Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Playoffs

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Game Recap: Dodgers 10, Cubs 3, the World is Ending

After the Cubs lost the first game of the post season, I came on board and blasted fans for their ridiculously early and unnecessary pessimism.  Well, my friends, the Cubs are now in the hole 0 games to 2 and you've got to be at least a little curious about what I'm going to say this time.

Actually, I want to direct my attention to a reader who said, "anybody who doesn't believe there is a real curse right now is insane."

Yes, actually, he's right.  It turns out that the Greek Gawds are real, and when Billy-Goat Sianis yelled up to the sky on that fateful October day in 1945, Zeus, or Pan, or one of those idiots answered and the Cubs were cursed.

Let's give that Goat Reader the benefit of the doubt.  Let's imagine that curses are real.  If it was really that easy to curse people, then airplanes would be falling from the sky daily, buildings would topple, people would be breaking out into boils left and right, it would be ridiculous.  But since we'd be "insane" right now not to believe in curses, then I want everybody here to know that I have walked outside, looked up to the heavens, and yelled out "I hereby curse Goat Reader Denton from ever finding love.  He will die old, alone, and unlaid."  I then spun around 3 times and spit.

So, sorry about your luck, Denton.

Anybody who thinks that this is happening because of a curse is a freaking idiot, and you can add that kind of fan to the list of people I wish I could quit as readers.  This isn't happening because of curses.  It's happening because of bad baseball.  Last night, every Cubs infielder made at least one error and cost the team a bunch of runs.  Take out that horrible 2nd inning, and it was actually a close game.

Now, did that happen because of a curse?  Hells no.  It happened because, for whatever reason, Theriot, DeRosa, Lee, Ramirez, whomever, they're all playing with a ridiculous amount of pressure.  Actually, they're fielding grounders the way I would if I were in their situation.  As the ball is spinning toward them, their brains are yelling out "Oh, holy sh*t!  Don'tf**kitupdon'tf**kitupdon'tf**kitup!" You can perhaps understand why I would react that way - I'm not a professional ballplayer, I haven't handled ground balls about a million times, I would be ill-prepared. But what is their excuse?

That's just it.  They can't possibly have one.  No way, no how.

Anyway, we have a full off day to contemplate that nail being hammered into this season's coffin.  Actually, in a lot of ways the pressure is off.  I am no longer expecting the Cubs to win this, and mathematically, the numbers are very, very much against them.  For that reason, I fully expect them to win tomorrow night.  After all, we saw how they started to hit last night once the pressure was off, right?

One last thought for you.  My brother EMailed me to say that he thinks the Cubs can still come back and win.  But what does he know?  He only follows a team that once came back from a 3 games to 0 deficit against their most hated rivals while on the road.

NLDS Game Two Blogcast

8:18PM Central - It's almost gametime and we're getting ready by watching the VP debate.  I'll be doing another gamecast tonight, let's hope that we'll have a little more luck and, most important, let's keep our fingers crossed about Carlos Zambrano.

Now, I know some of us are nervous.  I know that some of us have given up already.  Some of us are distancing ourselves from the team - I dunno, maybe we're trying to avoid getting hurt.  All I know is that this is a complete team, with incredibly deep pitching, and being down 1 game or not, this is the best chance we've had to win a Series in my lifetime.

As we enter into this game, I'm going to ask one thing and one thing only - no matter how good or bad it gets, let's try to stay civil.  And let's go Cubs ... it's a huge game.  I'm excited to see what happens.

8:36PM Central - The idiot broadcasters note that the ballpark is a lot louder tonight.  I can't help but wonder if the organization sold tickets primarily to corporations and other non-traditional game attenders, but more real fans are there tonight.  Hopefully these guys will be energetic and won't turn on the team at the first sign of distress - assuming there will be distress tonight.  The next update will be after the Dodgers are set down.

8:42PM Central - Carlos has velocity and movement on his pitches.  The first pitch he threw to Manny was 97 MPH and it broke in on Man-Ram's ankles.  Manny tried to argue balls and strikes with the umpire - never a good sign for the first inning of a playoff game.

As nerve-wracking as Dempster had us with his erratic control, Carlos had a - dare I say it - easy first inning.  Big sigh of relief from the Cub Fan Nation.  Hmm.  "Cub Fan Nation."  That'd be a cool blog name.

8:54PM Central - Good news - Soriano got on to lead off the game and advanced to second on a passed ball, but the Cubs 2-4 hitters failed to capitalize.  Billingsly is a little more erratic than Carlos so far.  The Cubs were a patient team in the regular season, and more importantly, they got some huge production from their 5-8 hitters.  Just pointing it out.

End of the 1st - Cubs 0, Dodgers 0

9:04PM Central - Blame Theriot for this one.  He never would've had the runner headed to second, but he seemed confused by the play and speared the ball with his hand rather than his glove.  Colin might remind us of his Theriot Concerns, but I seriously question Cedeno's clutch play, defensively or offensively.

A run scores then on a DeRosa bobble.  Panic, again.  At this point I am comfortable saying that the Cubs are pressured and pressing - except maybe for Carlos, who doesn't look bad despite the early failures of his defense.

And then Derrek screws up a play.  This is flat out ridiculous.

