Hot Off the Presses, Here’s Your Playoff Roster

Before we get to the pitching staffs, the NLDS roster has just been announced moments ago (it’s all over, but I saw it on Tony Jackson’s blog first, and I’ve edited it for formatting):

Beimel, Billingsley, Broxton, Kershaw, Kuroda, Park, Lowe, Saito, Troncoso, Maddux, Wade

Ardoin, Martin

Berroa, Blake, DeWitt, Furcal, Garciaparra, Kent, Loney, Ozuna

Ethier, Kemp, Pierre, Ramirez

Only one big surprise for me, and that’s Ramon Troncoso making it over Scott Proctor, because in 8 games since his return he’s allowed only a .250 OBP and a 2.57 ERA. But according to Jackson, Proctor’s still not healthy enough to warm up more than once in a game, and Torre wanted someone who can do that.

Not a big surprise to see Pablo Ozuna make it, because as I said the other day…

You know, I was all ready to go into an epic rant about how bad Ozuna is and how much I’d rather see Young on the roster… but I just can’t. Contrary to what I had thought, Ozuna’s not just an infielder who’d made an emergency appearance in the outfield – he’s made 63 career appearances out there. And while I do think Ozuna is a big zero at the plate (career OPS+ of 76, and only 66 for LA), Young hasn’t been much better this year, with only a 71 OPS+. Now don’t get me wrong, because we’re still huge fans of Young’s around here (check out his crazy minor league stats in a post we made on him in June) and I think a huge reason for his lack of productivity is his sporadic at best playing time. But the playoffs are no time to work out the hitting kinks, and clearly he’s not a plus with the glove.

On to the pitching staffs for the NLDS, but before I break down Cubs vs. Dodgers specifically, I have to point this out. You know how they say “good pitching beats good hitting?” Well, I don’t know who the hell they are, but they couldn’t be more right.

NL ERA ranks, 2008
1) Dodgers 3.68
2) Brewers 3.85
3) Cubs 3.87
4) Phillies 3.88

So… you’re saying that if you want to make the playoffs, you have to have solid pitching? A novel idea, sir!

Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP)
Chad Billingsley (16-10, 3.14 ERA, 1.34 WHIP)
Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
Greg Maddux (8-13, 4.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)

Ryan Dempster (17-6, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)
Carlos Zambrano (14-6, 3.91 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)
Rich Harden (10-2, 2.07 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)
Ted Lilly (17-9, 4.09 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)

Even Ken Rosenthal recognizes the dominance of the Dodgers starting staff, saying that he can almost see the following happening:

Game 1: The hottest pitcher in the baseball — Dodgers righty Derek Lowe — silences the howling masses at Wrigley.

Game 2: Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano freaks out.

Game 3: Dodgers righty Hiroki Kuroda continues his late-season surge and season-long excellence at Dodger Stadium.

Of course, Rosenthal later backs down and predicts Cubs in 5, but he’s not entirely wrong. Lowe has been out of his mind good lately (more on this in tomorrow’s Game 1 preview), Kuroda and Billingsley have both been excellent over the last month or so, and Zambrano has been awful since his no-hitter on September 14th, giving up 13 earned runs in just 6.1 innings over two starts. So often it’s not about who has the better rotation, but who has the hotter rotation. That said, Rich Harden has been utterly dominant since his arrival in Chicago from Oakland, and if each team decides to use a 4th starter in Game 4 rather than bringing back the Game 1 starter, Ted Lilly is a big advantage over Greg Maddux.

So what you have here is two excellent rotations, each rightfully considered a strength of their team. The Cubs probably have more talent, but the Dodgers might have momentum. Really, I think both sides are going to get good work from these groups, so the edge really depends on Carlos Zambrano. If he’s as good as he’s been for the last several years, that’s a huge boost to Chicago – but if he can’t turn it around from how bad he’s been lately, that pushes the meter towards Los Angeles.

Advantage: Cubs – but only if Zambrano’s healthy and effective

R Takashi Saito (4-4, 2.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 18/22 saves)
R Jonathan Broxton (3-5, 3.13 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 14/22 saves)
L Joe Beimel (5-1, 2.02 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
R Chan Ho Park (4-4, 3.40 ERA, 1.40 WHIP)
R Cory Wade (2-1, 2.27 ERA, 0.93 WHIP)
R Ramon Troncoso (1-1, 4.26 ERA, 1.28 WHIP)
L Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)

R Kerry Wood (5-4, 3.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 34/40 saves)
R Carlos Marmol (2-4, 2.68 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 7/9 saves)
R Bobby Howry (7-5, 5.35 ERA, 1.46 WHIP)
L Neal Cotts (0-2, 4.29 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)
L Sean Marshall (3-5, 3.86 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
R Michael Wuertz (1-1, 3.53 ERA, 1.43 WHIP)
R Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 2.28 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)

While the Cubs relievers finished a mediocre 8th in the NL with a 4.10 ERA, the Dodgers managed to place second with a 3.33 mark. Worse, the Cubs’ pen has struggled mightly in September – check Kerry Wood’s 6.75 ERA and Neal Cotts’ 8.10. Even Samardzija was lousy with a 5.40 ERA. In fact, the only Cub reliever to show any effectiveness in the last month is Carlos Marmol, who struck out more than a man per inning with a 2.84 ERA in September.

The Dodgers pen has been excellent all year long, but they’re not without their own question marks. The loss of Hong-Chih Kuo (who had been a revelation with 96 K in 80 IP and a 2.14 ERA) is really going to hurt, and the reliability of Takashi Saito is still uncertain after his return from an elbow injury. That said, this is a good, solid group. Cory Wade and Joe Beimel have been solid all year, and Kershaw should add some juice in the middle innings if needed.

Advantage: Dodgers

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg