NLDS Series Preview: Dodgers scouting report
This just in - the media is out to scare you, but don't buy into the hype. Over at the Tribune's website, Caveman Journalist Phil Rogers tries to liven up the NLDS by giving the Dodgers the "intangibles" and predicting it will go to 5 games. You can read it if you want, but I'll summarize for you here:
"I am just a simple caveman journalist. Your world frightens and confuses me! Sometimes when the phone rings, I think it is a vicious animal letting out a predatory snarl moments before it is to pounce on me. But while I don't understand simple things like telephones, I do know this - the Dodgers have all the intangibles in this series and, while the Cubs may win, it will be no easy task!"
Meanwhile, if you mosey on over to ESPN, you will be greeted by the image of Manny Ramirez, mid swing, with the title "Upset Special?" beneath his hulking frame. And let's not forget about how, tomorrow night, it'll be All Curse All The Time on the networks. In other words, they're trying to make us an anxious, nervous, ball of concern.
But here's the catch - it's all a cunning ruse. They're trying to work you, folks. ESPN knows - much as Phil Rogers knows - that the Cubs are heavily favored. All of these guys know that the Cubs have the most complete team in all of baseball this year. It's absolutely true that anything can happen in a short series, and I will certainly agree that the best team does not always win, but if you come across a media type who is legitimately proclaiming that the Dodgers will win, get his autograph. He's trying to become famous. (Goat Friends excluded.) Instead, these guys are driving the hype machine because they want you worried, they want you watching, they are looking for ratings and web hits.
Don't believe me? Let's do the second round of scouting reports for this upcoming series. This time, it's the Dodgers, or as I prefer to call them, the Losing Team.
Again, I have seen nothing confirm the actual playoff roster, so this is a little bit of guesswork.
The Starting Rotation:
Derek Lowe - Game One Starter. Strengths: Tremendous post season experience, including a ring. Is 4-4 with a 3.34 ERA in the playoffs. Had an incredible September, going 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA. Is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA against the Cubs this season. Weaknesses: Leggy reporters. Has a tell when laboring on the mound - he looks as if he's constipated. Road record: 5-6, 4.57 ERA. Teams defeated in his September of Glory: Arizona (while in the midst of a 6 game losing streak that ultimately cost them a playoff appearance), San Diego (63-99), Pittsburgh (67-95), and San Francisco - twice (72-90). We're pretty sure he could also take out a kung-fu class, if they were all children. Is the first guy standing on the rails in front of the train of destiny. Choo-choo!
Chad Billingsly - Game Two Starter. Strengths: Good strikeout stuff. Born in a town called Defiance, how cool is that? Weaknesses: Record against the Cubs this year - 0-1, 4.91 ERA. Record on the road this year - 6-6, 3.40 ERA. Post season inexperience. Jaegerbombs.
Hiroki Kuroda - Game Three Starter. Strengths: Good command of pitches - he only allowed 42 walks in 183.1 innings of work. Lots of experience in Japan, where he won 103 games, lost 89, and posted an ERA of 3.69. Dominated the Cubs in 2 starts - went 1-1, but with a 0.59 ERA. Weaknesses: ERA of 4.14 since the All Star Break. Prone to bouts of drunkeness when encountering other Japanese players the night before games, as he is overly nostalgic and enjoys getting trashed and singing songs about the motherland*. (Hint hint, Fukudome, take one for the team!)
(*No, wait, that's just me. Never mind)
Greg Maddux - Game Four Starter. Strengths: Hall of Fame pitcher, fantastic command, wicked sense of humor, very smelly farts. Lots and lots of playoff experience. Weaknesses: Is pretty damned old, and will get beaten like a drum by the Cubs if it goes to 4 games. Has an ERA of 5.03 since the All Star Break.
Takashi Saito - Closer, in theory. Strengths: Warm smile, good sense of humor. Great strikeout stuff. Weaknesses: Old and prone - only threw 47 innings this year. 4.77 ERA in Sept - point of fact, he missed all of August and most of July, and may not get the nod to close.
Jonathan Broxton - The other Closer. Strengths: Dominating strikeout stuff. Respectable 3.13 ERA in 69 innings of work. Great September, 0.79 ERA in 11.1 innings of work. Weaknesses: Can't be trusted to close a kitchen door - 8 blown saves in 22 tries. ERA nearly 1 run higher on the road than at home. Unproven in the post season.
Corey Wade - Talented Middle Reliever. Strengths: Great command, almost unhittable - 0.93 WHIP in 71.1 IP, 2.27 ERA. Weaknesses: A rookie. Has an ERA nearly 1 run higher on the road. Cubs are batting .300 against him this season.
Joe Beimel - Middle Reliever. Strengths: Exceptional lefty specialist, 2.02 ERA against, including an ERA of 1.16 at home. Weaknesses: Not really all that outstanding against the lefties - they're batting .278 against him. Has an ERA of 2.81 on the road. Has apparently never pitched in the playoffs.
Chan Ho Park - Long Relief. Strengths: Almost out of baseball and has something to prove. The word "Ho" is a part of his name; that's just funny. Weaknesses: I know a guy who knows his cousin, who says he has too much of a thing for the ladies. Take it for what you will. Has been a gas can since 2002. ERA is 2.18 at home, but it's 3.88 on the road. ERA is 4.03 since the All Star Break. Lost to the Cubs once this year already.
Clayton Kershaw - Likely Long Relief. Strengths: The odd man out of the starting rotation, has a good K-BB ratio. Weaknesses: Unproven in a playoff series as a rookie. 5.36 road ERA. Has a high WHIP - 1.50.
