Wednesday, October 03, 2007

NLDS Preview Roundtable

Following the joy that was the Cubs NL Central title last week, the 1060west crew sat down to discuss the season and preview the upcoming playoffs. Here are the thoughts:

Q: Alright, with the 2007 regular season in the bag what surprised you about the Cubs?

Vehere: First the positive - No significant injuries to the starting staff and Lou did a great job un-Dustifying this team. Negative - A bit suprised at the lack of power and the offensive droughts that followed.

John Dooley: Believe it or not, I really felt Lilly and Hill were capable of putting together a solid '07. What I was most surprised about was Jason Marquis stability. Say what you will, the man will never be mistaken for Cy Young, BUT, the man in high socks gave us a Jaime Navarro-like plus 30 starts.

Jack: My biggest surprise with this year's club was the lack of power. I honestly expected to see Soriano, Lee and Ramirez all finish with at least the 30 home runs. Other than that I'd say the emegence of Ryan Theriot. While he faded pretty bad down the stretch (.202/.257/.263 in September), there's no way I saw him earning as much playing time as he got this year.

CCD: I am surprised how healthy the starting rotation stayed. When you get the number of starts the Cubs got from Z, Lilly, Hill and Marquis you will probably have a good season. I was shocked by the teams resilience. Most Cub teams would have packed it in after June 1st. That's what I expected this team to do.

Goldwater: Ted Lilly’s emergence as a frontline starter. At the age of 31 he discovers how to throw strikes? Prior to 2007, Lilly consistently averaged about four walks per nine. In 2007, he lowered that to 2.5 while maintaining his excellent strikeout rate. Lilly’s 3.2 K/BB was good for sixth in the NL. I’m not sure who is responsible, but someone needs to find him and introduce him to Donnie Veal.

gaius marius: the luck of the pitching staff! someone crammed a horseshoe up larry rothschild's ass.

Q: How do you compare(or rank) this regular season compared to 84, 89, 98, & 03?

Vehere: I'm a little less excited and more cautiously optimistic for '07. This is exactly the type of tea that can win it all if the pitching and defense gets on a roll like we've seen from WS teams in the past couple years.

John Dooley: Hate to say it, buccos. This team reminds me more of the 98 squad than anything else. Crazy wins, good times, etc. The 1984 squad was by far the best of the five. The 1989 squad may have been the luckiest in the history of baseball. They are too inconsistent to TRULY rank above any of the four teams.

Jack: This regular season reminds me most of the '98 season. Not that I necessarily think we'll get swept in the first round, but I both teams were mediocre clubs that benefited from playing a weak schedule. At this point though there really is no reason to get hung up on that because if recent history has taught us anything it would be that anything can happen in the playoffs.

CCD: Playoff appearances were tougher to get in 84 an 89. Only two teams made it from each league so those two were bigger. Also at the time the Cubs hadn't been to the postseason since the series in 1945. So 98, 03, and 07 are great fun, but these teams have to have success in the postseason to even make the final four. Personally, I am tired of playoff appearances without success.

Goldwater: Personally: 89 > 03 > 07 > 98 > 84In ’84 I was blissfully unaware of the impending painful addiction that is Cub fandom. 2003 appeared to be the emergence of a dominant squad, whoops (special thanks to Dusty Baker for abusing that young staff like Zambrano abuses his keyboard).

gaius marius: unfortunately last so far -- little of the drama or quality of 1984, 1998 or even 2003 -- but that may change as the playoffs go on....

Q: Is there a moment in the regular season that you will remember as the greeting card moment for the 2007 side?

Vehere: Lou's blow up against the umps when the Braves were here. I think that really helped focus some of these guys who had been sleepwalking at that point.

John Dooley: Obviously, the Ramirez homer. But I have a close #2.
It's a game that people have suspiciously forgotten about. The Rain Delay Game in Pittsburgh. The Cubs came to bat down 6-1 (?), and through a barrage of doubles and Cliff Floyd's mammoth shot, the Cub took the lead. I hadn't seen a Cub team win like that since '03. It was damn impressive and helped me fall in love with this group.

Jack: Without question I think Aramis' walk-off shot against Milwaukee was the defining image of this year's season. It was the rubber match of a three game set we had against them at Wrigley and it probably served as the turning point of the season. Had the Cubs failed to reach the postseason I think we could rest assured that this would've gone to either Barrett and Z coming to blows, or Piniella kicking dirt on the umpire the next day.

CCD: Aramis walk off homer against the Brewers because it showed the Brewers had a major weakness in the pen. The arrival of Carlos Marmol as a bullpen presence. IMHO Marmol is this teams MVP.

Goldwater: August 22nd, 4-2 win in 10 versus the Giants. I watched with a buddy of mine in Vancouver who hadn’t followed the Cubs all year long; it was his first experience seeing Marmol (2 IP, 4K) make people look silly, and he reacted about the same way we all do, giddily.Honorable mention to June 1st, when Michael Barrett’s mental illness was first diagnosed by the masses.

gaius marius: barrett and zambrano knocking skulls, and piniella's tired old vaudeville act the next day -- i'd have bet you a million dollars that team was going in the tank!

Q: If you were making the Cubs NLDS 25-man playoff roster would these guys make it? Kevin Hart? Jason Marquis? Sean Marshall? Will Ohman? Henry Blanco? Ronny Cedeno? Mike Fontenot? Craig Monroe? Felix Pie?

