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Which team has the edge? Scouts help break down the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants

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This article was originally published to ESPN and written by Alden Gonzalez.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants each have 28 regular-season games remaining, and yet only three of those -- beginning Friday night at Oracle Park -- will come against each other.

It tells you everything you need to know about how the National League West has evolved.

The Giants weren't supposed to be here. This was another transition year under president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, one in which the Giants would mostly tread water. Meanwhile, the Dodgers would be locking horns with another budding rival -- the San Diego Padres, a team L.A. is scheduled to play six more times this month, including at the end of it.

But the Padres have faded, fighting now not for the division title but for a wild-card spot, and the NL West has become a two-team race between two historic rivals who couldn't be more closely matched heading into their final meeting.

The Dodgers and Giants enter with identical, major league-leading 85-49 records thanks to a recent surge by the latter and a rare stumble by the former. And the season series couldn't possibly be tighter.

Head-to-head wins: Dodgers 8, Giants 8

Head-to-head runs: Dodgers 68, Giants 68

Eleven of those 16 games were decided by three runs or fewer, four featured a disappearing lead in the ninth and one, on May 28, saw Mike Tauchman rob Albert Pujols of a walk-off home run. Max Muncy flipped his bat on May 27, Kenley Jansen walked a tightrope on June 29, Dave Roberts blew a gasket on July 22 and Cody Bellinger threw wide on July 27.

The Dodgers, winners of eight consecutive division titles, and the Giants, five years removed from their last winning season, are both on pace for triple-digit wins and are tracking toward a potential division series showdown. In the divisional era, which dates back to 1969, there have been only four instances of multiple 100-win teams residing within the same division, according to ESPN Stats & Information:

2018 AL East: Red Sox (108), Yankees (100)

2001 AL West: Mariners (116), Athletics (102)

1993 NL West: Braves (104), Giants (103)

1980 AL East: Yankees (103), Orioles (100)

The 1980 Orioles and the 1993 Giants went home immediately after superlative regular seasons, while the 2001 A's were granted a best-of-five series and the 2018 Yankees were promised only a one-game playoff. The latter fate awaits either the Dodgers or Giants, playing under what might be the final year of this playoff format. Failing to win this division means having to win a sudden-death game for the right to advance into a larger sample size.

Given those stakes, and how evenly matched the teams have been to date, we solicited the help of a handful of scouts to determine which team has the edge in five key areas.


The Giants' rotation has been nothing short of a miracle, but suddenly the outlook is ominous. Alex Wood, Anthony DeSclafani and Johnny Cueto combined for a 3.55 ERA while absorbing 314⅓ innings through the first four months of the season, but they put up a 5.31 ERA in August. Now Wood is away from the team after testing positive for COVID-19 and experiencing symptoms. And Cueto, 35, is nursing an elbow injury similar to the one that kept him out in early August. (DeSclafani is healthy, which is comforting. But he has a 9.43 ERA in 21 innings against the Dodgers this season, which is not.)

Not all is bad, of course. Kevin Gausman is still a legitimate top-of-the-rotation arm, even if he hasn't been as dominant as he had been previously. And Logan Webb has been a revelation, with a 1.56 ERA and a 5.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11 starts since getting called back up to the major leagues. But the Giants' inability to land a starting pitcher before the trade deadline has hindered them -- evidenced by the fact that they'll stage two bullpen games this weekend -- and the opposite development has lifted the Dodgers.

Max Scherzer, acquired alongside Trea Turner in a blockbuster, has performed for L.A. like the three-time Cy Young Award winner he is. Then there's Walker Buehler, who's making a case for this year's award. And Julio Urias has pitched brilliantly in his first opportunity as a full-time starter -- and has shown no signs of slowing down, even as he navigates uncharted territory with his workload.

The rest of the Dodgers' rotation is a bit murky. David Price has been good but not great since getting stretched out as a starter, Clayton Kershaw is still working his way back from elbow inflammation that has kept him out since early July, and Tony Gonsolin is recovering from shoulder inflammation. But Kershaw and Gonsolin could both be options by the middle of September, and they won't need much from them. The Dodgers' top three starters can rival any trio in the sport.

Scouts' take:

• "I would take Scherzer and Buehler over any of [the Giants'] starters. And Urias matches up with the rest of them."

• "Hands down [the Dodgers' starters are better]. It's not even close. Think about this -- every one of those guys that the Giants are depending on right now, they've all been available multiple times in their career. They've had a nice run, but there's a reason why they were available."

Edge: Dodgers


The Giants have seven left-handed relievers in their bullpen, and six of them have held same-side hitters well below the league-average OPS. The same can be said for four of their five right-handed relievers against right-handed hitters. It's the type of depth and versatility the Giants maximize frequently to get the platoon advantage in their favor, evidenced mostly by the late-game pairing of right-handed submariner Tyler Rogers and the left-handed, fastball-heavy Jake McGee -- a duo that has held opposing hitters to a .210/.248/.309 slash line late in games.

The Dodgers counter with a quintet of power right-handed arms -- Jansen, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, Joe Kelly and Brusdar Graterol, listed in order of where they potentially reside in the bullpen hierarchy. The Dodgers set a franchise record for pitchers used this season, and the dizzying turnover uncovered Alex Vesia, who has emerged as a go-to lefty reliever.

The Giants (3.14), Padres (3.22) and Dodgers (3.26) own the three best bullpen ERAs in the NL. The Dodgers hold a slight edge over the Giants in strikeout-to-walk ratio, but the Giants hold one in fielding independent pitching. Both groups have taken on similar workloads, both boast the depth to absorb it. It might simply come down to this: One-run lead, six outs left, which duo do you prefer on the mound -- Rogers and McGee, or Treinen and Jansen?

