The moment you saw this series on the schedule, you had to know Narratives Day was coming. Well, it’s arrived. Merry Christmas, beat writers. Thankfully, I’m not here to talk the potential storylines. I love you guys enough that I’m here to talk straight baseball.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS - 75-52, 1st place in the NL West

The Dodgers are a tale of two teams in 2013. They couldn’t win consistently to save their lives until mid-June, then the Dodgers kicked off a full-blown nuclear explosion that’s lasted to this day. Unbelievably hot and not showing any signs of slowing down, Los Angeles has rolled through the league since May. Now they’ll collide with the best team in the American League, so we might actually see what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.

Photo by Keith Allison

Photo by Keith Allison

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP

1 – Carl Crawford – LF – .289/.340/.413

  • We’ve seen this movie before: fast corner outfielder with a hitting approach more suited for making contact than taking a lot of pitches.
  • Despite his speed, his value on the basepaths has been much lower than usual. Crawford’s stolen bases and baserunning value are still below his career average.
  • Still a good fielder, but Ultimate Zone Rating hasn’t been as kind to him like it was back in his Tampa Bay days. Age decline, maybe?

2 – Yasiel Puig – RF – .346/.405/.558

  • Puig, the great conqueror of the BABIP luck dragon. No really. It’s so far above normal sustainable averages, Fangraphs can barely quantify it.
  • There’s not a good sample size to really confirm anything on Puig except future regression & him being a good baseball player guy.
  • Has an absolute cannon for an arm. Think Josh Reddick, add more Cuban, and you have Puig’s throws. Yep. It’s that good.

3 – Adrian Gonzalez – 1B – .297/.346/.456

  • Same old song & dance, this time with much less power than we thought he’d have. Gonzalez will not have another 35 HR season.
  • Focused more on hitting line drives to pump up his average and abandoned the home run stroke to do so. Still a very good hitter fundamentally.
  • Everything else stayed the same: slower than molasses in winter when running, and an artist with the glove at first.

4 – Hanley Ramirez – SS – .348/.396/.620 (in 240 PA)

  • Ramirez is the other guy on the Dodgers that also stared down the luck dragon to get a nice, regression-pending .382 BABIP so far this season.
  • Tremendous power at the shortstop position. A .271 ISO on the year, and a .201 career mark speaks to how much strength he has.
  • Fielding, on the other hand, is kind of a struggle. He’s done much better this year, but will Father Time be kind to his glove?

5 – Andre Ethier – CF – .273/.356/.409

  • Probably the first guy in this lineup where you can say that this slash line is what you can reasonably expect for the rest of the year.
  • Suffers from some nasty platoon splits, even though he’s a regular starter: .270 wOBA vs. lefties, and .360 wOBA vs. righties.
  • Hasn’t graded out very well as a fielder, be it Defensive Runs Saved (-1 total over his career) or UZR.

6 – A.J. Ellis – C – .252/.333/.363

  • A solid catcher who broke out last year spraying hits all over the place to go with some good on-base skills.
  • His walk rate is more than good enough to offset his strikeout rate, which usually hovers around 18% year-to-year.
  • Defensive metrics have a hard time with catchers, but it seems like Ellis is very capable behind home plate with the leather.

7 – Juan Uribe – 3B – .280/.341/.416

  • Raise your hand if you picked Uribe to have the second-highest position player fWAR (3.0) behind Hanley Ramirez (3.5) on the Dodgers. Yeah, me either.
  • He’s hit very well despite being a notorious hacker/free-swinger at the plate. At 113, he’s got his highest wRC+ since 2009′s 115 mark.
  • In the midst of his best fielding year ever. Not something you usually see from a 34-year-old, as fielding declines over time.

8 – Mark Ellis – 2B – .281/.328/.373

  • Veteran middle infielder who’s serviceable at second base. Nothing real crazy or amazing jumps out at you from the stat lines.
  • Just generally average with the bat. .309 wOBA, 98 wRC+… but he’s gotten a little better with his average this season. That’s a plus, I guess.
  • He won’t hurt you in the field, but also won’t go too far above and beyond the call of duty either.

9 – Pitcher’s spot – P – adopt/the/DH

  • Double switches are the devil.

Who’s hot? – Last 14 days

  • Juan Uribe: 18 hits, .500 OBP, 227 wRC+
  • Mark Ellis: 7 RBI, .550 SLG, .421 wOBA

Who’s not? – Last 14 days

  • Yasiel Puig: .204 AVG, .367 SLG, 53 wRC+
  • A.J. Ellis: .172 AVG, .034 ISO, .216 wOBA
Photo by Kelly O'Connor of sittingstill.net

Photo by Kelly O’Connor of sittingstill.net

SERIES PROBABLES

John Lackey vs. Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco’s been an underrated pitcher for the last few years, and was the first major starting pitcher nabbed in mid-season trading. He strikes out a good seven-or-so batters per nine innings, won’t bleed homers, and doesn’t walk a lot of guys. Nolasco, to put it simply, is a very solid starter that’s been overlooked for a while. With the contest being in Dodger Stadium, don’t expect a lot of homers from either side.

Jon Lester vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu

Another lefty-lefty matchup. Ryu is like Nolasco, only left-handed, which makes him more deceptive than usual. Strikes out a decent amount, walks few, and keeps the ball in the park. A 78% LOB% suggests regression is coming, but with all the strikeout-prone bats in the Red Sox lineup, it might not be anytime soon. Lester will go from facing a mediocre offense to facing a good offense in a matter of days, so naturally, I think he’ll get shelled. Pessimism at its finest!

Jake Peavy vs. Chris Capuano

Once again, the baseball gods have granted us yet another Peavy Day, and this time he’ll be on the national stage as this one is on Sunday Night Baseball. Peavy’s fly ball ways will be interesting to see work in Dodger Stadium, as hard swingers like Ramirez and Uribe could muscle it out of the park. Capuano is in a bit of a down year: he’s striking out less guys than average and his BABIP is over 30 points higher than his career mark.

INJURY REPORT

  • Boston
    • David Ortiz: Questionable for Friday’s game (August 22nd, tightness in lower back)
  • Los Angeles
    • Josh Beckett: 15-day DL – will miss the remainder of the season (May 14th, strained left groin/neck surgery)
    • Matt Kemp: 15-day DL (July 23rd, sprained left ankle)

IN CONCLUSION

If the Red Sox can stop the media from basically printing PUIG PUIG PUIG PUIG PUIG for more than a day, I’ll be quite satisfied.

Categories: 2013 Boston Red Sox A.J. Ellis Adrian Gonzalez Andre Ethier Boston Red Sox Carl Crawford Chris Capuano David Ortiz Hanley Ramirez Hyun-Jin Ryu Jake Peavy John Lackey Jon Lester Josh Beckett Josh Reddick Juan Uribe Los Angeles Dodgers Mark Ellis Matt Kemp Ricky Nolasco Yasiel Puig

Brett Cowett is a young, die-hard Red Sox fan. An undergrad at Arizona State University, Brett is studying digital journalism with a minor in Dustin Pedroia studies. Apart from laughing at Nick Swisher's escapades in the field, Brett enjoys the occasional sci-fi flick, playing Halo, and being snarky. Follow him at @BACowett for more baseball, random musings, and random baseball musings.

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