Every four years, Major League Baseball's postseason intersects with a presidential election. This is one of those years. In the spirit of the season, we here at MLB FanHouse have divided the playoff teams up for a series of debates. Matt Snyder and Will Brinson discuss the NLDS between the Cubs and Dodgers.
We'll run through different aspects of each team -- starting rotation, bullpen, defense, starting lineup, bench, manager, and end with a prediction. We'll do it with numbers and snarky commentary (most of which was used by Brinson), and we'll get right to it after the jump.
Snyder -- One of the many reasons the Cubs are the better team than the Dodgers is the starting rotation. Top to bottom, it's the best in the NL and maybe even the majors. Unfortunately having a quality fifth starter doesn't mean much in the postseason, but look at the top four. Rich Harden posted a 1.77 ERA in 12 starts as a National Leaguer, which fits nicely with his 5-1 record and 89 punchouts in only 71 innings. Ryan Dempster would get two starts at home should this series extend to its limit. He's 14-3 at Wrigley this season. Carlos Zambrano has been fickle in September, but he'll definitely be ready to go for the playoffs, building off of last year's quality start -- he went six innings and struck out eight against the D'backs while only yielding five baserunners and one run. Ted Lilly is the fourth starter ... and a 17-game winner. He's been especially hot down the stretch, going 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his last four outings ... and he sported a 23/4 K/BB ratio as well.
The Dodgers can't even come close to that.
Brinson -- Wow. That's a cute line. Especially from a dude named Lilly. Too bad he's not Derek Lowe. As in "has won a World Series, pitched a no-hitter, has a 0.94 ERA over his last nine starts and shares a sweet ass last name with Nick and Rob. Yeah. That Derek Lowe.
There's also the matter of Chad Billingsley, who didn't close the season out strong at all, posting a 2.86 ERA over his last 91 innings while striking out 86 and walking only 30. Yeah, he's cold. Very cold. Clayton Kershaw is probably not "hot", but the guy put up a very respectable strikeout per inning during September and is the exact type of young player that tends to come alive during the postseason.
Much like Hiroki Kuroda, whose 2008 0.59 ERA against the Cubs shouldn't come in handy at all. They seem to have figured him out. And as for Greg Maddux. Well, let's just say that "splits" and "stats" can't quantify that he has more guile, postseason experience and wiliness than Rich Harden has in his soon-to-be strained oblique.
Snyder -- Wow is right. You made fun of a dude's name after he dismantled Yadier Molina at home plate two weeks ago. Name one other pitcher who has ever done that.
Anyway, why don't we talk about how the Cubs bullpen is going to blow away the Dodgers mix of old, inexperience, and crazy (Manny). First of all, Bob Howry isn't going to pitch at all, which really aids the Cubs' cause.
Next, since the arrival of Jeff Samardzija, the Cubs have sported the most insane trio of flame-throwers at the back end of the bully in baseball. Shark had a 2.28 ERA down the stretch in 27 2/3 innings, while striking out 25. Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol are dominant, and they both strike out more than 11 batters for every nine innings. Neal Cotts rounds out the short relief, and his 10.85 K/9 cannot be ignored.
For long relief, the Cubs have Sean Marshall and Jason Marquis, both of whom would be quality four or five starters for the majority of the NL.
Brinson -- Let's not try and act like anything Manny does is bad for LA. He and Joe are quirky and they changed the city! (This sentence sponsored by VISA.) Unfortunately, Hong-Chih Kuo, who has allowed 11 earned runs recently (Except by "recently", I mean "since June 1".) won't be available to pitch because of injury. Bonus: Scott Proctor hasn't allowed a single earned run in September, assuming you're willing to throw out his last appearance, which I am. Bigger Bonus: Takashi Saito is back, son. Biggest Bonus: Saito's not even closing because Jonathan Broxton, who has allowed almost as many earned runs (24) as he has walks (27) in 70 innings, is a friggin' monster. Add in the heinous-looking Joe Beimel, prospect James McDonald and one of those five starters and yeah, take that, Cubs paper matchup -- the Dodgers bullpen pwns you.Defense
Snyder -- You're right, Manny doesn't hurt the Dodgers at all defensively (please note: dripping sarcasm).
Speaking of which, the Cubs own an advantage there as well. While both defenses are overall average, the Cubs have the benefit of flexibility and late-inning replacements. Having Mike Fontenot, Ronny Cedeno, and Kosuke Fukudome to plug into the game while abusing the utility ability of Mark DeRosa puts the Cubs in excellent shape to handle anything. You also have a strong middle, with Geovany Soto calling a stellar game behind the plate and the diving duo of Reed Edmonds in CF.
... and I dare someone/ANYONE to run on Alfonso Soriano.
Brinson -- Well, the Cubs may have some overrated (Fuku) and weird names off the bench, but I don't think they're going to shatter the Dodgers on defense. Besides, when you look at the way the Dodgers lineup shakes out, it's actually designed to be a high powered offensive juggernaut, despite Ned Colletti's best attempts to FAIL it.
Manny/Kemp/Ethier -- are you sure that's not better than what the Cubs are offering in the outfield? Because I think it is.
Anyway, let's talk offense.
The Cubs don't have a low point through the order. They've batted Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot, and Geo Soto eighth at different times throughout the season ... among other better-than-average hitters. Using OPS+ as the barometer, the only Cubs starter -- assuming Fontenot plays 2B and DeRosa goes in RF -- who is below average is Ryan Theriot. Theriot, however, gets on base 39 percent of the time from the two-hole.
Oh, hell, let's just check the scoreboard ...
- Cubs first in NL in runs scored by 56.
- Cubs second in NL in hits.
- Cubs first in NL in doubles.
- Cubs fifth in NL in HR -- which shows they don't rely upon the long ball, should the wind be blowing in.
- Cubs first in NL in RBI.
- Cubs second in NL in batting average.
- Cubs first in NL in OBP.
- Cubs first in NL in SLG ... which means also first in OPS.
Brinson -- Those are all very true facts. Can't dispute 'em. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't, in fact, be very prudent. But, they are also numbers calculated over an entire season. An entire season, mind you, in which Manuel Aristides Ramírez Onelcida was not a part of the Los Angeles Dodgers organization.
In fact, I might argue that the real boys in blue are a more dangerous offensive team lately -- go ahead, look at the September splits, I'll wait -- then your precious Cubbies. And that's without Rafael Furcal and Jeff Kent.
Back yet? Yeah. You can have doubles.
Snyder -- Back? I never left. Nor will I ... I'm gonna tell you about the Cubs' bench now.
Whichever dude is not manning CF is a beast of a bench player. We know that. Henry Blanco is a quailty backup catcher (.292 average, stellar defense), Kosuke Fukudome has the potential to rake -- but he won't -- and provides speed and defense ... as does Ronnie Cedeno.
Finally, I'm guessing Lou Pinella takes Daryle Ward as his left-handed power bat ... even though Micah Hoffpauir can rake (139 OPS+ in bigs ... drove in 100 runs in 76 freaking games in triple-A).
Brinson -- Please. Two words: NO. MAH.Manager
Snyder -- LLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!
Brinson -- Well, yeah, Lou is great. And he's got as many titles as Joe Freaking Torre. Oh, and his commercials aren't as horrible either. Wait, nevermind. Still, the point is that the Dodgers are the sleeping giant in this year's playoffs -- they're one huge Clayton Kershaw start away from tossing the Lovable Losers back into Wrigleyville for a depression-filled bourbon bender.Prediction
Snyder -- Cubs in four.
Brinson -- Dodgers in five.