The Brewers held the Colorado Rockies scoreless in 27 of 28 innings in the NLDS.
Not to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s probably not going to happen in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
While the Rockies were among the league leaders in runs scored this year, the underlying numbers -- especially those once they got away from Coors Field -- had them as one of the weakest offensive teams in the playoffs.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are likely the best offensive team left playing, and an argument could be made they started October as the best offensive team in either league.
As a team, they led the majors in the regular season with a wRC+ of 111. The Brewers ranked 13th at 99. The Dodgers’ team wOBA of .333 also ranked 3rd in all of baseball behind only the Boston Red Sox (.340) and New York Yankees (.335). Their lineup is very much an American League-style order, grinding out long at-bats (they had an MLB-leading 10.2% BB% this year) while having the power to punish mistakes at any spot in the lineup (their .191 isolated power -- slugging percentage minus batting average -- was second in the majors to the Yankees).
The Brewers were largely able to subdue the version of the Dodgers lineup that added Manny Machado in the second half, albeit with a couple notable blowups (although the pitchers mostly at fault for those likely won’t pitch in this series). Milwaukee’s strategy of limiting the number of times the opposing lineup sees their pitchers may help, too, but we’re likely about to see whether that can hold up over the course of a long series.
For all the attention on the likes of Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager heading into the year, it was former minor league free agent Max Muncy who had a Jesus Aguilar-like breakthrough when he finally got an opportunity this year and led the Dodgers offense. The 27-year-old ended up hitting .263/.391/.582 with a team-leading 35 home runs in just 395 at-bats despite never really showing that kind of power (his previous career high was a combined 25 home runs in 523 at-bats in High-A and Double-A during his first full professional season). On a team of high-paid, high-profile stars, he still managed to become a folk hero.
It wasn’t a fluke, either. Muncy’s BABIP was a totally normal .299, and he led the Dodgers with a .407 wOBA and 162 wRC+. To give you a frame of reference, that’s just a step below Christian Yelich, who posted a .422 wOBA and 166 wRC+. If there’s a weakness in Muncy’s game, it’s that when he does make in out, it’s likely a strikeout -- he went down on strikes in 27.2% of his plate appearances, although that’s partially a function of how deep he works counts, and he also led the Dodgers with a 16.4% BB%. If he qualified for league leaderboards, that would’ve ranked 4th in the majors behind only Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto.
Muncy wasn’t the only unexpected All-Star performance in the Dodger lineup this year. Matt Kemp decided to start playing like it was 2011 again, resurrecting his career with a .290/.338/.481 line, good for a 122 wRC+ and .348 wOBA. He may not have the speed he used to back when he was an MVP candidate, but he can still sting the ball -- his 43.5% hard-hit rate was nearly 9% higher than it was last year.
That’s before you even get to Justin Turner (154 wRC+, .396 wOBA), Joc Pederson (126 wRC+, .354 wOBA), Yasmani Grandal (125 wRC+, .352 wOBA), Yasiel Puig (123 wRC+, .349 wOBA), Manny Machado (121 wRC+, .346 wOBA), Cody Bellinger (120 wRC+, .345 wOBA), Enrique Hernandez (118 wRC+, .342 wOBA) and Chris Taylor (113 wRC+, .335 wOBA).
If you lost count, that’s 10 players with a wRC+ above 110. The Brewers have four.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the Dodgers added noted Brewers Killer David Freese in the second half, too. He went on to somehow hit .385/.489/.641 in 47 plate appearances and played well in the NLDS against Atlanta. We don’t have a sabermetric stat to prove this, but it certainly feels like Freese will do at least one thing against the Brewers that will hurt, because it’s David Freaking Freese.
The Brewers certainly have the potential to break out and score a lot of runs, but the simple truth is the numbers simply don’t bear that out, at least this year. By pure production, the only lineup that was shallower than the Brewers’ among postseason teams was Colorado.
And while Brewers pitching is on an other-wordly hot streak right now, the LA lineup is one that sort of functions like a Wisconsin Badgers offensive line. If you’re playing defense, you might be able to hold them to short runs in the first half, but by the time you get to the end of the game, they’ll just wear you down. This is very much a series that could be decided by just one or two missteps by a team’s bullpen, and right now, the Dodgers lineup seems more likely to make those types of rallies, just because they have more guys capable of doing it.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs