2008 NLDS Preview: Cubs Scoring vs. Dodgers Run Prevention
I'm a little under the weather, so bear with me and this rather bare bones preview...all the substance, none of the fluff.
I never understood the positional breakdowns that many folks do for a series or playoff preview. I understand a team is only as good as the sum of its parts, but Derrek Lee will never have to battle against James Loney at any point in the series. It's more about how one team's pitching and defense will fare against the other team's lineup.
Cubs Offense vs. Dodgers Pitching and Defense
Cubs Hitting: .278/.354/.443 .797 OPS(1st in all those except BA, which they were 2nd), 87 SB's at a 72% success rate (8th in NL)
Dodgers Pitching: .251/.315/.376 .691 OPS, 3.68 ERA (1st in all those except BA, which they were 2nd)
Cubs Hitting vs. Right Handers: .274/.350/.443 .793 OPS
Dodgers Pitching vs. Right Handers: .239/.300/.361 .661 OPS
Dodgers Pitching vs. Left Handers: .268/.334/.396 .730 OPS
Cubs are 64-48 when a right-handed pitchers starts the game.
Dodgers Defense: .693 DER (9th in NL), .825 RZR (12th in the NL)
All Cubs vs. Derek Lowe (link) : 202 AB's vs current Cubs with an aggregate line of: .243/.282/.366 .648 OPS, 1-0 with 27 IP and a 2.67 ERA at Wrigley Field.
Best Cub Hiiter: Derrek Lee has a .969 OPS against him in 28 AB's
Worst Cub Hitter: Jim Edmonds has a .474 OPS in 30 AB's.
Trend: 6-1 in his last 10 starts with a 1.27 ERA
All Cubs vs. Chad Billingsley (link)
: 63 AB's vs current Cubs with an aggregate line of: .222/.300/.381
Best Cub Hiiter: Mark DeRosa has a 1.167OPS against him in 6 AB's
Worst Cub Hitter: Jim Edmonds has a .311 OPS in 11 AB's.
Trend: 5-1 in his last 10 starts with a 3.45 ERA
All Cubs vs. Hiroki Kuroda (link)
: 51 AB's vs current Cubs with an aggregate line of: .216/.259/.235
.495 OPS, Threw complete game shutout against Cubs in Dodger Stadium earlier this year
Best Cub Hiiter: Alfonso Soriano has a .929 OPS against him in 7 AB's
Worst Cub Hitter: A few Cubs went 0 fer in his 2 starts from this year...
Trend: 3-2 in his last 10 starts with a 2.57 ERA
All Cubs vs. Greg Maddux (link)
: 233 AB's vs current Cubs with an aggregate line of: .236/.258/.339
Best Cub Hiiter: Aramis Ramirez has a .804 OPS against him in 21 AB's
Worst Cub Hitter: Derrek Lee has a .622 OPS in 59 AB's.
Trend: 2-4 in 7 starts as a Dodger with a 5.09 ERA
Dodgers Bullpen: 3.33 ERA as relievers lead the NL. 4.68 WPA was 3rd in the NL behind Phillies and Astros.
September Stats for Cubs Hitters (link):
Aramis Ramirez: .956 OPS, 3 HR's, 8 2B's
Jim Edmonds .929 OPS, 4 HR
Micah Hoffpauir .918 OPS
Mike Fontenot .910 OPS
Alfonso Soriano .847 OPS, 6 HR, 13 BB's
Derrek Lee .785 OPS, 25 K's, 8 2B's
Geovany Soto .778 OPS
Mark DeRosa .747 OPS
Daryle Ward .689 OPS
Ryan Theriot .676 OPS, 10 BB's
Henry Blanco .667 OPS
Ronny Cedeno .630 OPS
Reed Johnson .592 OPS
Kosuke Fukudome .577 OPS
- Can the Dodgers defense make the plays?
- Can the Cubs offense stay out of the double play?
- Can the Cubs offense provide a lead before getting into a tough Dodgers bullpen?
- When will a possible Game 4 be played (Dodger Stadium becomes a lot more hitter friendly during the day)?
Thoughts: The Dodgers do have good pitching, that is undeniable with their league
leading team ERA. But the numbers are a bit misleading due to their
playing in the NL West and in a very friendly pitcher's park. The Dodgers pitching played 44% of their games versus the NL West which contained the almighty offenses of the Rockies (8th in Runs Scored even with the Coors Field Effect), Diamondbacks (10th), Giants (15th), and Padres (16th). That's the way to make good look like it's great, which this Dodgers pitching staff is not.
A matter of fact, it could be considered a pretty FLAKEY staff as well, if you believe Baseball Prospectus. While us Cubs fans wonder which Zambrano will show up in Game 2, Dodger fans should worry more about which Kuroda (1st), Lowe(13th) or Billingsley(27th) show up for their games.
The Dodgers do catch a few breaks here. They've been tougher on righties most of the season and the Cubs will likely trot out lineups with only two lefties (Edmonds and either Fontenot or Fukudome). If DeRosa is still hurt, it might be three lefties. Not only that, but one of those lefties (Edmonds) hasn't had much luck versus many of the Dodgers starters.
They Dodgers staff is also pretty good at inducing the ground ball with G/F rates of 2.60, 1.70, 1.85 from Lowe, Billingsley and Kuroda, respectively. Now the Cubs double play propensity has been blown out of proportion, they've only hit into 134 which is 6th in the NL and considering they have the highest OBP in the league, that (likely) means they've had the most opportunties to hit into a double play as well. Compare that to the Dodgers offense which lead the league in hitting into double plays but was only 6th in Team OBP.
The Dodgers bullpen is good, although questions linger with Saito back from the disabled list. It'll remain to be seen how effective and in what role he'll be used. Right now it looks like Broxton will keep the closers job with Saito in the set-up role. They do possess a good 7th inning combination in righty Cory Wade and lefty Joe Beimel that'll try to keep those Cubs late-inning rallies in check.
Preventings runs though is more than just pitching and the Dodgers defense might end up being their Achilles Heel. Rafael Furcal returns from the disabled listand should provide a boost for their offense, but his bad back might hinder him on the defensive end, plus he replaced a solid defensive option in Angel Berroa. Jeff Kent might be back as well and if you have nothing good to say, don't say anything at all. Russ Martin threw out 24.7% of runners this year, below Geovany Soto's 26.7% and the Cubs should look to take an extra base when the opportunity arises in what will likely be some low-scoring games. And while Andruw Jones couldn't hit a lick, the new outfield of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier should provide a few gaps in the outfield.
The Cubs offense will definitely have their work cut for them and this series will certainly test the good pitching beats good hitting adage. I think the Cubs would be wise to play a little more small ball than they're use to and stay out double play situations as much as they can and put as much pressure on a weak Dodgers defense that they can. It's not the strategy I normally prefer for the marathon that is the 162-game season, but in this series I think the Cubs would be wise to take advantage of the Dodgers faults in these areas.