9:10PM Central - LA is on a roll now.  Carlos looks pissed, but in this case it's not really DeRosa's fault, Furcal is fast and he bunted.  Regardless, Carlos is getting killed right now - how much of this is his fault?  He gave up a big hit, a 3 run double to Russ Martin, but how many of those runners should have been on base?

I am not stressed out by this game.  I'm pissed off.  This is a ridiculous situation and the Cubs have nobody to blame but themselves.  Theriot, DeRosa, and Lee all owe Carlos an apology - and later tonight, they may owe the entire city of Chicago one, as well.

They better work reaaaal hard to make it up to us in the next 8 innings.

End of the Top of the 2nd - Dodgers 5, Cubs 0

9:19PM Central - 1-2-3 inning.  Nothing to report.  The Cubs need to cease momentum very soon.

C. is sitting next to me, saying "I can't believe I'm so anxious and you're not."  But why would I be anxious?  I'm pissed.  This is effing idiotic.

9:26PM Central - That was fast.  Apparently when he doesn't rely on groundballs to his infield, Carlos is pretty tough to hit.

I'm still steamed, folks.  I'm sure you are too.  Players at that stage who make that money should be able to do their job.  That means fielding routine groundballs and making what should be easy outs.  This would be a 0-0 game if not for middle and corner infielders playing with the weight of the world on their shoulders.

End of the Top of the 3rd - Dodgers 5, Cubs 0

9:36PM Central - After Fukudome tries to fall over while striking out - seriously, you're supposed to be a professional hitter, do you need to watch some tape, Kosuke? - Carlos draws his first walk in over a year.  The Fonz then flies out weakly and Ryan Theriot grounds out to short.  He looked REALLY confused after the ground out because the ball was actually FIELDED.

End of the 3rd - Dodgers 5, Cubs 0

9:46PM Central - Carlos gets the first 2 outs with ease.  I was starting to think that he was intentionally keeping the ball away from his field untrustworthy infielders... I don't think one has gone to them since they bobbled balls.  Then, Aramis joins in and bobbles what should've been a third out.  But this time, Carlos escapes without having to pay for his teammates mistakes.

End of the Top of the 4th - Dodgers 5, Cubs 0

9:54PM Central - C. is going to bed.  She missed Derrek break up a double play with the last three fingers on his right hand, although it happened before long anyway.

In the regular season, I would feel absolute confidence that, even this late in a game, the Cubs could come back from the deficit they're in.  In the post season ... eh.  I don't really see it happening.  But I could be wrong; somebody really needs to make a big play, be it plowing into someone, or hitting a homerun, or hustling their ass off in a key situation.  That's my opinion, I could be wrong.

End of the 4th - Dodgers 5, Cubs 0

10:02PM Central - Manny hit another homerun to extend their lead.  The Cubs made all 3 outs on the infield.  I'm tired.  I bet the Cubs score 1 run this game, in the 9th.

End of the top of the 5th - Dodgers 6, Cubs 0

10:09PM Central - Edmonds hits a long ball that lands in a glove off the ivy, and the Cubs go down quietly again.

I'm running out of energy, but I'll stick through this until the end.  The bitter, horrible end.  I wish I was drinking.

10:20PM Central - Goat Reader Sayers40 says, "Everyone thought we needed a big performance from Z tonight.  We got on and it still doesn't matter."  Very true.

Carlos had a horrible, terrible second inning, but only because his defenders failed to capitalize on ground balls.  The only real mistake I have to give him is the solo shot to Ramirez.  But at this point, the Cubs offense is dejected, and I don't see them doing jack against the Dodgers tonight.

I said yesterday that I'm no fan of Cub Fan Pollyannas, nor am I a fan of Cub Fan Nietzsches.  I am realistic.  Realistically, it would take a miracle to win tonight's game - and an even greater one to win this series.  Maybe Jon Miller was right.  Maybe the Dodgers were the team we didn't want to play.

End of the Top of the 6th - Dodgers 6, Cubs 0

10:27PM Central - At this point, I'm more interested in the results of the debate.  I'm shocked to see that Carlos reached the 7th before he hit 100 pitches, considering that he tossed 28 in the 2nd.

Oh, btw, the Cubs failed to do anything in the 6th.  As Bayma notes, it's been 12 innings of futility.

End of the 6th - Dodgers 6, Cubs 0

10:32PM Central - After 7.1 innings, Carlos has been pulled for Neal Cotts.  The Moose looks morose in the dugout.  I really don't blame him.  This has been a total failure on the part of the Cubs lineup - defensive mistakes, an inability to capitalize, sometimes I think that the Cubs need a douche or something after every season to keep the team fresh with players who aren't burdened by the ridiculous pressure to win.

10:41 Central - Cotts comes in, struggles, and gives up a run after the Cubs infield shockingly fails to complete a double play.  It's now 7 to nil and I am over this crap.

End of the top of the 7th - Dodgers 7, Cubs 0

10:56PM Central - Hey!  Didja see that!  The Cubs scored a run!  In a game without errors, they're down 2-1 right now!  w00t!

End of the 7th - Dodgers 7, Cubs 1

11:03PM Central - The Dodgers took back their run and then some.  Jim Edmonds took a spill, and it's a serious blow out.

