Opponent Preview | Los Angeles Dodgers

The Reds (18-25) continued a seven-series losing streak by losing to the Diamondbacks yesterday 2-1, dropping two of three in Phoenix. They now sit in last place in the NL Central.

Thursday (10:10 PM): Brent Suter v. Tyler Glasnow

Friday (10:10 PM): Frankie Montas v. James Paxton

Saturday (9:10 PM): Graham Ashcraft v. Walker Buehler

Sunday (4:10 PM): Hunter Greene v. Yoshinobu Yamamoto

In the middle of 20 straight games against NL West opponents, the Reds will wrap up their ten-game road trip with a four-game series against the Dodgers (29-16). The Reds will see the Dodgers again next weekend at Great American Ballpark.

Position Players

The Reds will be visiting the top offense in baseball. With a team wRC+ of 127, the Dodgers’ offense is 27% higher than the league average and 8% higher than the second-best team, the New York Yankees. The Dodgers roster is primarily built from trades and free agents and resembles something out of a video game. However, despite being loaded with superstars, the Dodgers only have the seventh-highest payroll for 2024 due largely to the contract construction of the prize of 2023 free agency, Shoehei Ohtani. Ohtani is making $2 million annually over the next ten years before bringing in the deferred $68 million per year over the following ten years. To put how cheap the next ten years of Ohtani will be for the Dodgers in perspective, the Reds, with the 24th-highest payroll, are paying their backup catcher $1 million more. 

Those $2 million currently pay for the highest wRC+ in the league at 212 (players over 50 PA), or over twice as high as the league average. Ohtani sits in the 99th or 100th percentile in xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, Average Exit Velocity, Barrel % and Hard-Hit%. Ohtani has been one of the best and most exciting players to watch in baseball the past couple of years, and even without the dual threat of him pitching this year, he has shown how much of an impact he can bring to a club.

The leadoff hitter, Mookie Betts, is close behind the league’s top wRC+, with a wRC+ of 190, good for second in the league. With a little less slugging than Ohtani, Betts makes up for it with a low strikeout rate, high walk rate, and xBA in the 99th percentile. 

Cincinnati’s pitching will not see a batter with a wRC+ under 40 percent higher than the league average until the fifth batter and will only see one or two in the entire lineup over the weekend, depending on the platooning.

Starting Pitching

Tyler Glasnow currently holds the 6th lowest xERA amongst qualified starting pitchers at 2.39. In his first season with the Dodgers after a trade last December, he primarily utilizes a four-seam fastball (54.6%) and slider (25.5%) combination while mixing in a curveball (16.7%) and the occasional sinker (3.1%) to right-handed batters. Glasnow’s curveball has more of a 12 to 6 movement and is currently generating a 46.2% whiff rate with his curveball, leading to a .091 batting average against the pitch this year. Combining his curveball with his slider’s 39.8% whiff rate and 96-mile-per-hour fastball, Glasnow holds a 33.6% strikeout rate, good for the 96th percentile in the league.

James Paxton was signed on a one-year deal this winter to join the Dodgers rotation. Paxton will mix a four-seam fastball with a knucklecurve to account for over 85% of his pitches. He brings a 5-0 record with a 2.58 ERA to his Friday matchup against Frankie Montas. However, underlying statistics and expected metrics tell a very different story. Paxton holds a higher walk rate (14.9%) than strikeout rate (13.7%), which is good for just the 7th and 6th percentiles across the league, respectively. He’s also seeing a hard-hit rate of 41.7%, over 5% higher than the league average. An expected batting average (xBA) in the 19th percentile combined with the above led to an xERA of 5.93, over three full runs higher than what has happened on the field. The Reds will hope for some regression to the mean regarding Paxton’s “luck” so far this season.

Walker Buehler will be making his third start since June 2022 after requiring his second Tommy John surgery. Once the ace of the Dodgers staff, Buehler has not gotten off to the start he would have hoped for in 2024, allowing six runs over 7.1 innings. His four-seam and cutter velocity are at pre-surgery levels at 96 and 91 mph, respectively. He will combine those fastballs for over 50% of his pitches and incorporates a knuckle curve that has almost 60 inches over vertical movement, which is 5.5 inches more than the league average.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto would have been the team’s most significant addition when he signed a 12-year $325 million deal if not for Ohtani over the offseason. The former Orix Buffalo of the NPB in Japan won three straight triple crowns from 2021 to 2023, leading the league in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. He threw no-hitters in back-to-back seasons in 2022 and 2023 and helped Japan win the World Baseball Classic last year.

Yamamoto will throw six pitches: four-seam, split-finger, curveball, cutter, sinker, and slider. This mix has helped Yamamoto garner a 32.5% chase rate (84th percentile in the league) and a 27.5% strikeout rate. His split-finger and curveball generate a 36 and 33% whiff rate, respectively, and are his primary putaway pitches. His curveball has over 61 inches of vertical movement, 6.5 inches more than the league average, and over 12 inches of horizontal break.

Bullpen/IL

The Dodgers have Hudson, Treinen, and Vesia listed as closers on Fangraphs, but Evan Phillips had eight saves before being placed on the 15-day IL in early May. He joins Dustin May, former top-100 prospect Bobby Miller, and former Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw on the injured list. See below the rest of the current depth chart of the Dodgers’ bullpen and their 2024 stats so far.

Conclusion

I wrote earlier this month that the Orioles were coming in with the most complete lineup this year. While there are a couple of holes in the Dodgers’ lineup, the top end is higher with Ohtani, Betts, Freeman, and Smith. The Reds’ offense will need to come alive this weekend to snap the series losing streak.

Chris Duzyk

Chris began his Reds fandom with family trips from central Kentucky to Riverfront Stadium. At a young age, he had to learn to swing a wiffle ball bat left handed to properly imitate Ken Griffey Jr. and Sean Casey in backyard games against his brother. A graduate from Centre College, he was able to combine his love of baseball statistics and analytics often into his statistics and econometrics courses. He currently is living in Northern Kentucky where all it takes is a simple walk across the bridge to enjoy the games. Find him on Twitter @cduzyk.

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