Giants vs. Dodgers: Which NL West Rival Has the Better Lineup Right Now?
The Dodgers have recently made several big moves and brought in star-quality talent to bolster their roster. Their strategy seems to be to spend however much it takes to win right now.
The Giants, on the other hand, have suffered some major losses this year but have also added talent in recent weeks. They have been much more conservative in spending than the Dodgers but still have a payroll in the upper third of the game.
Let's take a position-by-position look at the lineups to determine which is better at this time.
Buster Posey is having an MVP-caliber year. He has played more than he or the Giants could have expected after suffering a devastating, season-ending injury in May of 2011.
Posey is currently hitting .330 with 19 home runs and 83 RBI. His OPS is a team-leading .941. Posey has accomplished all of this while playing the very demanding catcher position in 95 of the Giants' 135 games. He has also played another 20 games at first base.
Posey has the responsibility of handling the pitching staff. It's a job he takes great pride in and does well.
Posey also has a very strong and accurate throwing arm. The only thing Posey lacks in his game is speed, but he is an elite player in every other phase of the game.
For the Dodgers, A.J. Ellis is having an outstanding year. He is currently batting .281 with 11 home runs and 41 RBI, all career highs. This is the first season as an everyday starter for Ellis, and he is making the most of it.
Ellis is also a very good defensive catcher and has thrown out 36 percent of opposing steal attempts. Posey is at 27 percent, but several of his pitchers are not strong at holding runners on base.
Big Advantage: Giants
Here again, we have no real comparison, except this time the edge goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Adrian Gonzalez was acquired by the Dodgers in a blockbuster deal that also brought in Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from Boston.
Gonzalez is a four-time All-Star and was hitting .300 with 15 home runs and 86 RBI when he was traded. He has already been instrumental in two big wins for L.A. and is signed through the 2018 season.
Brandon Belt has been extremely inconsistent all year. He has two big holes in his swing, and when opposing pitchers throw the ball there, Belt has real trouble hitting it with authority.
The holes are with the fastball in on his hands and off-speed pitches down and away.
Belt is currently hitting only .267 with four home runs and 41 RBI. The biggest issue with Belt is his lack of run production. First base is a position where you expect much more productivity, and Belt simply has not delivered.
Belt's strong suit is his OBP, which is .360. However, the Giants aren't looking for him to try to draw walks; they need him to show some power and drive in runs.
Big Advantage: Dodgers
I would have given this an even grade had I been comparing Giants second baseman Ryan Theriot with Mark Ellis of the Dodgers.
However, the Giants acquired Marco Scutaro prior to the trade deadline, and that tips the scales in their favor.
In 34 games with the Giants, Scutaro is hitting .314 and has 22 RBI. He has given the offense a punch, provides the Giants with a quality at-bat almost every time he comes to the plate and has played good defense.
Scutaro is getting most of the playing time and has relegated Theriot to the bench.
Ellis has missed roughly 35 percent of the Dodgers' games thus far in 2012. He has endured several nagging injuries and spent time on the DL. He is currently hitting .262 with five home runs and 27 RBI.
Slight Advantage: Giants
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez at the trade deadline from the Miami Marlins. Ramirez was the Rookie of the Year in 2006 and a three-time NL All-Star.
However, he tailed off badly in 2011 and was not much better this year.
Ramirez, who can be very temperamental and hard to deal with, had definitely worn out his welcome in Miami. The Dodgers are hoping the change of scenery will renew Ramirez's passion for the game and with it improve his performance.
Ramirez has played well for the Dodgers, hitting .283 with nine home runs and 35 RBI in only 145 at-bats. He is also playing shortstop in place of Dee Gordon, who remains injured.
Brandon Crawford and Joaquin Arias are splitting time at shortstop in San Francisco. Crawford is an excellent fielder, but at times he struggles at the plate. Crawford is hitting only .241 with four home runs and 40 RBI.
Arias has been a super-utility man for the Giants. He filled in admirably for Pablo Sandoval when the Panda was out for seven weeks with hand surgery. More recently, Arias has been splitting time with Crawford and playing against left-handed pitchers.
