Should Dodgers Start Austin Barnes Or Yasmani Grandal At Catcher For World Series?
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

While it was clear the Los Angeles Dodgers had a quality backup catcher in Austin Barnes, that a debate over whether he or Yasmani Grandal should start became worthy of having was a surprise. Yet, the sentiment prompted a friend of mine to ask why Grandal started in place of Barnes in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series.

If you had told me I’d be receiving that text three months ago, I would have assumed you were crazy. To think of how quickly this competition has become a debate (during the playoffs, no less) is amazing, but it still leaves many wondering: Who should the Dodgers be starting behind the dish?

Up until Game 4 of the NLCS, the answer was Barnes. He went 4-for-8 with four runs scored, one double, one home run, one stolen base, a walk and three RBI in the NL Division Series. The NLCS, however, was a different story.

Barnes was just 2-for-15 with one run, one walk and no extra-base hits in five games against the Chicago Cubs. He made four starts during the NLCS.

But what about Grandal? After going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 1 of the NLDS, he found himself without an at-bat until Game 4 of the NLCS, when he went 0-for-1 but with three walks.

The reason for the demotion, however, is rooted much further back than the postseason. Grandal slashed just .217/.292/.444 in the second half of the season, albeit with 11 home runs.

While Grandal was slumping, Barnes was mashing — to the tune of a .295/.419/.438 slash line in the second half, a hot streak he obviously carried into the NLDS but has since cooled.

So what does Dodgers manager Dave Roberts do now?

Barnes, who has been consistently better for the past three months, struggled mightily in the NLCS. Grandal, who has become one of the best offensive catchers in baseball since joining the team, struggled mightily after the All-Star break, but turned in a solid performance in his one NLCS start.

Is a platoon the answer?

While Grandal performed better against right-handed pitchers this season (.250/.305/.486 with 20 home runs) than he did against lefties (.233/.320/.349 with two homers), the problem is that Barnes — albeit in a smaller sample size — actually out-hit Grandal in both scenarios.

This season, Barnes batted .257/.372/.514 against lefties and .321/.444/.459 against righties.

As it stands, the Houston Astros will send lefty Dallas Keuchel to the mound in Game 1, followed by Justin Verlander in Game 2, and presumably fellow righties Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers will follow in Games 3 and 4, respectively.

Given everything mentioned above, the scenario that seems to make the most sense is giving Barnes the nod in Game 1. He’s better against lefties, by a wide margin, and he shouldn’t be punished for a bad 15-at-bat stretch.

However, if Barnes does struggle in Game 1, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Grandal get a shot against Verlander in Game 2, just to see if he can get things going at the plate.

The bottom line here is that the Dodgers find themselves with a seemingly bottomless pit of riches, per usual these days.

The fact that Grandal started just one game in the NLCS must send eyes rolling across the league. And yet, this is where we find ourselves as the Dodgers head into the biggest week of baseball this franchise has seen in nearly 30 years.