The Mets have clinched the National League East title, granting them a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2006. During the final week of the regular season, they'll be fighting it out with the Los Angeles Dodgers to see who will have home-field advantage in the Division Series. Both teams boast big-name stars, but in the playoffs, games—and possibly series—can be decided by role players. Depth is critically important, and the Mets and Dodgers have plenty of it.
Los Angeles has gone through numerous roster changes over the course of Andrew Friedman's first season in the front office. What they're left with is a fairly deep bench with good platoon ability. Here's what their role players look like for the season:
|Scott Van Slyke||245||6||3||9.4%||24.1%|
|Scott Van Slyke||0.324||0.393||0.312||99||1.1|
Overall, pretty good numbers. Corey Seager, one of the top prospects in all of MLB, has been as good as advertised. He often gets playing time at shortstop, but manager Don Mattingly might give the job in the postseason to veteran Jimmy Rollins.
Infielders Enrique Hernandez and Alex Guerrero, along with utilityman Scott Van Slyke, are the only ones to play for Los Angeles for the entire season, yet they've all endured periods of ineptitude. Hernandez was mediocre in the first half, but turned it on right after the All-Star Game, posting a 164 wRC+ since then. Alex Guerrero is a prime example of slowing down once July came around, as his .523 second-half OPS shows. In the months of July and August, Guerrero posted negative wRC+ values. Van Slyke's path has been similar—his second-half wRC+ is 24 points lower than that of his first half.
Justin Ruggiano, Chris Heisey, and Carl Crawford round out the outfield depth. Ruggiano's time in L.A. has been short, but his production in a small sample has been fantastic. Heisey and Crawford don't bring much value at the plate. AJ Ellis is Clayton Kershaw's personal catcher, so he might only appear twice in a short series.
The Dodgers' bench has the ability to mash lefties, which might not be particularly valuable against the righty-heavy Mets pitching staff. Hernandez (225) and Van Slyke (129) have impressive wRC+ numbers against southpaws, but both are decidedly average against righties.
Since the acquisition of Kelly Johnson and former Dodger Juan Uribe, the Mets' bench has been incredibly valuable, allowing Terry Collins to mix and match his lineup seemingly with impunity.
|Eric Young Jr.||92||0||25||6.5%||18.5%|
|Eric Young Jr.||0.222||0.253||0.208||26||-0.5|
With Uribe's injury looming large, the Mets' bench is still very productive. Michael Cuddyer has been granted new life in a part-time role, while utilityman Kelly Johnson's flexibility makes him a very important piece. Juan Lagares and Ruben Tejada are both great defensive substitutions who could start if need be. Eric Young Jr. is a decent fielder and excellent baserunner, but provides minimal value at the plate.
Unlike the Dodgers, the Mets' depth pieces fare very well against left-handers. Cuddyer, Lagares, and Tejada all have above-average wRC+ marks against lefties. Uribe boasts the best numbers against lefties of them all, so his health is of special importance here. Three Los Angeles starters are lefties—Kershaw, Alex Wood, and Brett Anderson—while relievers Adam Liberatore, Ian Thomas, Luis Avilan, and JP Howell all throw from the left side. If the Mets want to avoid facing their shutdown closer, Kenley Jansen, their right-handed bats must perform.
While both benches are impressive, they're not equally useful. The Dodgers' bench mashes lefties, but the Mets' bullpen is right-handed-heavy. The Mets' bench crushes southpaws, and the Dodgers' bullpen includes numerous left-handers. Both teams are incredibly slow, so they'll be relying on power and station-to-station offense to score runs in the late innings.
As the postseason gets closer and the rosters form, the benches could alter as well. At this point, though, the Mets seem to have the situational advantage.