The Los Angeles Dodgers are effectively in cruise control the rest of the season, as the team all but has a first-round bye and the top seed in the National League locked up. The only thing the team really has to play for is the all-time wins record, which is not completely out of the picture.
The final two weeks of the season for the Dodgers are all about keeping the players healthy and in the groove. They’re also about tinkering with the lineup to answer any potential questions before October, when the games start to matter again.
Granted, the Dodgers are going to have different lineups on different nights, and all it takes is one guy getting hot to play his way into the starting lineup. That being said, this season presents fewer platoon opportunities with the nature of how the roster is constructed.
Unless someone emerges in the final two weeks of the season, the Dodgers’ best-case starting lineup for October seems pretty clear-cut.
The ideal Dodgers lineup for a World Series push:
Top of the lineup: Mookie Betts (RF), Trea Turner (SS), Freddie Freeman (1B)
This is pretty set in stone. This has been the top three in the order for most of the season, and the Dodgers are not going to suddenly change that in the playoffs. This is the heartbeat of the lineup, and if the Boys in Blue win the World Series, it will be on the backs of these three hitters in the lineup.
The rest of the lineup is the nuanced part for Dave Roberts.
Middle of the lineup: Will Smith (C), Max Muncy (DH), Justin Turner (3B)
This has been the middle of the lineup for the last few weeks, as Justin Turner has turned into one of the hottest hitters on the planet. You could make the argument that Turner should move into the cleanup spot, but having him down at sixth extends the lineup.
Smith has not been a prototypical No. 4 hitter, but he has done his role in driving in runs when the Dodgers need him to. Max Muncy has really turned a corner in the second half of the season as well. In September, he owns a .986 OPS.
The arrow is seemingly pointed down on Smith while it is pointed up on Turner and Muncy. That should not cause Roberts to completely shuffle the heart of the lineup that has worked so far. If Smith continues to struggle and is playing really poorly down the stretch, then you move him down to sixth and elevate Turner to cleanup. Muncy should stay fifth.
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Bottom of the lineup: Trayce Thompson (CF), Gavin Lux (2B), Chris Taylor (LF)
No Cody Bellinger. No Joey Gallo. Sure, Bellinger has been clutch in the playoffs in the past, but that does not matter. It does not matter that he and Gallo are better in the field, either. It is really hard to justify putting either of them, especially Bellinger, in the lineup.
Bellinger has been one of the worst hitters in all of baseball for the last two seasons and is only getting worse. In September, Bellinger is sporting a .418 OPS. He has three times as many strikeouts as he does hits.
The decision between Gallo and Taylor is a bit more nuanced, because both haven’t been very good and Gallo is the better fielder. That being said, Taylor’s on-base percentage is 125 points higher than Gallo’s. It is better to have that than the swing-and-miss home run potential that Gallo has.
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There are some concerns with this lineup (the fact that there are not any good right-handed pinch hitters on the bench), but fielding is not one of them. In fact, Trayce Thompson has more Defensive Runs Saved in the outfield than Cody Bellinger. So playing him in center is not a sacrifice at all.