The Dodgers begin their best of five division series against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night at Turner Field. Clayton Kershaw will be the game one starter for the Dodgers and the Braves will counter with right hander Kris Medlen.
To preview this series I would like to go over the super rules of the division series, and keys to the series win for the Dodgers. For this I would like to welcome a special guest to discuss the super rules with me. I’ve decided to call an expert in explaining rules of things to people. Please welcome Randy from the Scream horror films. Hi Randy welcome to Lasorda’s Lair and thanks for joining us this afternoon to discuss the Dodger’s playoff series with the Braves. Here are Randy’s rules in order for the Dodgers to successfully survive a short playoff series against the Atlanta Braves.
Randy: Yeah whatever man, let’s hurry this up. I’ve got a date with Karen Kullcheck in about an hour.
LL: You mean creepy Karen Kullcheck?
Randy: Shut-up! She’s a sweet girl.
LL: Ok there, well let’s get down to brass tacks shall we? The Braves are really good again. They won 96 games and were one of the best teams in the National league this season. How is this possible? How can the Baseball gods allow this to happen again? We can’t let the Braves be this good again can we?
Super Division Series rule # 1-Nip the Braves in the bud quickly
Randy: Yes it’s almost nauseating how good the Braves are again. We had to suffer for years through the Braves annoying little dynasty through the 1990’s and early 2000’s. It was agonizing. They weren’t flashy or anything, just very very good. We all remember Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. The Braves won 14 division titles in a row from 1991-2005. During that time they won five National League pennants and one World Series title, and annoyed us all with their supreme starting pitching, and power hitting. They kind of just lulled you to sleep with their power pitching. It was kind of like they were constantly in the postseason with that stupid irritating tomahawk chant. It was like listening to that sail away song from Enya over and over again on a continuous loop. Yes, please go listen to some Enya for three straight hours, that’s what the Braves dynasty of the 1990’s was like. As for this year’s Braves team, they’re a bit different. They don’t have the starting pitching that those old Atlanta teams of the 1990’s had, and this Atlanta team relies heavily on a dominant relief corps to win games, but the same thing holds true. The Dodgers can’t screw around in this series. If they get a chance to put away the series they should do it quickly. The last thing we want to see is the Braves start up another dynasty again.
LL: Yes I agree Randy. The Dodgers have to close out the series when given the opportunity. But what else can the Dodgers do to help them defeat the Braves in the Division Series?
Randy: Well that brings me to my next super division series rule….
Super Division Series Rule #2- Don’t fall behind in the late innings.
Randy: The Dodgers can’t fall behind in the late innings, or I am afraid it may be over. The Braves’ team strengths this year are their bullpen and power hitting. The Braves have the best bullpen in Baseball with a 2.46 relief corps ERA, and a .222 opponent’s batting average against. They were 53 for 69 in save chances this season. The Braves bullpen is a bit different from what it normally looks like. Reliable set-up guys Eric O’flaherty and Johnny Venters are both out for the year with arm problems. The Braves bullpen is still very solid. They’ve had to use unknown guys like Anthony Varvaro, Luis Avilan, and Darrell Carpenter. They have also relied on veterans Jorden Walden, and Scott Downs. They’ve all been good. Varvaro (2.82 ERA in 62 games), Avilan, a lefty specialist (5-0, 1.52 ERA in 75 games), Darrell Carpenter (1.78 ERA, 74 whiffs in 56 games), and rookie Alex Wood, a former starter switched to the bullpen have all been very effective as seventh and eighth inning guys. All of them set-up the Braves monster closer Craig Kimbrel. The all-star closer saved 50 games this season in 68 games. Kimbrel held hitters to a .166 average against, and gave up only nine earned runs all year with a 1.21 ERA and 98 whiffs. This guy is almost automatic and if the Dodgers want to win they better not fall behind in the late innings. In comparison the Dodger bullpen was very effective but not as good as the Braves relievers have been. The Dodgers ranked 13 in reliever’s ERA (3.49), and were 46 for 65 in saves.
LL: Ok so the Braves have a great bullpen. We already knew that, but what else can the Dodgers do to pull this series out?
Randy: Another thing they can do to help is jump out to an early lead.
Super Division Series Rule # 3- Get an early lead.
Randy: This is an obvious one, but more so when you look at the numbers. The Braves are a feast or famine type hitting team, but when the game gets later the Braves become tougher to score on. According to the numbers, the Braves have the best ERA in Baseball from the seventh inning on, (2.62 ERA), and limit opposing hitters to a .228 batting average against in the seventh inning or late of a game. The Dodgers are good themselves at limiting late inning runs with the third best staff ERA after the seventh inning, but the Braves have made it an art form. The Dodgers are going to have to score early in order to beat the Braves.
