Yesterday I pointed out that the Dodgers and Cubs have been around (in various incarnations) since the 19th century, yet had never once played each other in the playoffs. I thought for sure that this was going to be the most interesting stat about the upcoming playoff series… and leave it to the Chicago Tribune to completely blow me out of the water:
The Cubs and Dodgers have played each other 2,024 times since their first game in Brooklyn in 1890, splitting the all-time series 1,012-1,012.
Are you kidding me? How is that remotely possible? An exact .500 split over 118 years? Someone call NASA, because I need to know the odds on this one. How about a bajillionty to one?
Anyway, we’ve got two off days left before the first Dodgers playoff matchup in the short history of this blog. You really think we’re not going to milk it for all it’s worth? Break it down. Today we’ll look at the offenses, tomorrow the pitching staffs. Trust me, Dodger fans, tomorrow will be more fun.
Russell Martin (.280/.395/.396 13hr 69rbi)
Geovany Soto (.285/.364/.504 23hr 86rbi)
Fantastic. There’s about 27 major league teams that couldn’t come close to competing with the Dodgers in terms of catching quality, and we’re playing one of the very few that not only can, but might have a claim on being superior. Great start! To put Soto’s .504 SLG into perspective, Cult Hero Andre Ethier’s is .510. On the plus side, Martin is coming in hot (1.011 OPS over the last two weeks) while Soto has hit just .227 over the same span – and Soto’s only gotten into two games since September 20th due to a sore left hand, neither of which he was able to make it all nine innings in. In reserve, both teams have entrants in the International Fraternity of Backup Catchers (Danny Ardoin and Henry Blanco) who each hope get exactly zero at-bats.
Advantage: Cubs, if Soto’s healthy
James Loney (.289/.338/.434 13hr 90rbi)
Derrek Lee (.291/.361/.461 20hr 90rbi)
Chalk up another one for the Cubbies. Loney somehow ended up as the Dodgers’ leading RBI man despite an eternally unexciting season, but Lee’s been one of the best first basemen in baseball for quite a while now, and Loney hasn’t quite passed him just yet. That said, expect Nomar Garciparra to get the start against lefty Ted Lilly. Nomar’s pasted lefties with a 1.067 OPS so far, and nailed homers in each of his last two starts against southpaws.
Blake DeWitt (.264/.344/.383 9hr 52rbi)
Mark DeRosa (.285/.376/.481 21hr 87rbi)
We’re going with DeWitt here because while Jeff Kent is almost certainly going to be on the playoff roster, it’s doubtful he’s going to be healthy enough to man second base for nine innings. I am, however, calling BS on that stat line for DeWitt, because it includes his death spiral of June and July before getting sent down. Since his return on August 28th, he’s been much better with a 284/.402/.443 line – very comparable to DeRosa’s. The Cubbies second sacker – a stalwart of my fantasy team due to his pop and multi-positional eligibility – missed the last four games with an injured left calf, but according to the Chicago Sun-Times, it sounds like he’ll be ready to go on Wednesday.
Advantage: Cubs, if DeRosa’s healthy
Rafael Furcal (.357/.439/.573 5hr 16rbi)
Ryan Theriot (.307/.387/.359 1hr 38rbi)
I am very very tenuously predicting that Furcal’s going to get the start in Game 1. He’s looked okay since returning from back surgery, even though it was only three starts, and collected two hits in his last game. If he’s not, then the Dodgers will be forced to turn to Angel Berroa, who - for all the talk of his “resurgence” – is still only hitting .240/.329/.360 over the last month. By which I mean, “eeeccch.” As for Theriot, I have to admit I was surprised when I looked up his stats. Does this team have anyone who can’t hit? I’m tempted to give the Cubs the advantage here anyway just because of the uncertainty over Furcal, but what the hell:
Advantage: Dodgers, if Furcal’s healthy
Casey Blake (.274/.345/.463 20hr 81rbi)
Aramis Ramirez (.289/.380/.518 27hr 111rbi)
Hey, remember that time I hated the Casey Blake deal? Well, it’s not getting better. Blake’s OPS+ has dropped from 116 in Cleveland before the deal to 97 in Los Angeles, and he’s put up a dreadful .220/.297/.415 over the last month. Hey, that was definitely worth giving up minor league MVP Carlos Santana for! Ramirez, meanwhile, ended up with the 4th highest VORP of all MLB 3B, behind only Chipper Jones, David Wright, and Alex Rodriguez. Hmm, I wonder how this one’s going to go.
