2013 NLDS Preview: Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

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Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves catcher Gerald Laird (11) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports


Dodgers (official roster not reported; candidates listed here): Tim Federowicz (C), Michael Young (IF), Skip Schumaker (IF/OF, who may start in CF), Andre Ethier (OF)*, Scott Van Slyke (OF), Dee Gordon (IF)

Braves (confirmed by Wednesday announcement): Gerald Laird (C), Jordan Schafer (OF), BJ Upton (OF), Paul Janish (IF), Reed Johnson (OF), Jose Constanza

This is a very, very tough evaluation before the “official” roster of the Dodgers is released, but the Braves have confirmed their guys.

The omission that every is focusing on in Braves country is Dan Uggla, and there is real question about whether the $13 million second baseman will even be on the playoff roster. For me, it’s very tough to leave him off, as he is the lone power bat off the bench if Evan Gattis starts in left field (which seems to be a formality at this point), and in reality, there is no reason why the team couldn’t carry both Paul Janish and Uggla in a pinch. In addition, there is one glaring inclusion that makes no sense to me.

Jose Constanza was chosen over Uggla for what is presumably the final spot, and while in a vacuum it isn’t disastrous (I would still be in favor of Uggla regardless), it makes absolutely no sense with the other players that Wren and Gonzalez went with. Constanza’s presumed “skill” is speed, and while he’s been a less-than-effective base stealer, I can see that. However, the team is already carrying two pure backups in the outfield with Jordan Schafer and BJ Upton, and each player is a) a better baserunner than Constanza, b) a better defender than Constanza, and c) a better hitter than Constanza. Needless to say, he adds virtually no value in this situation, and I’m frankly confounded by his inclusion.

At the backup catcher spot, the Braves have a unique advantage. Gerald Laird has been tremendous this season (.281/.367/.372 with good defense), and Fredi Gonzalez would also have the option to turn to Gattis in a pinch. For the Dodgers, Federowicz is an all-glove, no-bat guy who doesn’t add much in a pinch-hitting capacity.

In the outfield, the Dodgers have an “ace in the hole” in Andre Ethier, but he may not be active for the series due to injury. He has a significant ankle injury, and because of that, has virtually no chance of starting in the outfield for Don Mattingly. The Dodgers could carry him as a pinch-hitter, however, and if they do, he’s the best option on either roster.

LA is also blessed with the services of Michael Young. Young is one of the more hotly-debated players in all of baseball because traditional stat guys love him, while advanced metrics people (and anyone who has ever watched him play defense) aren’t a fan of his work. Even so, the Dodgers aren’t counting on him to start, and he’s a quality right-handed bat in a pinch.

The backup outfielders are all in flux due to LA’s injuries and the uncertainty of Fredi Gonzalez’s willingness to deploy Evan Gattis in LF for all 5 games. We’ll be seeing a lot of either Schafer or Upton in a late-inning defensive replacement role (I’d go with Upton), and because of the exclusion of Uggla, BJ Upton becomes the best “power” option off the bench for Atlanta. The Dodgers have just Scott Van Slyke (son of 1992 favorite, Andy Van Slyke) if Ethier can’t run, and his numbers are better than either Schafer’s or Upton’s this season.

Pinch-hitting could be an adventure in this series, as the Braves don’t currently have a “go to” option in a big spot since Gattis is starting in the outfield. Terdoslavich and Uggla would have been much better options at the plate than Constanza and Schafer would be, but Fredi and Frank apparently see Constanza’s value differently. Nonetheless, it’s going to be very interesting as far as late-inning tactical decision making is concerned.

Ironically, if both teams were at full strength, these benches would like much different at this stage. Because they don’t, the Dodgers have to be given the nod, simply because they have at least one pinch-hitting option (Young), and would be blessed with the best bench bat in the entire series if Ethier is kept.

Advantage: Dodgers