Playing the Field
Well there isn't much to do this week but speculate, so let's take a look at the potential Cubs first round playoff opponent. There's a poll at the end of the post.
New York Mets - 65% odds to make the playoffs
Scenario: If Mets win the Wild Card, they'll be the Cubs first round opponent.
|Team Defensive Efficiency||.704||3rd|
What They're Good At: Throwing Johan Santana, scoring runs and making plays in the field.
What They're Bad At: Relieving.
Why The Cubs Don't Want to Play Them: If the Mets clinch before Sunday, that means Johan Santana in Game 1 and he's been aces since the break (2.34 ERA). While certainly below the level of the Cubs starting pitchers, Oliver Perez, Pedro Martinez, Mike Pelfrey and possibly John Maine all have the potential to scrounge up an excellent outing. Although they've performed as a unit better against lefties than righties, they do load up on lefties against the Cubs mostly righty staff and the quartet of Reyes, Wright, Beltran and Delgado is quite formidable.
Los Angeles Dodgers - 91.51% odds to make the playoffs
Scenario: If Brewers win the Wild Card, Cubs will play the division winner with the worst record.
|Team Defensive Efficiency||.699||8th|
What They're Good At: Pitching, getting injured and penciling in Manny Ramirez
What They're Bad At: hitting, especially with any power
Why The Cubs Don't Want to Play Them: They say pitching wins in the playoffs and that is about the only thing the Dodgers do well, other than praying that Manny Ramirez will score some runs for them. But their hot streak came mostly against the likes of San Diego, Pittsburgh, Colorado and sweeping Arizona. A matter of fact, they just loss two of three at home to the Giants and feature a middle infield of Angel Berroa and Blake DeWitt. They're starters of Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and either Greg Maddux or Clayton Kershaw have been quite good, but they're going to have to be great.
I guess that was more of a why the Cubs Do Want to Play Them.
Philadelphia Phillies - 99.63% odds to make the playoffs
Scenario: If Phillies blow the division but hold on to the Wild Card.
|Team Defensive Efficiency||.704||4rd|
What They're Good At: Hitting home runs, relieving, making plays in the field.
What They're Bad At: Striking out hitters, middle of order is very strikeout prone
Why The Cubs Don't Want to Play Them: Cole Hamels has owned the Cubs twice this year and Brett Myers has a 2.62 ERA since coming back from his demotion and Jamie Moyer continues to defy the laws of science and aging. Nearly as good a 1-8 as the Cubs and a formidable quartet of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell. The bullpen has been lights out for most of the season despite a small misstep the last time they faced the Cubs.
Arizona Diamondbacks - 8.48% odds to make the playoffs
Scenario: If Brewers win Wild Card and Diamondbacks overtake Dodgers for NL West crown.
|Team Defensive Efficiency||.696||12th|
What They're Good At: Starting pitching, striking out hitters, having Cub-killer Adam Dunn in the lineup, beating us last year in the NLDS
What They're Bad At: Hitting, making plays in the field
Why The Cubs Don't Want to Play Them: The trio of Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Randy Johnson could be a bit intimidating and the bullpen is "good enough". Ted Lilly might throw a fastball to Chris Young as well.
And for comparision's sake, a look at the Cubs statistical dominance. It's a shame they just don't play these on paper.
|Team Defensive Efficiency||.713||1st|
What They're Good At: Just about everything.
What They're Bad At: the 7th inning
Why No One Wants to Play the Cubs: Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and even Ted Lilly can shut down any lineup. If you don't have a lead going into the 8th inning, you won't have one to end the game. If you are leading late in the game, there's a good chance the Cubs will be leading to the end the game. The entire lineup doesn't consist of one easy out...not even the pitcher in some cases.
I don't think it matters much who the Cubs end up playing at what point. I think the Phillies are probably the best team besides the Cubs right now and fully expect the Cubs to see them in the NLCS. If I had a choice, I'd take the Dodgers as the first round opponent, the chances of Furcal and/or Kent being ready seems pretty slim and the Cubs can just workaround Manny Ramirez. If the Brewers somehow right the ship this week and get Sheets and/or Yovani Gallardo available and healthy in the playoffs, they're about the only other team that could put a scare into the Cubs.