LL: Well that all makes sense Randy. The Dodgers sure have an uphill climb in these first two games.
Randy: Exactly what brings me to my next rule…..
Super Division Series Rule #4- Winning the first game is crucial.
Randy: Not only do the Dodgers have to score early, but they have to win early in the series too if they want to advance. Winning the first game of the series is crucial. As a matter of fact the numbers tell us that around 80% of the teams that win that first game go on to win the series. If you lose the first game it’s not impossible to come back and win, but winning three of the next four games against any playoff team is hard. The Dodgers are going to have to split the first two games in Atlanta if they want to win this playoff series. They must take back the home field advantage. The Braves have been dynamite at home this year, but the Dodgers have the best road record in the National league.
LL: I agree Randy. The Dodgers have to get at least get a split of the first two games of the series. Anything else?
Randy: Of course. Pitching is what is going to carry the Dodgers, much like it did the entire regular season. So this means that Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu have to pitch like they did in the regular season. This brings me to my next rule…..
Randy: The Dodgers are a team that is centered around great pitching, and it’s the pitching that is going to have to carry them through the playoffs. Unlike the Braves the Dodgers have two legitimate aces, with one being the best pitcher in Baseball. Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu combined for a 45-21 record, a 2.49 ERA and 534 whiffs. The big three for the Dodgers have also pitched very well against the Braves. Kershaw has held the Braves to a .133 batting average against and an OPS of .403. Ryu has held the Braves to a .222 average against. The Braves have only gotten four extra base hits off of Kershaw. Despite the home field disadvantage for the Dodgers they’re going to be very hard to beat with Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu going in the first three games. The Dodger pitching has been able to keep the Brave’s bats quiet. Justin Upton is only batting .217 against Dodger pitching. B.J. Upton is hitting just .165, and Brian McCann protector of home plates, and fighter of home run watchers has hit just .236 versus the Dodger’s pitching staff.
Super Division Series rule # 6- Don’t let the villans beat you.
Randy: what I mean by this, is don’t let the big guns beat you. Don’t let guys like Freddie Freeman, or Justin Upton beat you. But the one guy the Dodgers should worry about is the Brave’s third baseman Chris Johnson. Normally a feast or famine type hitter, Johnson has had a great year batting .321, with 12 home runs, and an .816 OPS. Johnson has been great against the Dodgers though, and they’ll need to watch out for him. Johnson has hit .292 (26 for 89) with three home runs and an .864 OPS against the Dodgers in his career. Johnson is fiery too, getting into an argument with coach Terry Pendleton that some Brave’s fans may call gritty. We Dodger fans know better of course. The rookie Evan Gattis is the wild card in this situation. He’s only had three hits against the Dodgers, but one was a home run off of Kenley Jansen. He needs to be watched.
Super Division Series Rule #7- The Braves have injuries too, take advantage.
Randy: The Braves are battling various injuries as well. More than the Dodgers. Other than Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers are relatively healthy. The Braves however have lost their veteran starter Tim Hudson, and two of their best relievers Eric O’flaherty, and Johnny Venters. Heyward has just come back from a broken jaw, and Dan Uggla may not even make the postseason roster due to issues with his eyesight and being terrible in general. Despite his 22 home runs, Uggla has failed to hit above the Mendoza line in 2013.
LL: Randy is there anything else we should know before we sign off?
Randy: Yes there is one last thing to remember…….
Super Division Series Rule #8- Wear ear muffs during the first two games.
LL: Wait, wait a second. Ear Muffs? I’m sorry am I missing something?
Randy: yes, ear muffs. To block out that irritating tomahawk chant.
LL: Oh I see, I should have seen that coming.
Randy: Yeah you’re going to need those. I mean the Atlanta fans do that dumb chant every minute of the game. Do you remember how we had to suffer through that lame chant through every postseason during the 1990’s? Anytime the Braves got on base, or got an out they would chant. They chant whenever there is an Atlanta rally, or anytime a car passes by, or anytime a fan eats a hot dog. Or anytime someone gets up to use the bathroom. It’s unnerving. Trust me you don’t want to hear it. Save yourself the nausea. Just wear the ear muffs.
LL:Thank you Randy, we appreciate you coming over to explain these rules to us.
Randy: No problem. Good luck to the Dodgers and their fans. Because if the rules apply, you’re going to need it.