Think it’s just a repeat, same ol’ Dodgers, same ol’ Cardinals? Just saw this movie last fall? Had a rather disappointing ending.
If the Dodgers mostly appear the same lineup as they had last postseason, the one the Cardinals dispatched in six games, there is reason to take closer look. There’s reason to suspect this could be a very different Dodgers team.
The Dodgers have a much deeper lineup than a year ago. Indeed, may have the postseason’s deepest lineup.
How could this be? How could a team that hit just .211 against St. Louis in the National League Championship Serious in 2013 now seriously be considered a different offensive animal?
Plenty of reasons, beginning with health.
Last season there was no Matt Kemp. He was out because of an ankle that would require surgery. Now he is finally fully recovered and hot. He was just named the NL player of the month.
Last season the Dodgers were playing with a hobbled Hanley Ramirez (cracked rib) and Andre Ethier (ankle). Both tried to play through it, but Ramirez hit .133 with one run batted in. Ethier hit .150 and tried to cover center on his bad ankle.
Last season Yasiel Puig was a raw rookie. He struck out 10 times in 22 at-bats against the Cardinals in the NLCS. Now he’s been through the wars a bit, and after a horrendous slump (.183, no homers in 30 games) seems to have turned the corner (.339, three homers in his last 16 games).
Last season Mark Ellis was the starting second baseman and hit .240 in the second spot against the Cardinals. This season Dee Gordon is the second baseman and leadoff hitter. He led the majors in steals (64) and triples (12) and changes the dynamic of their lineup.
Last season Juan Uribe hit .278, this season he hit a career-high .311. Adrian Gonzalez led the majors in RBIs (116). Carl Crawford batted .300 and hit the ball consistently harder than a year ago, particularly in the second half (.462 slugging).
However, catcher A.J. Ellis, who had knee surgery in April and then sprained his ankle the next month, hit a disappointing .191. He started the season a career .256 hitter.
Otherwise, this is a very deep lineup, one that can hurt a team from almost anywhere. There are no breaks for a pitcher. Last postseason, there were plenty of breaks.
“We’re a little bit healthier,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “Matt’s playing. We’re healthy. Basically we have the guys that we looked at as our lineup, healthy and ready to go.”