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Bring on the Redbirds
Before we begin our playoff analysis, we’d like to remind Shane of SFist, that he lost his bet. As a result of the Dodgers making the playoffs and the Giants failing, Shane must write a post on his site about what a great city Los Angeles is, and about the greatness of the Dodgers. In addition he must send to our LAist offices a basket with an assortment of various boxes of rice-a-roni. Tomorrow we will analyze the Angels series with the Red Sox, but we’ll cover the Dodgers first. LAist was asked all week which team we'd rather see the Dodgers play. The truth is, we don't care. We want the Dodgers to win the World Series, so that means if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best. St. Louis Cardinals included.
Here is our position-by-position analysis.
First Base: Shawn Green vs. Albert Pujols
Shawn Green has picked up tremendously in the second half, and still found a way to hit a respectable 28 home runs this season. His defense at first base has also been surprisingly strong all season. But this isn’t even a contest. Albert Pujols might be the best player in baseball after Barry Bonds, and has once again put up MVP-type numbers with the third-highest OPS in baseball.
Second Base: Alex Cora vs. Tony Womack
We're not going to pretend that we hate Tony Womack. He is the epitome of an era in time when people used improper methods to evaluate baseball talent. Womack may have speed, but his free swinging style will usually hurt his team. This year, however, Womack hit .307, compared to .264 for Cora, making Womack a quality player. Yet Cora still had a slightly higher OBP and OPS. We'd argue that Cora is better defensively, and that Womack's speed has declined. This was also a career year for Cora, so our pick here may surprise you.
Third Base: Adrian Beltre vs. Scott Rolen
This is the matchup we'll hear about all series along. Both play gold glove caliber defense. Both are fantastic hitters. But Adrian Beltre is coming off of arguably the greatest season for a third baseman ever. Who would have guessed that he'd win the MLB home run title? His OPS, slugging, and batting average are all slightly above Rolen's. So we pick the Dodgers MVP.
Shortstop: Cesar Izturis vs. Edgar Renteria
What a great season it's been for Izturis! And yes, this writer actually did predict it. Izturis finally matured into a decent major league hitter which complimented his gold glove quality defense. We think he deserves the award this year. But, alas, Renteria is no slouch in the field, and he's been a more consistent hitter over his career. We also remember some of his playoff heroics in Florida. But you can't argue he had a better year than Cesar.
Catcher: Mike Matheny vs. Brent Mayne/David Ross
The Dodger catcher platoon has been awful. We're happy for Brent Mayne making the playoffs for the first time in his journeyman career, but even with a .247 batting average and horrific .640 OPS, we'll take Mike Matheny over two guys who can't hit their weight.
Left Field: Jayson Werth vs. Reggie Sanders
Werth has been a big part of the Dodgers success all season long, while Sanders is the quintessential journeyman. Is there any team he hasn't played for? With that in mind, Werth and Sanders put up similar averages in 2004 with Sanders' aversion to walking being slightly offset by Werth's (cough, cough) lack of experience. It's hard to put one over the other here.
Center Field: Steve Finley vs. Jim Edmonds
As much as we absolutely love Steve Finley, even we admit that this matchup is not even close. Edmonds had a 1.000+ OPS to go with 42 home runs and gold glove caliber defense. Steve Finley is a great player though, who is playing like he's 29 at the age of 39.
Right Field: Milton Bradley vs. Larry Walker
Now this is an interesting matchup. Walker is in the twilight of a career that has been resurrected by a short 43-game stint in St. Louis. Bradley is a rising star, who is just on the cusp of reaching his potential. While Walker has a great reputation as a fielder, we'll take Bradley's defense today. That said, Walker had a .424 OBP this year, and .393 in St. Louis, so leaving Coors hasn't cramped his style. You have to pick Walker here, even if Bradley's attitude isn't an issue.
Game 1 Starting Pitchers: Odalis Perez vs. Woody Williams
Forget win-loss records, Odalis Perez has been ace all season long. With an ERA almost a run lower than Williams, LAist doesn't think this matchup is all that close. And Perez has been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. He won't disappoint.
Game 2 Starting Pitchers: Jeff Weaver vs. Jason Marquis
This may shock you, but Jeff Weaver tied for the NL lead in quality starts this year. He was durable and reliable all season long. That said, Jason Marquis had a great year too, finishing with an ERA slightly lower than Weaver. Even though Weaver had a better WHIP, and a better K/9 ratio, there's still the "he's Jeff Weaver, is he going to blow it?" factor. We sincerely hope it isn't an issue.
Game 3 Starting Pitchers: Jose Lima vs. Matt Morris
Morris has really struggled all season, and we wouldn't have been surprised if he hadn't shown up in the postseason rotation. He still has great stuff, and could throw a great game at any time. Jose Lima has had a "miracle" year, after pitching for the Newark Bears just a year ago. You know he's going to be pumped for this game, but we can't ignore that he's pitching with a hairline fracture in his thumb. This is anyone's game.
Game 4 Starting Pitchers: Odalis Perez vs. Jeff Suppan
LAist was against the idea of a 3-man rotation, but that was before we saw the playoff schedule. Thanks to off-days on Wednesday and Friday, Odalis Perez can pitch on normal rest for Game 4. We're still a little iffy about Jeff Weaver going on three days rest for Game 5, but we'll worry about it if/when it happens. Suppan has had a good year for Suppan, but he isn't an ace pitcher.
Closer: Eric Gagne vs. Jason Isringhausen
Isringhausen is a quality MLB closer, but his dominance pales in comparison to Eric Gagne, who is going to be ready to make a statement in his postseason debut.
Both of these teams have had fairly solid bullpens this season, with Steve Kline and Julian Tavarez leading the way for the Redbirds, while Yhency Brazoban and Giovanni Carrara among the main relievers for the Azul. However, the Dodgers will rely on their bullpen a bit more than the Cardinals in this series, and Jim Tracy is taking on seven pitchers to give his team a plethora of options from Wilson Alvarez and Elmer Dessers for long relief to Duaner Sanchez to just kind of use whenever. When it comes to pitching, we give the team with the best bullpen ERA in baseball the edge.
The Dodgers bring in some guys who can hit lefthanders well in Jose Hernandez and Olmedo Saenz, plus Robin Ventura is never a bad guy to have around for the postseason. It does not look like Hee Seop Choi will make the postseason roster, but Jason Grabowski if that makes anyone happy. Ray Lankford, John Mabry, Marlon Anderson, and So Taguchi make for a real nice bench even if it means they have Roger Cedeno lying around for whatever reason.
Manager: Jim Tracy vs. Tony La Russa
You have to hand it to Jim Tracy. The Dodgers have been in 20-percent more one-run games than any other team in baseball over the past four years, and Tracy seems to know how to manage close games these days. That said, it's hard to pick him over a manager with as much success as La Russa, who has won a World Series and may wind up in Cooperstown one day.
The winner? The Cardinals won eight categories while the Dodgers took six. Our head says St. Louis in 4, but our heart says LA all the way. Dodgers in 5.
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