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The Giants are playing the Dodgers in the most important series in baseball history

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That might be hyperbole, but can you really take that risk?

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What bugs me the most about the Dodgers, other than their stupid faces, is how they’re in first place. There were 17 teams that passed on Corey Seager. That’s nothing compared to the 29 teams who passed on Joc Pederson at least 10 times. Julio Urias was there for any enterprising team with an intrepid international presence and a little vision. Justin Turner was floating out there for free. The Dodgers got Yasmani Grandal by dealing an objectively lousy player in a freaking salary dump. Their pitching staff is held together by twine and Kenta Maeda, whose incentive- and option-filled contract is what owners dream about when they’re sick with 103º fevers.

My point is that those are all moves the A’s could have made. Instead, these players are around for the Dodgers when all of their expensive players go kerflooey. That wasn’t the plan, you goons. Live by the checkbook, die by the checkbook. Don’t find a secret tunnel under our expectations.

That’s one of the things that bugs me about the Dodgers. Also, that they’re in first place.

Anyway, it’s time for a Giants/Dodgers series that could decide the National League West. If that doesn’t make you nauseous, you are probably on drugs that you should share with the rest of the class. I’m not sure which one of you asked for a tight race in the NL West before the season started, but I hope you’re happy.

For a series this important, we need a series preview, just like old times. Who are the Dodgers, really? And why won’t they just go away?

Why the Dodgers are in first place

Dingers.

That’s all I got. That’s the reason, though. In the second half, the Dodgers have hit 51 homers, second-most in the NL. The Giants have hit just over half that (26). The Giants are walking more and striking out less. The Giants’ staff has a lower ERA in the second half by a half run.

But the Dodgers don’t worry so much about hitting like goobers with runners in scoring position because they can score runs without well-timed singles.

Oh, also, their closer doesn't blow his saves repeatedly. That seems important, too.

What the Dodgers’ weakness just might be

Left-handed pitchers.

That’s probably a good thing! Because we’re talking about baseball, we’re well aware that Madison Bumgarner and Matt Moore will give up a combined 48 runs. Baseball doesn’t like it when you point these things out. Baseball doesn’t like you to make eye contact. Just drop what you’re holding and run the other way. Don’t make eye contact.

But the Dodgers clearly struggle against left-handers.

Dodgers vs. LHP
.224/.303/.354

Dodgers vs. RHP
.261/.328/.436

More average. More power. More everything. And if you’re wondering if this is a fluke (which it could be), consider that the five of the Dodgers’ starters — Gonzalez, Seager, Pederson, Josh Reddick, and Chase Utley — are left-handed. Turner, Grandal, and Howie Kendrick can make up for that, but not fully, and the proof is in the left-handed pudding. Which is what’s left of the Dodgers when left-handed pitchers throw against them wait that’s awful let me start over.

Is this why Matt Duffy and Phil Bickford aren’t in the organization anymore? I wouldn’t go that far, but it’s certainly not a coincidence that the Giants paid an awful lot for left-handed pitching at the trade deadline.

Wait, wait, wait, where’s Yasiel Puig?

Banished! Apparently, he really is a pain in the ol’ keister, which is a huge surprise, and while it’s something the Dodgers were willing to put up with when he’s hitting, it made it easy to send him to Oklahoma City when he struggled. Apparently, the Dodgers are trying to give him away, which seems hard to believe.

It was just a couple years ago that Puig was an unconquerable force of nature, a 22-year-old kid with more talent in his surly fingernails than the Giants have developed in the outfield since Chili Davis. Back then, I used to bring this magazine cover up as a way to make myself feel better.

Francoeur used to be a huge deal when he was a rookie. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting despite playing in only 70 games. Here's what he did in his first 23 games in the majors:

AB: 81
HR: 8
AVG: .432
OBP: .439
SLG: .827
BB: 0
SO: 16

Let's compare that with Yasiel Puig's first 23 games:

AB: 89
HR: 7
AVG: .427
OBP: 457
SLG: .708
BB: 3
SO: 18

But ... but I didn’t think it would actually happen. Yet here we are, with the Giants and Dodgers playing one of their most important series in a long time, and Puig is in the minors. Well, I’ll be.

How are the players from the Dodgers’ big trades doing?

Not great! Which is great. Until you remember that the Giants can say the same thing, which is also not great, but in a legitimately not-great way.

The Giants’ covert operation to inject Josh Reddick with weaponized Ricky Ledee has been a resounding success, as Reddick is hitting just .149/.208/.164 since coming over. I know that RBI isn’t a great stat, but it’s still impressive that he doesn’t have a single one in his 72 plate appearances with the Dodgers. Both Bud Norris and Brandon McCarthy have an RBI in 12 at-bats this season.

And while it’s technically true that Rich Hill hasn’t been great as a Dodger, that’s because he hasn’t been Dodger. He’ll start his first game for his new team on Wednesday. Joke’s on them — even if he throws a shutout against the Giants, the Dodgers will still have no idea how to evaluate how he’ll do against a major league lineup. The dopes.

So who are the Dodgers’ starting pitchers this series?

Maeda is going on Tuesday night. Imagine if the Giants had Jeff Samardzija, except he was good and was only given a lot of money if he stayed good, and they were going to guarantee him $3 million a season for eight seasons instead of $18 million for five. Then you’d have Maeda.

Hill will be next, and he’s been outstanding this season. He also might be the best pitcher on the free agent market this offseason, which seems ... off. He’s a master of the curveball, so let’s see how the Giants fare against that particular pitch:

[closes eyes, mutters in Latin]

Hey, not bad! The Giants have been the second-best team in the National League against the curveball this season. It might surprise you that they’re awful against sliders in particular and, okay, you’re not surprised by that. But they’re okay against curveballs, at least according to the advanced metrics.

After that we have either Brett Anderson (if his blister is better) or Ross Stripling. The former has been mostly effective in his career against the Giants, with solid starts in his last four outings against them. Stripling is the young feller who completely humiliated the Giants into no-hit submission earlier this year in what turned out to be one of the best games of the season.

And that’s when the Giants won the division. At least, that’s what should have happened.

Don’t bother making predictions for this series, unless they’re predictions about throwing up. The Giants and Dodgers are playing a huge series this week, and it will probably go a long way toward deciding everything we’ve been watching for the last five months. That seems unfair unless the Dodgers lose.

My advice: Think about how there’s a chance that they’ll face each other in the NLCS, and you’ll probably stress out less about this particular series.

I’m here to help.