Advantage: Holy Cow! Cubs win!
Manny Ramirez (.332/.430/.601 37hr 121rbi)
Alfonso Soriano (.280/.344/.532 29hr 75rbi)
How good has Manny been since coming west? Well, let’s see. Soriano is an excellent hitter, who finished 11th in VORP among MLB left fielders, and that’s even with missing some time due to injury. Manny finished 3rd in that category – but I’m just talking about Dodger Manny. Manny’s NL season started August 1st, and he was still the 3rd best outfielder over the course of a full season. Boston Manny was 8th, by the way. Look, you don’t need me to tell you how good Manny is. Just get a seat out on Waveland Avenue when he’s up and enjoy the show.
Advantage: Manny being Manny!
Matt Kemp (.290/.340/.459 18hr 76rbi)
Jim Edmonds (.256/.369/.568 19hr 49rbi)
The Corpse of Jim Edmonds made a pretty admirable comeback after being all but dumped by San Diego earlier in the season, and I hate to say it but… I might have to call it for the Cubs, as unbelievable as that would have sounded a few months ago. I mean, the numbers don’t lie – Kemp’s OPS over the last month is .750, while Edmonds’ is .929. Crap. That’s not even close, although Kemp’s 35 stolen bases do help him out.
Advantage. Cubs. I guess.
Andre Ethier (.305/.375/.510 20hr 77rbi)
Kosuke Fukudome (.257/.359/.379 10hr 58rbi)
I’m putting Fukudome here because he has the most starts in RF over the season, but it sure sounds like he’s not actually going to be the man out there. Now that I look at the lineups, it seems that lately DeRosa has been their RF while Mike Fontenot holds down second base. This doesn’t really change the rankings any, since I’d still give second to the Cubs no matter which of DeRosa/Fontenot plays and since no Cubs RF is going to take down Andre Ethier. Look, you think Manny has been hot? Do not underestimate a man who over the last month has a line of .462/.557/.629 for an otherworldly 1.249, which is actually better than Manny’s over the same time period.
Neither team has announced their playoff rosters yet, so I’m kind of guessing on these here, especially the Cubs. In fact, I’m just going to take the top five prospective bench guys for each team.
C Danny Ardoin (.235/.278/.314 1hr 4rbi)
1B/SS/3B Nomar Garciaparra (.264/.326/.466 8hr 28rbi)
2B/1B Jeff Kent (.280/.327/.418 12hr 59rbi)
LF/CF Juan Pierre (.238/.327/.328 1hr 28rbi 40sb)
SS/2B Angel Berroa (.230/.304/.310 1hr 16rbi)
C Henry Blanco (.222/.325/.392 3hr 12rbi)
2B Mike Fontenot (.305/.395/.514 9hr 40rbi)
SS/2B Ronny Cedeno (.269/.328/.352 2hr 28rbi)
LF/CF/RF Reed Johnson (.303/.358/.420 6hr 50rbi)
1B/LF/RF Daryle Ward (.216/.319/.402 4hr 17rbi)
As I said before, it’s likely that Fontenot ends up in the starting lineup with DeRosa either in right or injured, but all that does is further weaken a bench that can’t compete with the group the Dodgers have. Kent and Nomar have been your standard declining injury-prone veterans for more than a little while now, but as weapons off the bench they can be more than effective, and Nomar’s positional flexibility could prove extremely useful. Plus, there’s Juan Pierre, and you know how much I despise him as an everyday outfielder, but off the bench in a pinch-running role he’s a valuable weapon to have – think Dave Roberts in 2004 for Boston. The Cubs have old friends Blanco and Ward, neither of whom have done much this year, and if – as seems likely – Fontenot isn’t here, then that means either Johnson or Fukudome (if he makes the roster) is their man bat off the bench, and that just can’t compare to what the Dodgers can bring.
Advantage: Dodgers, notwithstanding the fact that this bench makes about $25 million more than the Cubs reserves do.
Cubs 5 (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, CF)
Dodgers 4 (SS, LF, RF, bench)
- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness