2016 NLDS: Comparing Dodgers, Nationals Position Players
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After comparing the pitching staffs of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, which broke in the former’s favor, the focus now shifts to their position players. Once again, the two clubs matchup up well.

On offense, the Dodgers and Nationals had nearly identical wRC+ (L.A. – 98, WAS – 97). Washington ranked 10th in on-base percentage and 12th in slugging, while the Dodgers placed 18th in both categories. The Nationals also slugged 13 more home runs than the Dodgers (203 to 189) and stole 76 more bases (121 to 45).

On the defensive side of the ball, it was a different story. The Dodgers ranked seventh in baseball with 29 Defensive Runs Saved. The Nationals compiled -15 DRS, only good for 19th overall.

UZR, another defensive metric, also liked the Dodgers, rating them the sixth-best defensive team in the league; Washington ranked 17th.

Now, onto the players. Instead of comparing each player individually, let’s look at how they compare as groups: infield, outfield and bench.

The Nationals’ infield is led by Daniel Murphy, whom Dodger fans will remember from the 2015 National League Division Series. This season he finished a single point behind Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu for the NL batting crown.

Wilson Ramos had the highest wRC+ for any qualified catcher before suffering a torn ACL in the season’s final week. Anthony Rendon was valuable on both sides of the ball. Ryan Zimmerman and Danny Espinosa both struggled on offense despite showing some pop.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers got value almost everywhere. Despite his subpar batting average, Yasmani Grandal was one of the most valuable catchers in the league, thanks to his 14 percent walk rate and 27 home runs, as well as elite framing.

Adrian Gonzalez had an up and down season, starting off slow, then heating up during the summer, only to falter in the final month. Chase Utley was nearly average on both sides of the ball, aside from turning double plays.

Corey Seager had an outstanding first full season and is a lock for NL Rookie of the Year. Justin Turner didn’t hit as well as the previous two seasons, but was still one of the better two-way players in the NL.

Again, health plays a huge factor, as this would be a very close matchup if both teams were at 100 percent. However, with Ramos’ unfortunate injury, the Dodgers’ crop of infielders gets the nod.

As for outfielders, Washington has Bryce Harper and the Dodgers don’t. It could be that easy, if not for a significant drop in production and an injured thumb. This season Harper was merely human after a 2015 MVP campaign.

Old friend Jayson Werth was solid, clubbing 21 home runs. The biggest impact came from Trea Turner, who will get plenty of ink this offseason. The shortstop-turned-centerfielder stole 33 bases and surprised everyone by hitting 13 homers in just 73 games.

The Dodgers have good outfielders, too, though it’s anyone’s guess which ones will start. They put 14 different players in the outfield this season. Howie Kendrick played 94 games in left field after having played just 27 games there in his previous 11 seasons in the Majors.

Kendrick has made some solid plays in the field but is a below average defender, to say the least. Joc Pederson looks like he’ll start against both lefties and righties in the postseason. The 24-year-old slugged 25 homers and made some memorable plays in center.

Josh Reddick, not Yasiel Puig, figures to start in right field (at least against right-handed pitchers). The former All-Star struggled mightily immediately after joining the club but sported a .961 OPS in the final month of the season. Reddick credited that to plugging away and staying the course.

Harper could be the difference maker in this series. It should be noted he’s been dominated thus far in his career by Clayton Kershaw, collecting just one hit in 15 at-bats, with 10 strikeouts. However, if Harper’s thumb doesn’t cause him problems and Trea Turner continues hitting the way he has been, the advantage definitely goes to Washington.

As for the benches, the Nationals will likely carry a backup catcher (whoever isn’t starting between Jose Lobaton and Pedro Severino), old friends in first baseman Clint Robinson and outfielder Chris Heisey, infielder Stephen Drew and an unnamed fifth player (perhaps Ben Revere or Wilmer Difo).

Meanwhile, the Dodgers already announced that they’re carrying a pair of backup catchers in Carlos Ruiz and Austin Barnes, infielder Charlie Culberson, and outfielders Andre Ethier, Puig and Andrew Toles.

The fact that the Dodgers have some like Puig on the bench, though he’ll likely start against Gio Gonzalez, is a testament to the depth they’ve accrued over the season. Toles started the year with High-A Rancho Cucamonga, and is now on a playoff roster after hitting .314/.365/.505 in 48 games with the Dodgers.

Conversely, Drew had an .864 OPS this year and Difo could be a useful piece off the bench as a switch-hitting infielder. While Drew has been a great addition for the Nationals, the Dodgers having an entire starting outfield on their bench definitely gives them the edge.

The Dodgers definitely have depth and health on their side, but the Nationals may have more impact bats. Murphy and Turner have hit like MVP candidates this season and the reigning MVP could bounce back in a short series.

As the Dodgers saw last year, one guy getting hot at the right time can be the difference between moving on and going home. With the impact ability on Washington’s roster, they have the advantage on offense.

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