It's close.

McGee/Rogers: 2.16 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 3.19 FIP

Jansen/Treinen: 2.28 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.01 FIP

Scouts' take:

• "Kenley has been so good for so long, that when he blows a save it's like the end of the world. And it does happen at times. But he's made some adjustments. He's gone to the shimmy [as he comes set], he speeds up, slows down in his delivery, he has a good breaking ball, and he's throwing it to offset his cutter."

• "McGee's fastball just has so much carry at the top of the zone. It looks like you can hit it, and then it takes off on you. If you can get him lower in the zone it's more manageable. But when you have finish and carry like he does, it's hard to get on top of. It looks like a meatball coming in, then you get a good look at it and it's gone."

• "The stuff in the Dodgers bullpen, I think, is definitely better. But [the Giants'] ability to match up -- there are so many teams that the heart of their orders are left-handed, and when you have all those lefties, they can just make it tough for you after those starting pitchers come out. You look at guys like Muncy, [Corey] Seager -- they're not gonna get a look against anybody that's not a left-hander late in games."

Edge: Giants


The Dodgers' lineup is utterly ridiculous.

Their worst hitter by reputation, AJ Pollock, boasts a park-adjusted OPS 32% above average. Their worst hitter in actuality, Bellinger, was the NL MVP the last time Major League Baseball staged a full season. Mookie Betts, Turner, Seager, Muncy and Justin Turner, five players who have combined for 12 trips to the All-Star Game, all reside at or near their physical peaks.

Then there's Will Smith, already one of the game's best catchers; Chris Taylor, quite possibly baseball's best utility player; and Pujols, one of the best right-handed hitters to ever walk the planet. The Dodgers rank seventh in the majors in OPS, fourth in homers and third in runs per game, and they'd be much better if Seager, Bellinger and Betts hadn't missed significant time with injury this season. They're at full strength now.

Most of the attention around the Giants' offense, which somehow leads the majors in home runs, has centered on the resurgence of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, and rightfully so. The longtime teammates have combined to bat .281/.368/.513.

But what makes the Giants special is their ability to match up elsewhere. It's an unheralded-yet-productive trio of right-handed hitters (Darin Ruf, Wilmer Flores, Austin Slater) and an unheralded-yet-productive trio of left-handed hitters (LaMonte Wade Jr., Alex Dickerson, Tommy La Stella) who allow the Giants to continually maximize matchups. And it's a solid backup like Curt Casali, whose presence has helped the Giants preserve Posey behind the plate.

The July addition of Kris Bryant, an elite offensive player who provides versatility at up to five positions, took this offense to a whole other level.

Still, though.

Scouts' take:

• "I think [Giants manager Gabe] Kapler has done a really good job with the personnel they have. They match up extremely well, and then the pinch hitters come in and have success doing it. They have veteran guys who can pinch-hit. Ruf, Flores, Slater, Casali -- that's an experienced bench, and depending on who's in the lineup or who's out of it, it's an experienced guy getting ABs."

• "I can't imagine a better lineup than what the Dodgers are running out there these days."

Edge: Dodgers


The advanced defensive metrics -- namely outs above average -- don't necessarily favor the 2021 Dodgers. But they have turned the highest percentage of fly balls into outs in the majors, and have turned the second-highest percentage of grounders into outs. In other words, their defensive positioning makes up for whatever deficiencies their players possess.

The Giants are simply dynamic, ranking third in the majors in outs above average. Posey, Belt, Crawford, Bryant and Evan Longoria, who is currently nursing a hand contusion, are all still above-average defensive players, according to the scouts. Slater and Mike Yastrzemski might not be Betts and Bellinger, but they're close.

Scouts' take:

• "Trea Turner's busting his butt -- his double plays are getting a little bit better -- but when you go from shortstop to second base, it turns the game around, and the positioning that they put you in now, there's a lot of different throws. He's had problems with those."

• "[The Giants are] gonna make the plays that they're expected to make. The spectacular play -- great. That only happens once a month. You need guys who can consistently make the plays they should make. And they're just solid."

Edge: Giants


This one is especially difficult to parse.

The Dodgers' final eight series will come against teams that are a combined 43 games below .500. Three will come against bad teams they should beat (two against the Diamondbacks, one against the Rockies), four will come against contenders that will probably have a lot at stake (two against the Padres, one against the Cardinals and one against the Reds) and one will come against the Brewers to end the regular season, by which point Milwaukee will be resting for the NLDS. The Dodgers have three more off days, and will play 13 of their final 28 games on the road. This current 10-game stretch -- three in San Francisco followed by four in St. Louis, then back home for three against the Padres -- is their toughest.

The Giants' final eight series will come against teams that are a combined 49 games below .500. Four will come against bad teams they should beat (two against the Rockies, one against the Cubs, one against the Diamondbacks) and four will come against contenders that will probably have a lot at stake (three against the Padres, one against the Braves). The Giants will have three more off days and will play 12 of their final 28 games on the road. A 10-game stretch that begins on Sept. 14 will see them host the Padres and Braves in a seven-game homestand, then travel down to San Diego for three more against one of their division rivals.

Scouts' take:

• "If the Dodgers are at full strength and they're rolling, they're the best team in baseball."

• "I think the strength of this Giants team is they play well together, they don't beat themselves, and then they match up. They're gonna be in these games, and then anything can happen late in games."

Edge: Even

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