Chicago Cubs (97-65) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (84-78)
This matchup is just not all that appealing to me. I dislike the Dodgers, and more importantly Manny Ramirez (I'll touch on that in another post later on). Joe Torre is a great manager and I never really minded him when he was managing the Yankees, but there's just something about the Dodgers that irks me. Not to mention the fact that the Dodgers haven't exactly been the model of consistency all year. The Cubs on the other hand have been consistent all year, and it shows (97 wins, best team in the NL). They've done it with great pitching and a great offense as well, and I must say, have a legitimate shot at winning their first world series in 100 years!
Anyways, here's the breakdown of the series.
The Cubs offense is the best in the National League. They scored 855 runs witha balanced attack of home runs and small ball. They are first in every major offensive category (OBP, SLG, OPS) and are second in batting average (.278). They are 5th in the league in home runs with 184 and 8th in steals with 87.
Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, and Rookie of the Year candidate Giovaney Soto lead the way in home runs and RBI's, and Derrek Lee and Mark DeRosa have put together some pretty solid seasons as well. Ryan Theriot has been productive from the 2nd slot batting .307 and posting an OBP of .383. He also has stolen 22 bases, although he has been caught 13 times, for a pretty awful ratio.
There's not much to really say about strategy here. Get on base and let the runs come. This offense is too good to be shut down multiple times.
So who would have thoguht that Ryan Dempster would be the Cubs best starter raise your hands! No one? That's what I thought. Last years ago Ryan Dempster was the closer of the Cubs, and was doing a pretty good job at it, then at the start of the year, Lou Pinella decides to make him a starter, and he flourishes. He leads the team in wins, ERA, and strikeouts. Color me impressed. Following Dempster is Carlos Zambrano. We all know Zambrano, he's fuckin crazy, but he's also really good. He pitched a no-hitter this year as well. At the moment, Dempster and Zambrano are about as god as you can get with a 1-2 punch. Add Rich Harden and Ted Lilly into the mix as your number 3 starter, and I just dont see anyone being able to beat the Cubs in a 5-game series, maybe not even a 7.
As for the bullpen, Kerry Wood has returned from multiple injuries, and solidified the closer role. Along with rookie Jeff Samardzija and Michael Wuertz, the Cubs look to be a force to be reckoned with, and by far the best team in the NL this year.
Oh Manny, oh Manny, oh Manny. Those is basically the only words that need to be mentioned when talking about the Dodgers offense. Since the July 31st trade for Ramirez, the Dodgers have gone from a sub .500 team, to winning the NL West. Ramirez has been an absolute beast in that time, batting .396/17/53 in 53 games. If that's not production, I don't know what is. Ramirez solidified a lineup that underproduced vastly, largely in part because of Andruw Jones, who in 75 games put up this awful numbers (.158/3/14). Man what happened to the guy who hit 92 HR's and drove in 257 runs between '05-'06? Aside from Jones the lineup featured the ghost of Nomar Garciappara, Jeff Kent, Juan Pierre...yeah you're starting to get my picture. THe trade for Ramirez changed all that. Andre Either has played much better since Manny arrived and to a lesser extent the mid season trade for Casey Blake wasn't bad either. However, the Dodgers still rank in the bottom 5 spots in most offensive categories in the NL. Look for teams to try and work around Ramirez when possible, which will put pressure on the likes of Either, James Loney and Matt Kemp to bear a lot of the offensive load.
After a very nice season last year, Brad Penny has been awful this year (6-9. 6.7 ERA) due to injuries. However, if the Dodgers have anything it is pitching. Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24 ERA), Chad Billingsley (16-11, 3.14 ERA) and Japenses import Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 ERA) have all pitched well for the Dodgers, who lead the NL in most of the important pitching categories. I have to say I am happy for Lowe, as he was always one of my favorite players when he played for the Red Sox.
The Dodgers bullpen has been even better. Closers Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito have gotten the job done, and Joe Beimel, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Cory Wade have all been great.
Cubs in 5. The Cubs are a much better team, but the Dodgers will hang in there. Their pitching is good enough to keep games close, and if the younger kids on the Dodgers can make the Cubs pay for pitching around Ramirez, then the Cubs will be in for a long series.