I'm really, really over this.  It's midnight here and I'm just torturing myself by watching this crap.

End of the Top of the 8th - Dodgers 9, Cubs 1

11:13PM Central - I have the feeling that the city of Chicago will be grouchy tomorrow.  I can't say that I blame them.

The Cubs are apparently trying to end this ugly game quickly.  There isn't much of a spark in the game tonight.

I have a feeling, however, that they will win on Saturday.  Why do I feel that way?  Because they've almost certainly - keyword, almost - lost this series.  The pressure's off.

End of the 8th - Dodgers 9, Cubs 1

11:22PM Central - Denton says, "anybody who doesn't believe there is a real curse right now is insane."  Yeah, Denton.  There's a curse.  There are mystical, evil powers in the world, and they focus on things like baseball.  If there were such things as curses, and it was as easy as yelling up into the sky after being denied entrance to a ballgame, then everybody would be cursed all the time and we'd all be in a hell of a mess.

Speaking of messes, Theriot completed the circle.  A throwing error gives one to every Cubs infielder.  Lovely.  The Dodgers score again.  I guess it's easier to blame a goat than the mentality of the guys who are playing, who have obviously collapsed under the ridiculous pressure that they're under.

Blame blame blame, Denton.  If anybody is responsible, it's the players.  I know, it's a shocking idea.

End of the Top of the 9th - Dodgers 10, Cubs 1

Once the pressure was off, the Cubs managed to score some runs in the 9th.  Doubles by Lee and DeRosa, cushioning a Ramirez single, finally - finally - made it seem as though the Cubs could actually produce.

The Dodgers turned to Broxton, who promptly walked Felix Pie on 5 pitches before getting the first out of the inning by forcing Soto into hitting a sharp liner to second.  Broxton then struck out Fukudome looking on, quite frankly, a pitch outside of the strike zone, although Kosuke should probably have swung defensively.

And then, to add insult to injury, Broxton struck out Ward on a pitch that was both low and inside.

A game recap will come in the morning.  But for those of you who are wondering, I'll be taking a somewhat more lax approach to anybody who preaches doom and gloom, if only because the odds of a 3 game comeback are very, very thin.

I have lost my sanity

I'll try to edit out the questionable language - sorry for that earlier.

I told myself I wasn't going to post anywhere today. That I was pretty much going on blackout. I'm just so mad.

All of a sudden, us fans are getting razzed for being "quiet" or "apprehensive" by Kaplan* and by TBS and that people at the Cell showed more energy. Yeah, Sux fans did show more energy the other day, but I don't think yesterday's crowd at Wrigley was representative of the fans that did fill our park every day this year.

1. "Apprehensive". YOU try living with a club that breaks your heart year after year after [insert words of choice here] year. And yet we keep coming back. DON'T YOU DARE. We have  lost our sanity over this team and been genuinely depressed because of it. I CRIED ON THE TRAIN HOME LAST NIGHT. I CRIED IN MY CAR. I CRIED MYSELF TO SLEEP. Why? I just want this team to freaking WIN. I think about Ron Santo dying without ever seeing this damn club winning. All I have to look forward to is getting razzed by every [insert words of choice here] who yells "next year losers! cubs suck! cubs choke!" It would be one thing if I were allowed to choke said people so hard their eyeballs pop out and get my satisfaction that way, but unfortunately the law looks down on that. When I get bitten by a radioactive something, you best believe I will use my powers to cleanse the world of every single person who sneers at me regarding the Cubs. Zap! You're gone. I hate you. I loathe you. I want to eviscerate you and dance in your entrails wearing stiletto heels. Oh, did I mention I think I've lost my sanity?

2. People have every right to boo [insert word of choice here] playing. Soriano? SUCKED. ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-SIX MILLION DOLLARS for routinely questionable defense and O FOR FOUR LAST NIGHT! Swingandamiss! I'm having flashbacks of last year. If you're getting paid $136 million that means you are getting paid to PERFORM. Can't handle it? RETURN YOUR PAYCHECK AND GO AWAY.  Just the other day, the Chicago media outlets were talking about how our "Big Three" needed to perform UNLIKE LAST YEAR against AZ. That would be: Soriano, Aramis and Lee. We had like what? A (singular) double from Ramirez? Nobody wound up crossing the plate after DeRosa's homer. (DeRosa's about the only sliver of hope I'm clinging to at this point, too.)

3. "Fans". And this is where I want to rip people's throats out. Who gets to go to the playoff games, let me ask you. Season ticket holders, fine, and then the lucky few who win the ticket lottery, fine.  But who else? That's right - MLB officials, aldermen,  corporate schmucks and then the [insert word of choice here] who can spend a couple  grand on Stubhub from the other [insert word of choice here] who SOLD OUT and sold their tickets to the highest bidder. It's like that Miller Lite commercial about section "la de dah". And then they just sit there like bumps on a log. SO NO, us fans with normal paying jobs can't even DREAM of buying playoff tickets. We don't even get to go in the park. All we get is to sit at home or in a bar, and cry our eyes out. *And now that I'm hearing more about Kaplan - ok, fine, I see his point. I dare say he is right about it being a "corporate" crowd last night. At least he's not lumping us average joe and josephines in with that.

