 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. On the other hand, Jansen has been dominating big league hitters consistently since his 2010 debut, striking out at least 13 batters per nine innings each season, thanks in large part to his unhittable cutter. Advantage: Dodgers