Romon Troncoso - Unlikely relief. Strengths: Good strikeout-inning ratio. Doesn't surrender a ton of homeruns. Weaknesses: A rookie with mediocre numbers. Gets lit up in close and late situations. Has really bushy eyebrows.
The Starting Lineup:
Russell Martin - Catcher. Strengths: Canadian, born and raised near my neck of the woods. Good OBP - walked 90 times this year. Speedy - stole 18 bases in 24 tries. Weaknesses: No real home in the batting lineup, primarily mis-used as a #3 hitter. Has seen a lot of work for a catcher, having played in more than 150 games for the second straight season. Looks arrogant in his ESPN picture.
James Loney - First Baseman. Strengths: Sort of looks like Derrek Lee. Hits a lot of doubles and triples. Plays better on the road - .305 AVG, 8 HR. Weaknesses: Fairly unproductive for a first baseman - only hit 13 homeruns, drove in 90 RBI (while mostly being used as a #5 hitter). Doesn't draw many walks.
Jeff Kent - Second Baseman. Strengths: Lots of experience, including in the post season. Is batting .329 in 155 Post All-Star Break at bats. Kills the Cubs - .421 in 19 at bats. Weaknesses: With that mustache, still looks like he belongs in a bad porn movie. Inconsistent in the clutch - batting .237 with runners on, .240 with runners in scoring position, and .262 in close and late situations. Has been primarily used as the cleanup hitter - not good, he's only hit 12 homeruns.
Casey Blake - Third Baseman. Strengths: Fair amount of power. Weaknesses: .221 AVG in September. Still trying to figure out NL pitching - .251 AVG with LA since being traded by Cleveland.
Raffy Furcal - Short Stop. Strengths: Good speed. Has hit well in games played this season - .357 AVG. Weaknesses: Hasn't played much due to injuries - only 35 games played. We will hate him forever for hurting Derrek. Lied about his age. Represented by Scott Boras.
Manny Ramirez - Left Field. Strengths: So happy to be out of Boston that he's put on a legendary clinic in LA. Tremendous bat - .396 AVG in 187 NL at bats. Has hit 24 homeruns in 95 post season games. Weaknesses: Makes Soriano look like a Gold Glover. Disappears from the outfield in the middle of games. Mentally fragile. Is batting .269 in the playoffs, and .227 in all Divisional Serieses. Is batting .214 against the Cubs in the past 3 seasons.
Matt Kemp - Center Field. Strengths: Mixes power with speed. Good all-around player. Weaknesses: No playoff experience. Batting 10 points lower on the road with 10 fewer homeruns. Has been primarily used as a leadoff hitter but doesn't draw a ton of walks. Is batting .250 against the Cubs. Maybe an illigitimate child of Shawn Kemp.
Andre Ethier - Right Field. Strengths: First name is Andre. Moderate power, good overall game (including plate discipline). Performs equally as well on the road as he does at home. Weaknesses: Inexperience. Despite a ridiculous September (.462 AVG, 1.249 OPS), is batting .283 since the All Star Break compared to .335 Pre-Break.
Danny Ardoin - Backup catcher. Strengths: Has a funny name. Unlikely to be used unless in an emergency. Weaknesses: .206 lifetime batting average. Not a reliable bat off the bench.
Blake DeWitt - Second/Third Baseman. Strengths: Decent overall approach - walked 45 times in 117 at bats, struck out only 68 times. Hit 4 homeruns in September. Weaknesses: Rookie, no playoff experience. Is only batting .240 on the road. Is batting .217 against the Cubs. Name makes him sound like he belongs in a Margaret Mitchell novel.
Nomar Garciaparra - First/Third Baseman, Short Stop. Strengths: Playoff veteran. Knows the friendly confines from the time he played there. Good homerun to at bat ratio this year. Weaknesses: Never healthy. Defensively less-than-adequate. Terrible numbers in close-and-late situations this season (.154 AVG, .237 overall with runners in scoring position). Sometimes hurts himself by merely standing up.
Angel Berroa - Middle Infield. Strengths: ...uhm. He must be good defensively, right? Weaknesses: Is jealous of the hitting game brought by Neifi Perez. Is actually decent on the road - has 10 more hits in as many at bats. Is batting .192 in close-and-late situations, which is unfortunate because that's when he'd likely be used.
Juan Pierre - Outfielder. Strengths: Scrappy. Decent base-stealer. Singles machine. Weaknesses: Walked 22 times in 375 at bats. When starting, is regularly used as a leadoff hitter. Looks like his head was shrunken by a witch doctor. Is batting .214 this season against the Cubs. Seriously, have you seen how little his head is?
Delwyn Young - Outfielder. Strengths: Talented dancer. Likes to whistle broadway tunes. Weaknesses: Pretty crappy hitter.
Overall - The Dodgers are a well-balanced team with an outstanding bullpen. However, I will submit to you this one thought:
When an unproven Cub reliever trots out to escape a dangerous situation, we are all balls of anxiety. We practically expect him to fail. Pretty much every Dodger is an unproven post season commodity, and while LA isn't feeling the pressure as much as the Cubs, they are still a premier baseball city and there is a demand of solid play there. Therefore, I submit to you that while their bullpen was outstanding during the regular season, they are just as likely as the Cubs pen to implode under the pressure of a playoff game.
The Dodgers rotation, while with strong #1 and #2 pitchers, gets very weak after that. It would almost serve Joe Torre's best interests to turn to his killer bullpen in or after the 5th inning during the middle games of the NLDS, at the risk of them wearing out.
Offensively, the Dodgers have one very absurdly good hitter - Manny Ramirez. The rest of them are good but not great, and Joe Torre doesn't seem to use them properly in the lineup. And their bench just does not hold up to the Cubs. We'll have the actual Series Preview for you before tomorrow's game.