One game? Whatever. it's more than that. We all know how psychological this game and this club, especially, is. We're the best club in the NL. I believe that. But it doesn't mean a  thing if people get stage fright and choke. If the fans could will this team to victory, they would already be WS winners many times over. At the end of the day, it is the team that has to perform. I cannot take another year like last year. I physically can't. I'm already a raging crying mess after game one. It's not like I'm going to switch allegiances either and be a fan of some other team either. I can't. It's this one or nothing.

Listen, my point is that this club makes even the most stoic person feel like jumping in front of the metra they just rode home to the suburbs on. I don't blame the players of the present for the failures of the past. As a fan, however, you and I carry all that baggage. And just like another dude posted - when all the evidence in the Cubs' past points directly to FAILURE with big blinking lights, it's damn hard not to wail and start pulling your hair at this. We have been conditioned for this behavior. And until a team comes along and breaks free and establishes a new "normal", we have no empirical evidence to believe otherwise.

 

Edited to revise Kaplan.

 

NLDS Game One Blogcast

 

5:31PM Central Time - Welcome to the first entry of tonight's blogcast!  They just started the feed of the broadcast, consisting of Tony Gwynn, Ron Darling, and whichever schmuck that other guy is.  It took That Other Guy literally less than 10 seconds to remind us that the Cubs haven't won a World Series in 100 years.  I'll try to keep a tally of how often they bring it up tonight.  The next update will likely be after the top half of the 1st inning.

By the way - is it just me, or is Ryan Dempster living up to his Canadian heritage and growing a playoffs beard?

5:36PM Central - I lied.  "The Cubs won 5 of 7 games against the Dodgers and swept them in Chicago, but that was before Ramirez joined LA.  The Dodgers have a totally different lineup with Ramirez in there."  Uh, no brainiac.  The Dodgers have the same lineup, but with Manny Ramirez.  It's not totally different.

5:44PM Central - Dempster strikes out Furcal, walks Martin on a close pitch that could have been a third strike, and then induces the dangerous Manny Ramirez to ground into an inning-ending double play.  Goat Friend and KXNO broadcaster Jon Miller has noted all year long that Dempster is comfortable giving up the occasional walk due in part to his confidence in his stuff.

5:53PM Central - No thrills for the Cubs in this first inning.  So much for my dream of Chicago busting it wide open right away.  When C. saw Joe Torre, she said "I think that guy's in the mafia!"  She said this even before she knew that he used to manage the Yankees for more than a decade.

5:57PM Central - Annoying Guy notes that the Cubs and Dodgers have played each other 2,024 times and are tied in the standings ... as if it matters in this series.

Dempster allows a leadoff walk.  Stomach, a ball of nerves.

6:04PM Central - After allowing a leadoff walk, Dempster forces three pop flies to get out of the inning, no fuss no muss.  Is it just me, or are Cub fans quiet and tentative tonight?  I think that once the Cubs get their first lead of the series, Wrigley will get noisy.

6:10PM Central - DeRo is my hero!  I've been saying all along that the Cubs would have good odds of winning if DeRosa could continue to produce.  There are obviously still games to be played, but that's a great start.

Cubs 2, Dodgers 0.

Oh, and Lowe is now complaining about the umpire's strike zone.  Ahhh yes.  This is good.

6:14PM Central - With the 2nd inning over, the Cubs now have a 2 run lead.  After Dempster got on, I thought for a second that Soriano was going to bury Lowe.  I was sadly wrong.

End of 2nd inning, Cubs 2, Dodgers 0.

6:20PM Central - Bad tidings.  My "right way" method of play tells me that walking the pitcher is a big no-no.

6:22PM Central - After walking Lowe, and building an 0-2 count to Furcal, Dempster lost him on 4 balls.  Dempster needs a double play here, or risk facing Manny with... uh, many runners on.  Larry comes out to give him words of encouragement, mostly consisting of "WTF?!"

6:26PM  Central - Deep fly ball for out #2.  With 2 outs and Manny up, even with Dempster's control issues, I throw Manny nothing he can hit.  Never let their best hitter beat you.

6:31PM Central - Manny gets an infield hit to load the bases for Ethier.  With a 1-1 count, he hits a slow, scary foul ball that's mere feet away from equalizing the game.  Dempster with a full count, 31 pitches thrown already.  I have to think he's going to be good for 110-115, but he might be done after 5 the way he's going.  And a strike out!  Phew!  Poor Cub fans, this has got to be killing people!

If that just happened to the Cubs, my argument would be that they were now destined to lose.  Wasting a bases loaded opportunity with a pitcher who's struggling to throw strikes rarely results in wins.  Because the Cubs escaped the situation, I'm taking the "this is a scary game" approach and am worried that Dempster is a few bad pitches away from getting rocked.

End of the Top of the 3rd - Cubs 2, Dodgers 0

6:39PM Central - After Derrek Lee got on with only one out, his bad luck with the double play continues as Aramis grounds into one to end the inning.  I missed Fukudome's first out of the inning, as I went upstairs to take some calcium as I am battling leg and shoulder cramps tonight, oddly enough.

End of the 3rd - Cubs 2, Dodgers 0; heart attack victims so far: 12

After a Soriano Hop gets the first out, the second comes with ease before Dempster surrenders a bloop hit.  Still, this is a less stressful inning, as it ends with a harmless line-out.

End of the Top of the 4th - Cubs 2, Dodgers 0 - time to get some runs!

Geo Soto started the inning with a sharply hit lineout.  He's going to start getting hits soon enough.  Lowe then proceeds to strike out Edmonds, resulting in a DeRosa single without runners on. Apparently, Lowe is concerned that the guy with a bum leg will run on him, based on the throws to first.  No matter, Theriot singles as well, giving Dempster a rare opportunity to put the game out of reach with a 3 run homer.  C. says "bunting is stupid.  It should be disbanded."  I say, "It's not an organization, they can't disband it."  Alas, Dempster strikes out.

End of the 4th - Cubs 2, Dodgers 0

7:02PM Central - Dear Ryan Dempster, seriously, this walks crap has got to stop.  I know, it's the playoffs, and you're not used to being there, but c'mon!  You're killing me!  P.S. You can make it up to me by forcing Russell Martin into a double play.

P.P.S. 3-0.  STOP IT!  Bad Dempster!

7:05PM Central - Fine, we'll take a fly out.  C. again: "Doesn't he (Ramirez) realize he looks stupid with all that crap on his hat?"

As we gape at the crazy lady with the Cubs Santa hat (...I've got one), Dempster brings it to a full count.  The know-nothing broadcasters think that Dempster's problems are that he's been too excited, but they might have a point.  I may be wrong about Clownsevelt being just idiot enough to do well.  And he walks Ramirez, but I'm ok with that.  As I've said a million times - never let their best hitter beat you.  Ron Darling with the random line about how, if you work real hard, it just might pay off in October.  ...okaaaaay.

Dempster walks the bases loaded and Larry comes out to have words with the Wild One.  Dempster is now over 100 pitches, it doesn't look like he'll get past the 6th if he even gets out of the 5th.  Not cool.

7:14 - Grand Slam by Loney.  See you later, Ryan Dempster.

Not that I need to say this, but you can't give a team so many chances as Dempster's given the Dodgers.  I really thought he had the right mentality to be a game one starter ... here's to hoping that his next outing is a better one, but he's got to be feeling down about himself.

Marshall comes out to get the Cubs out of the inning.  Anybody else think Dempster should shave the beard?

7:20PM Central - Big breaking strikeout by Marshall to end that brutal 5th inning. Just one thing to keep you guys up, if you're up at all - the Cubs have a pretty good offense, too.

End of the Top of the 5th - Dodgers 4, Cubs 2

After a Soriano strikeout (to the boos of many), Fooky rocketed a ball off the shin of Casey Blake, giving D.Lee a chance to ground into a double play.  Which he promptly does.  Figures.

End of the 5th - Dodgers 4, Cubs 2

7:32 Central - So, here's the good news.  Marshall is an underrated reliever and despite the pecimism and negativity that is running rampant in Cub fans everywhere, this team is fully capable of coming from behind and winning.

Here's the bad news - if the Cubs don't grab a lead shortly, Lou is going to turn to Cotts and Howry and save Marmol and Samardzija for another night.

7:38 Central - After getting an out and then walking Lowe, Marshall buckled down and escaped.  Like I said, underrated.

Marquis - not Cotts nor Howry, but not any better, either - is warming up in the pen.  Lou is obviously saving his horses for another day, so if the Cubs want to optimize their chances of coming back, winning, and cementing their destiny, they're going to need to take it to Lowe this inning.

End fo the Top of the 6th - Dodgers 4, Cubs 2 - Lowe is at 80 pitches.  Considering how dangerous the Dodger pen is, they need to work him.

7:47PM Central - Minor problem.  The Cubs are taking the fastballs and swinging at the breaking pitches.  I'd like to see them be a little more aggressive but they need to stop sitting on the right pitches.

DeRo flies out to end the inning with A-Ram on third.  Time is running out, kids.  Marquis to the ... rescue?

End of the 6th - Dodgers 4, Cubs 2

7:54PM Central - Apparently Manny was really determined to hit a homerun.  Can't really blame Marshall for that one, it wasn't exactly a juicy pitch.

Dodgers 5, Cubs 2

7:58PM Central - Idiot Broadcaster Man says Marshall made a "mistake" to Ramirez, although I would argue that a breaking pitch hit at the batter's ankles doesn't really qualify.  Apart from the low-blow homer, Marshall had a good inning.  The Cubs are now 6 outs away from losing Game 1.

I realize nobody is really thinking of it like this, but let's look at this clinically: if the Cubs were going to lose this game because of the Grand Slam, then a Manny Ramirez homerun is essentially pointless.  Might as well let him hit it when it doesn't matter so much, right?

End of the Top of the 7th - Dodgers 5, Cubs 2, Drunken, Dejected Cub Fans: 455,093

8 Central - Idiot Announcer Man keeps talking about how quiet the ballpark is tonight, contrasting it with last night's celebration when the White Sox clinched.  The thing is, I don't think he's actually clever enough to be implying that the Sox are the better fans - I think he thinks that the city shares the teams equally.  He also just mentioned the 100 year drought again.

Sori, Fukki, and before them Theriot all fail to deliver.  Fontenot is left a sad participant on the basebaths.  Now, before people start jumping down the throat of the Fonz, I will remind you that he hit what would've been a World Series winning homer had the D-Backs not worked some magic a while back against Rivera.  His bat will come around.

End of the 7th - Dodgers 5, Cubs 2.  6 Outs to Go

8:14PM Central - Leadoff triple against the rookie Samardzija.  Idiot Announcer Guy, with the count 2-2, "Samardzija is struggling right now."  ...No, he's trying to keep the ball away from the batter.

Run scores.

Dodgers 6, Cubs 2.  Let them tack it on tonight.  Get 'em tomorrow.

8:19PM Central - Samardoenelokdana forces a double play and a deep, deeeeep pop out to end the inning. This game can't end fast enough for me.

Dodgers 6, Cubs 2.

8:23PM Central - It would be very unCub-like for somebody to hit a granny this inning.  I'm just pointing that out.

8:31PM Central - So, Derrek Lee hit what would've been another double play ball, had somebody been on base.  Aramis smacked a deep out to right field, and Geo Soto continued to go 0-for-the-game, but only because he drew a walk.  Jim Edmonds almost had a heroic moment, but was foiled by a foot of foul territory in left and the incoming wind in center.  If he didn't get so much air on it, that ball probably would have left the park.

I can really see how easy it would be to feel negatively right now.  I mean, cripes, this is exactly what we didn't want to happen.  In a series where momentum is essential, the Cubs have lost theirs tonight.  I'll save the commentary for the post-game, though.

End of the 8th inning, Dodgers 6, Cubs 2.

8:35PM Central - Big homer by Russ Martin.  Hey, I'll use the same mindset I would've used had this been the Cubs ripping apart the Dodgers - it always seems that when a team scores a ton of runs one night, they have trouble scoring anything the next night.  So, I say again: Dodgers, run it up.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 2

8:41PM Central - Marquis in mop-up surrenders a run and then escapes the inning.  Torre is now turning to ... Greg Maddux?

I take it back.  Go get 'em, Cubs.  Club the Mad Dog.

End of the Top of the 9th - Dodgers 7, Cubs 2

After DeRosa grounded out to start the 9th inning, Theriot hustled his way to first in a close call.  Had Greg actually managed to step on first, Theriot would probably have been out. Ward then grounded out to first, and with 2 outs the Fonz stepped up against The Old Man and popped out ... to first.  Seriously, I think Greg was toying with them.

Game over, a post game recap will come.

Dodgers 7, Cubs 2

Magic Number 11

(Before I begin, let me offer my sincere yet grudging congratulations to the White Sox.  I didn't think you had it in you, and you did.  Congratulations.  I didn't think you could hold off the Pirahnas, and you did.  I didn't think you could sell out your park in one day, and I didn't think you could pull off the "BlackOut", and you did.  The BlackOut was pretty damn impressive to see, as was the John Danks pitching performance and the 34th tater this year for Human Battleship Jim Thome.  You are the 2008 Central Division Champions, as we are.  Congratulations.  Now go to Tampa and die like dogs.)

Break Effen Curse billboard

Hello, Cubs fans and other interested parties.  A special greeting to all of you brought here from Dodgerland, thanks to the LA Times.  Welcome to Goatrider Central, the "sickest Cubs blog out there" according to Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune beatwriter for the Cubs.  Whether this is your first visit to our humble abode or your 14,000th, you realize that we aren't overly talented or creative, nor are we graced with deep inside access to the inner workings of the Cubs.  Jason swilled wine one night with Ernie Banks, and that pretty much covers the extent of our influence.

One thing I always thought we did have a surplus of, though, was the depth of our feeling for the Chicago National League Ball Club.  I thought we CARED more than most, and I still think that, as a matter of fact.  However, as I sit here today in an office, a timeclock buzzing somewhere on my behalf, there are countless thousands today, as we speak, at 8 in the freakin' 8AM, currently getting 'ready' for tonight's 5:30 first pitch.  Murphy's, Sports Corner, Cubby Bear, Yakzies, Casey Moran's, they're all open, right now, serving it up.  Kegs and Eggs.  And tonight, while I sit down to watch the game in my wife's foofy "living room" with the quilt racks and the candles (because the Basement of Love is still a shambles), over 40,000 of you will actually BE THERE, jacketed, coated, and ski capped!  40,000 more of you will then show up tomorrow, when it will be latered, coldered, and more jacketed.

Now, it would be very easy for me to sit here today and say "I can't go.  It just wasn't possible".  That's crap.  I know that simply isn't true.  I could have gotten off early today, or called in sick entirely.  My job would still be here tomorrow, all recessions aside.  It WAS possible for me to miss work today.  No, I didn't win the "lottery", but fortunately, I have the wherewithall to have scraped up the $500 or so it would have cost me to get a seat tonight.  I could have a ticket if I really wanted it.  I could have gotten there.  There are several options I could have employed to get my actual body from Central Illinois, where I currently sit, to BWF, where it is all happening at 5:30. 

I went to Game 3 last year (for face value, thanx yet again to Kurt).  It was absolutely one of the things on my "Bucket List", to attend a Cubs game in the post-season.  In many ways, it didn't go well, but in many more other ways, it was an incredible experience I will never forget.  The thing I remember most was that I felt it validated my status as a Cubs fan.  The Cubs only played one playoff game last year at home.  There is only one Wrigley Field Bleachers, and the people sitting in the Bleachers for the One playoff game last year where the Fans of All Fans, as far as I was concerned.  And I was right there, 8th row, literally next to the hitting backdrop shrubs. 

Depending on who you are, what station of life you are in, you grant yourself the title of World's Biggest Cubs Fan.  If you are 85 years old, living on a fixed income, and can only afford one big extravagance a year, and you choose a trip to Wrigley?  Or if you are 23, and have structured your entire life around Cubs games, by renting a Wrigleyville apartment with four other guys, working a off-shift job so you have afternoons and weekends free, and going to as many games as humanly possible?  How about the people who travel to the away games, who plan their vacations each year to coincide with Cubs road trips?  Alternatively, you could be someone like Kurt, who lives in a whole other COUNTRY, for God's sake, and comes to Chicago just to see the Cubs? Or you can be just a normal guy, with a family, a job and a mortgage, that doesn't live convenient to the park.  But you grew up a Cubs fan, you live and die by the scores of the games, and you still consider yourself the Biggest Cubs Fan in the world, even though going to games isn't the top priority in your mind?

Without giving away any secrets, the last guy is me, of course.  Do I have the RIGHT to think of myself this way?  I'm watching all the games, sure.  I won't miss a minute.  But I'm not going tonight, I'm not going tomorrow, I'm not flying to LA for games there, and barring some sort of miracle meeting with the Ticket Fairy, I won't be going to any Game Fives (if necessary) or NLCS (if necessary).  And so many of you are going.  My theory always has been: if you have the means to go, if you have the money, the time, and the ability to be there, then a true fan should go.  By definition, that makes Those Who Go bigger fans than Those Who Don't, right?   

Yes, it does.

Honestly, it would cause strain in my marriage if I took what I needed out of the bank to go to the playoff games.  It would drain my savings if I were to go to all the NLDS and NLCS games, but I COULD go.  It would probably require a loan of some sort for me to attend the World Series, but I COULD get a loan.  I would end up sleeping over at one of your houses for awhile, because I would NOT be welcomed home.  (Before you suggest, "just take her with you", hey, I'd love to.  She even fancies herself a Cubs fan.  But she is a bigger fan of our savings account, and she would not go to a game that she didn't think we could afford, so I would have to go myself, at my own risk).  But out of the 80,000 attending the first two nights, there has to be several people risking something like that in order to be there, right?  That would make them bigger fans than I am, I guess.

You know, I understand that the emphasis today is on the Cubs themselves, their ability to get past the Dodgers, then the NLCS and the World Series.  I haven't lost track of that, regardless of what the last five paragraphs say.  If you came here wanting to know how we are going to do tonight, hey, Colin is going to run some numbers, Kurt took his shot at previewing the series, Andy over at Desipio gave his unbiased look at the series, and The Trib and The Bright One and the LA Times all have matrices and charts and in depth interviews of all the participants.  I ain't gonna tell you who's gonna win.  By all accounts, the Cubs should win this.  They have home-field advantage because they have the best record because they have the best rotation and the best situational hitting in the entire league.

But I believe in Curses.  I believe in karma, in the supernatural, and the will of a supreme being.  We have been better than the other guy before, and it didn't work out.  I don't think a black cat or a Gatorade-soaked glove or a mope listening to his Walkman lost for us...because these were all just symptoms, just manifestations of the larger cause.  SOMETHING up there is working against us.  It's a trend, and while trends CAN be broken, they shouldn't be ignored, either. 

I know we aren't going to win 11 more games this year unless we can somehow lift this veil.  How?  I wish I knew.  You don't think I, the attention whore than I am, would step up and present the Magic Cure to Ernie Banks and Dutchie Caray and Grant DePorter and Ron Santo and Paul Sullivan and everyone else who would be interested if I knew how to Reverse the Curse?  Who knows why it is how it is?  Was it mistreatment of a man and his goat?  Was it a flaunting of the rules (the Merkle Boner play) in 1908 by Johnny Evers, the AJ Eyechart of his era?  It is thought that Cubs players were throwing games long before the Black Sox did their deed - could THAT be it?   You can blame Wrigley mismanagement all you want, but the Wrigley era passed nearly 30 years ago, definitely long enough to right the ship, if that was the cause.  So even though we should win, I can't employ normal regular logic to make my case, because I honestly feel all logic is thrown out when discuss our post-season hopes.

Maybe this is why I don't test my marriage to attend October baseball games. I guess I still feel like it isn't merely enough for the Cubs to beat the Dodgers; that they are still fighting a far stronger opponent, a beast that rarely loses.  I admit to you all today, it has cut into my resolve.  I admit to you all, there are fans out there, many thousands of you, with more faith than I have, for whatever reason.  Maybe you've thought it out further than I have; maybe, on the other hand, you haven't thought it out very far, just as far as you're comfortable with.  All I can promise you is, that I use all the faith I have. 

That means that, for the first time in my life, I must admit that  I am not the biggest Cubs fan.  I am the biggest Cubs fan I can possibly be.  Right now, today, 11 games to the Championship, I am absolutely feeling like that ain't enough.  I can give my best, and my best ain't feeling like enough today.