Arias, who has been on a hot streak of late, is hitting .279 with four home runs and 30 RBI. He is also a good defensive player.
Ramirez gets the edge because of his more powerful bat and his experience.
Pablo Sandoval has endured two stints on the DL this season and has played in only 81 out of a possible 135 games. Many people, myself included, believe the excess weight he is carrying has slowed his bat and affected his ability to hit for power.
The Panda is currently hitting .283 with eight home runs and 47 RBI. Since Sandoval's return from the DL in early July, he has yet to hit a home run.
The Dodgers began the season with Juan Uribe at third base, but for the second year in a row, he did not hit. Uribe has been replaced by Luis Cruz, who originally came up as a shortstop.
In 180 at-bats, Cruz is hitting .294 with four home runs and 29 RBI.
This decision is actually a lot closer than you might think, as Sandoval has underachieved and Cruz has been a pleasant surprise.
Slight Advantage: Giants
The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the trade deadline. With Matt Kemp in center field, Victorino is now playing left field.
Victorino is a very solid player and has given the Dodgers three quality outfielders. He is off to a relatively slow start with the Dodgers, hitting only .248.
In 28 games, Victorino already has eight steals. There is a big upside with Victorino, something the Dodgers hope will manifest in September.
The Giants had Melky Cabrera in left field, but his suspension due to PEDs has left a big void. At the time of his ouster, Cabrera was hitting .346 with 11 home runs, 60 RBI and 80 runs scored. That average currently leads the NL.
With Cabrera out, the job went to Gregor Blanco, but he did not hit enough to keep it. Blanco will still play, but he will now compete with Xavier Nady for the starting role.
Nady, who is a September call-up, has helped the Giants win the first two games he has played in a Giants uniform.
Slight Advantage: Dodgers
Matt Kemp could have won the MVP award in 2011 but lost out to Ryan Braun.
Kemp is following up last season with another outstanding year. He is a five-tool player and a true superstar, currently hitting .331 with 18 home runs and 55 RBI.
In addition, Kemp is a very good defensive player, as his Gold Glove from 2011 attests.
The Giants have Angel Pagan in center field. He has played well this season, currently hitting .291 with eight home runs, 52 RBI and 76 runs scored. Pagan has also contributed a team-leading 32 steals.
Even with Pagan's strong play, Kemp has a true edge here.
Big Advantage: Dodgers
Right field is another very close call.
Andre Ethier starts for the Dodgers, and he is especially tough on right-handed pitching. He is currently hitting .292 with 15 home runs and 87 RBI.
The Giants counter with Hunter Pence in right field. Pence has not really broken out with the bat yet, but he has hit better in the last few games.
As a Giant, Pence has not gotten hot yet, but he seems to be hitting the ball with more consistency now. In 120 at-bats, Pence is currently batting .225 as a Giant. He has done a good job with 22 RBI in only 30 games.
This decision is very close.
Slight Edge: Dodgers.
The Dodgers Have the Edge Among Position Players, but Giants Win Intangibles
On the field, with the eight position players, the Los Angeles Dodgers have an advantage over the Giants.
However, the Giants have a slight advantage with their pitching staff, but the Dodgers are also very solid on the mound. Later in the week, I will publish another article comparing the pitching staffs of both teams in detail.
The Giants have the advantage when it comes to their respective managers.
Bruce Bochy is a master at playing the matchups to give the Giants the best chance to win. He is also good at building a good bullpen. Bochy has had to rely on a closer-by-committee approach in the last month, and he has somehow gotten that to work.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is a lifelong baseball man. However, this is only his second year as manager of the team. Bochy's experience trumps that of Mattingly.
The one other intangible advantage the Giants hold is team chemistry.
They are a very close-knit team and genuinely like each other. They came together as a team when they lost Melky Cabrera and have actually played better than before his departure.
The Dodgers, with so many new faces, will have a hard time getting anywhere near the team chemistry that is seen in San Francisco. Team chemistry may not seem like much, but a lot can be said about players pulling together for a common goal.
Thus far, it has worked for the Giants.