The Milwaukee Brewers will be taking on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. How do the teams stack up at each individual position?
The Milwaukee Brewers have a very interesting matchup on tap for the NLCS. This is due in part to how different the two teams are on the field and in terms of front-office philosophies. How will this polarity translate onto the field in the upcoming series? Let’s try to figure that out by going position-by-position for the two teams, starting behind the plate.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Catcher
The Brewers have relied on the catching tandem of Manny Pina and NLDS surprise Erik Kratz. The two certainly were serviceable behind the dish, with Pina throwing out 41 percent of would-be base stealers and Kratz getting praised for his pitch-framing. They were also passable offensively, posting a .702 OPS and a .634 OPS, respectively.
As great of a story as Kratz was, the Dodgers’ primary catcher is simply better than both of them. Yasmani Grandal was second among catchers in WAR with 3.6. His defense is suspect, but his .815 OPS this season more than makes up for it. For this spot, chalk one up for the Dodgers.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: First Base
Milwaukee found an absolute diamond in the rough with Jesus Aguilar. He barely made the Opening Day roster, but he responded by producing an .890 OPS with 35 home runs and 108 RBI. This allowed him to garner his first All-Star selection, and although he scuffled a bit later in the season, he still is a major part of the Brewers’ lineup.
As things stand now, the Dodgers utilize a platoon of Max Muncy and former Cardinal (and postseason hero) David Freese. This is certainly a daunting combo given how well they each hit opposite-handed pitching. Muncy is also a great story, producing a .973 OPS and a 4.2 WAR. This is a tough debate, especially given how well Freese has played since joining the Dodgers. Overall, I like Aguilar since he has emerged as an everyday player, but the combo of Muncy and Freese is just a bit more than Aguilar can offer on his own.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Second Base
After the trade deadline, Travis Shaw was expected to get more starts at second base. As it turned out, he now appears to be the team’s primary second baseman, with Jonathan Schoop and Hernan Perez swiping a start from time to time. Shaw is quietly a very productive part of Milwaukee’s lineup, producing an .825 OPS with 32 homers and 86 RBI. He hasn’t been great defensively since the switch, but he hasn’t been bad, either. The Brewers can accept average defensive ability if it means keeping his stellar bat in the lineup.
The Dodgers rely on Enrique Hernandez and trade-deadline acquisition Brian Dozier to cover the keystone. Like what happened with the Brewers and Schoop, Dozier hasn’t been great for LA. He’s posted just a .650 OPS since joining the team. As a result, Hernandez gets most of the starts at second. The former utility man actually bashed 21 homers this season, but he hasn’t been great defensively on the infield. Without a defensive advantage, the debate is settled with offense, and Shaw is the clear winner in that category here.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Third Base
Shaw was started the season as the starting third baseman, but the addition of Mike Moustakas at the trade deadline shook things up on that front. He held his own at the plate with the Brew Crew, producing a .767 OPS with eight homers and 33 RBI in the final two months. He also killed it in the NLDS, posting a .916 OPS in the three games.
For Los Angeles, Justin Turner is the rebuttal. After missing a chunk of the season due to injury, he produced a .924 OPS and followed it up with a .929 OPS in the NLDS. He also grades out as a decent fielder at third base, certainly better than Moustakas did during his time in Milwaukee. As good of an addition Moustakas was for Milwaukee, Turner is the winner in this category.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: Shortstop
Shortstop was a position of turmoil for Milwaukee this season, but at the end of the season, Orlando Arcia reclaimed the spot for his own, with Hernan Perez picking up starts against lefties. Arcia produced a .733 OPS in the month of September and went 2-for-8 with a homer in the NLDS. Perez holds a .783 OPS against lefties this season, and he tallied a pair of doubles in the NLDS to help the Brewers to a sweep.
However, it’s hard to compete with Dodger shortstop Manny Machado. He’s not a good defensive shortstop, but he holds a strong .905 OPS on the season with 37 homers, 107 RBI and 14 steals to boot. Arcia will be a very good player, but he’s not Manny Machado (yet).