I hope yours can help make up for mine.  Help out a brotha.  Magic Number 11!

 

Open Thread - playoff predictions

I'm going to be out this morning, so this will probably the the only post from me until I work on some more series preview stuff later today.

Now that the White Sox have fallen into the playoffs, we have all the matchups set up.  I invite you guys to share your thoughts on what you think will happen, at least for the first round.  If you want to take the next step and predict the Championship Series as well, you are welcome.

ALDS White Sox vs. Rays - Chicago has played hard to get in and exhaustion may be a factor here.  Tampa has never before reached the post season and has a number of young players.

After having watched Florida and later Arizona topple the Cubs, I've developed a theory that young teams that make the playoffs do better, if only because they're simply happy to be there and are more likely to play loose the entire time.  It won't matter to Tampa if they're down 2 games to 1 or even 2 games to 0, they're going to play hard and have fun out there.  Therefore, I predict it will be the Rays in 4.

ALDS Red Sox vs. Angels - I've recognized the scariness of the Angels since early in the season.  However, they are possibly the weakest team to win 100 in ages, as their division didn't exactly deliver unto them a ton of competition.  The Red Sox are well-assembled and have a deep squad.  I think they'll win this series, but if the Angels manage to take it, I think that LAofA will be the team to beat for the Series.  Red Sox in 5.

NLDS Philles vs. Brewers - Like the White Sox, Milwaukee will have to contend with exhaustion at this point.  On top of that, they really have only one dangerous pitcher right now, and he`s been throwing complete games on short rest for the last two or three weeks of the season.  The Phillies had a stiff competition of their own, but at this point they have the better pitching - and that's what wins playoff games, folks.  Pitching and defense.  Phillies in 4.

NLDS Cubs vs. Dodgers - I'm starting to think that the Dodgers might be the best 84 win team to ever reach the playoffs.  They don't really have a single hole offensively, although I'd characterize their team as having a lot of #2 hitters and one #3 hitter.  They also have fantastic pitching, particularly in the bullpen.  The Cubs, however, have the best starting pitching of any team in the playoffs and they have more than one game-changer in their offense.  Cubs in 4.

I'm not going to predict the CS or WS at this point, but again, feel free to do so if you want.  I'm sure one of the Riders will have more for you later today, even if I don't.

Projecting the first round pitchers, part I

We're running the coal burners on the Magical Stats Machine at full steam right now to try and bring you as much information as humanly possible about the upcoming playoff extravaganza. So, in that spirit, updated pitching projections, hot off the press, expressed in convenient ERA form:

  • Ryan Dempster: 3.74 ERA
  • Derrek Lowe: 3.59 ERA

I may end up punting on the questions of bullpens and just use the team splits out of the pens for the time being. One note: none of these figures are park adjusted so far, so the Cubs' advantage in hitting and the Dodgers' advantage in pitching could shrink (or even go away entirely) once I've worked out the park adjustments.

More later.

Playoff roster set

Felix Pie gets the last spot, edging out everybody's favorite 28-year-old rookie, Micah Hoffpauir. With DeRosa's injury the Cubs want someone who can come into right field late in games and play defense (because that's always a concern when your second baseman gets injured) and Pie has the arm to play right. The Cubs tried out Hoffpauir in right field during the regular season, but he never really seemed suited to playing the outfield.

The starting lineup is still in flux, but Fukudome worked out with the regulars during the first BP session. Mike Fontenot may still get the nod at second base.

A look at lineups, take one

This is a rough pass at comparing the relative strength of each team's lineup. I'll be working on revising this probably up until we start Game 1 of the series, if not beyond that.

Rather than simply looking at what each player has done so far this year, we're interested in predicting how well each player will hit in the future. Brian Cartwright, a fellow writer for Statistically Speaking, was gracious enough to share his projections with me. It's a simply fantastic system, and I am very indebted to Brian for his help.

Next step is to guesstimate lineups. That situation is still up in the air, and Goat Friend Bruce Miles says that DeRosa is testing his legs right now. So I took a stab at it as well (everybody else has, right?)

Cubs

Soriano
Theriot
Lee
Ramirez
Edmonds
Soto
DeRosa
Fukudome
Pitcher

Dodgers

Furcal
Martin
Ramirez
Ethier
Loney
Kemp
Blake
Dewitt
Pitcher

Right now the lineup order is just being used to figure out how to distribute PAs. I also went ahead and changed number of PAs by team based upon team OBP, weighted by lineup order spot. I also used different numbers for each team's pitching, using the team split of BB-Ref for each team's #9 hitter (so it includes a healthy dose of pinch hitting).

To estimate runs, I used Extrapolated Runs. It's a decent linear weights estimator, and it's dirt simple to implement. Hopefully I'll make some refinements to this later on tonight. But for right now, I get 5.50 RPG for the Cubs and 5.29 RPG for the Dodgers. Manny Ramirez has revitalized that lineup, compared to the Juan Pierre/Andruw Jones level of production they got most of the season. But the Cubs are no slouches in the hitting department, and are more balanced top to bottom, I would say.

More later.

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.

The Bullpen:

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.

Bench:

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.

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