To help me decide how anxious to be about the Cubs' NLDS matchup with the Dodgers—the two teams' first post-season meeting ever—I compared the clubs' ranking in a number of hitting, pitching, and defensive categories, and frankly, the Cubbies come out looking pretty good.
Of course, when admiring the Cubs' clearly superior offensive stats, one has to acknowledge that Manny Ramirez only played in 53 games for the Dodgers, and the difference he made was enormous: L.A. scoring went from 4.17 runs/game, pre-Manny, to 4.70 r/g, post-Manny, a bump of almost 13%.
For a truly comprehensive look at the Cubs' NLDS opponents, I direct you to the observations of Jon Weisman, the proprietor of Dodger Thoughts, who offers an in-depth analysis of who did what this year among Joe Torre's crew. Among his points, Jon discounts the notion that Andre Ethier's wicked-hot bat was solely the result of having Ramirez hitting behind him (though the piece I posted at The Cub Reporter shows that Ethier's post-Manny numbers were genuinely eye-popping).
Weisman also points out that Derek Lowe, the Dodgers' NLDS Game One starter, who was stunning in September (0.59 ERA over 5 starts and 30 1/3 IP), was also pretty damn sharp in two early-season starts against the Cubs (1-0, 1.93 over 14 IP).
Whether this is a Dodger team that will perform any better than the May-June 2008 Dodgers, or for that matter the 1989-2007 Dodgers ... there's just no way of knowing. Several hopeful Dodger teams in the past 20 years have gone ever so gently into that bad night. The Dodgers somehow have to change that.
It starts with Lowe and Ramirez. Anyone can be a hero, but those two have been going so well for so long that they are poised to make an impact that Dodger fans haven't seen in a generation of postseasons...
Tony Jackson of the L.A. Daily News appeared on WGN Sports Central with David Kaplan tonight and talked a lot about the problems with the Dodger bullpen. His overall argument was that the team with the second best record in all of baseball (the Cubs) has to be substantially favored against the team with the worst record of all the teams in the playoff field (the Dodgers).
Looking back on what Jackson has had to write about the Dodgers lately, I came across his post yesterday on the "Inside the Dodgers" blog, featuring a funny, bittersweet recollection from Dodgers GM and former Cub front office guy Ned Colletti.