On Friday, the San Diego Padres (9-5) will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers (11-2) in an early season preview of a potential NLCS Matchup at PetCo park. This is the first meeting between these two since the Dodgers swept the Padres in last season’s NLDS.
Buehler Looks to Return to Old Form
For the Dodgers, Walker Buehler (1-0) will be making his third start of the season. In 12 innings pitched, Buehler owns a 1.50 ERA with a 4.71 Expected ERA, according to Statcast. A few things stand out when looking at Walker Buehler’s early numbers.
First, he has not walked a single batter yet this season. The only other starter that has not issued a walk this year is Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes, who is having himself a Cy Young type start to the season.
Second, Walker Buehler usually sits at around 28% K% (good for the 80th percentile amongst pitchers). So far this season, though, he’s at just 17% (good for the 25th percentile). Buehler is also (albeit in a small sample) in the bottom percentile in Hard Hit %, Average Exit Velocity, xSLG% and Expected Batting Average Against so far in 2021.
Buehler is pretty lucky to have a 1.50 ERA, then, as he is getting hit hard, yet balls put in play have only been a hit 25% of the time, whereas 30% is around average. If we take a look at Buehler’s average pitch velocities, they are practically down across the board. His fastball is down from 96.8 to 95.1 MPH, his Slider from 87.5 to 85.9 MPH and his Curveball from 81.9 to 80.5 MPH.
Might these numbers be an early season aberration? Maybe, and they probably are. But it’s definitely worth noting, especially given the dip in velocities.
Ryan Weathers to Make Debut as a Starter
For the Padres, Ryan Weathers (1-0) will be making the first MLB start of his career. Weathers has picked up both a save and a win early on out of the bullpen, and now gets a crack at the defending champs in his debut as a starter.
Weathers is likely to act as an opener type, as he is filling in while the Padres await the return of young star Dinelson Lamet to the rotation. Nonetheless, in six innings pitched in 2021 Weathers has recorded a 35% K% with a middling 10% BB%. Weathers actually faced the Dodgers in the NLDS in 2020, going 1.1 innings without allowing a run or a hit while walking two.
Weathers was drafted directly out of high school as the seventh overall pick by the Padres in the 2018 June Amateur Draft. He utilizes mainly a Slider and Fastball, with his Fastball averaging 95 MPH and his Slider sitting at 85.5 MPH.
As for the offenses, both of these teams can put runs on the board. The Dodgers are tied for the league lead in RBI with 71, while the Padres sit in the 8th spot with 55 RBI. The Dodgers are first in the MLB in wOBA (.379) while the Padres are fifth (.334)
Even with Cody Bellinger out of the lineup with a leg injury, the Dodgers have still had contributions across the board:
- Justin Turner leads the team in Home Runs (4) and RBI (11)
- Max Muncy has an extraordinary 22% BB% while striking out just 13% of the time
- Corey Seager sports a .430 wOBA and .431 Expected wOBA
Fernando Tatis Jr. has also been dealing with a shoulder subluxation, but the Padres have picked up the slack in his absence:
- Wil Myers leads the Padres in Home Runs (3) and RBI (11)
- Jake Cronenworth continues to be a difference maker with a .358 Average
- Four Padres players have 3 home runs (Machado, Myers, Hosmer, Grisham)
- Fernando Tatis Jr. may return to the lineup on Friday
Take a Stab at the Padres
While the Dodgers are hot, winning their last six games, I like the Padres as sizable home underdogs (+130) in a game they’ve probably had circled all April. The Dodgers are fresh off a come-from-behind win against the Rockies, and now Travel (albeit not too far) to PetCo Park where the Padres are returning from the East Coast to their own friendly confines.
Additionally, with Buehler not looking like his usual self to start the season (even though the results may say otherwise), I like the Padres to get to him at points throughout this game as the Dodgers’ win streak comes to an end.