Vehere: Hart and Pie definitely. Marquis is a tough call, in a short series, I don't trust him, especially with what he did the last few weeks of the season. Marshall would be nice to keep around, but I'm not sold.

Fuck Will Ohman and his barking shoulder. He and his can of gas can stay at home.

I'd love to see Hank White behind the dish, but the way Soto is playing, he'd be left out on my roster.

Cedeno, Fontenot, and Monroe - not everyone has to play like litle league, right? Off, but if there was room, Monroe would stick as my RH bat off the bench.

John Dooley: Will Ohman, Henry Blanco, Ronny Cedeno, goodbye. No backup shortstop? No problem.

Jack: I don't think there's a chance in hell Blanco will be on the roster. Soto has just been too good to not give him a spot, and obviously there's no room for three catchers.

Hart, Ohman, and Marshall belong for sure. Hart throws strikes and has been huge down the stretch, and even though Ohman hasn't been great this year, at the very least he can serve as a lefty specialist. I still think he's been mismanaged for the better part of this season, but if he can see strictly lefties I think he can be effective. Marshall belongs because he's probably the 4th best starter on the team, and at the very worst he can be a good back-up plan in case someone (proabably Marquis) has a short outing.

Cedeno will probably be on the roster simply because he's the only other feasible option at short, and given Theriot's slow finish and questionable health, we might see Cedeno. For what it's worth, he raked in 23 September ABs (.391/.417/.696). As huge as Fontenot was earlier this year, I think it would be a big mistake to put him on the roster. He's been (predictably) pretty awful since the ASB (.215/.307/.262), and since he can really only play second he'd be a waste of a roster spot.

Lou has said he won't platoon Jones this postseason which probably means there will be no room for Monroe. He hasn't hit much at all since coming over (.204/.291/.347) and Pie is undoubtedly the better runner and defender. With that said, I think Pie belongs for sure. It just wouldn't make sense to cut your fastest runner and best outfielder.

CCD: I would keep Kevin Hart and Jason Marquis on the roster. Personally, I'd keep Ronny Cedeno as far away from this team as possible? Monroe and Pie should stay too.

Goldwater: Hart = yes
Marquis = sigh
Marshall = no
Ohman = yes
Blanco = no
Cedeno = yes
Fontenot = no
Monroe = no
Pie = yes

gaius marius: do any of them have to? pie as a defensive replacement/pinch runner; marshall over marquis as fourth starter

Q: How do you feel about the matchup with Arizona?

Vehere: I think the Cubs should do well against them, but it hinges on their pitching. They are going to need the best starts from Z, TLR, and Hill. Oh, and they have to remember to pack the bats they used against Pittsburgh and not the bats from Miami.

John Dooley: Brandon Webb. We have struggled with The Snake for YEARS. Why should I feel that things should change? I don't. I have Zona winning this thing 3-1. But, I hope to be proven wrong.

Jack: I'm not going to lie-- I'm nervous about the matchup with Arizona. Almost all the experts are picking the Cubs in this one, but this D-Backs team reminds me a lot of the '03 Marlins. It's a group of relative unknowns who have quietly played pretty well all year. They have a few guys who can wreck havoc on the basepaths, and in Juston Upton they have a young rookie phenom just like Miguel Cabrera in '03.

CCD: What really scares me about this matchup is I think the Cubs should win. That means they are doomed.

Goldwater:Hopefully, the team that defied Pythagoras is due for a letdown. Obviously, getting to their starters is paramount. Overall, this seems like a very nice draw.

gaius marius: pretty good -- this is a team the cubs can beat.

Q: Besides Brandon Webb, is their a particular D-Back that you are concerned about in this upcoming series?

Vehere: Chris Young gives me a little fear, but only because
of his speed on the basepaths and his defense.

John Dooley: Mr. Young seems to have a personal vendetta against me. I don't feel good about him one bit. Oh yeah. Doug F'n Davis.

Jack: Other than Webb, I'm scared of Chris Young. He had a hell of a series against us in Chicago this July, and he's clearly the biggest power threat on the team. Arizona didn't score much this year, but he's one guy who can put runs up in a hurry. That and he can impact the game in a big way on the basepaths (27 SB).

CCD: If the Cubs are down heading to the ninth inning it will be game over. Jose Valverde has been lights out this season. Rally off of their pen in the 6th, 7th and 8th because the 9th is pretty much locked down.

Goldwater: Let’s hope that Justin Upton’s coming out party is postponed until next year. Pitch around Owings!

gaius marius: chris young -- potential game-changer.

Q: Historically the playoffs are filled with bit players that stepup and make a big contribution in the playoffs, who will that be for the Cubs this series?

Vehere: Cliff and Soto are my picks to click.

John Dooley: Daryl Ward will be healthy. He is the Jeffrey Leonard
of the serie de ano.

Jack: I'm gonna go with Geovany Soto on this one. I have a feeling we'll see a lot of him, and I think he has a chance to have a big series. The jury is probably still out on Soto around the league considering he's only had 54 ABs coming into the postseason, so Arizona probably won't have a specific game plan against him. That and if he can keep Young and Byrnes from running all over the place (because I doubt Kendall can) he'll have an even bigger impact.

CCD: I think Jacque Jones might have a big series.

Goldwater: Ronny Cedeno’s projected OPS (a THT estimate based on batted ball data) is about 200 points higher than his actual OPS. He’s due. Put him on the roster.

gaius marius: i'll spin the wheel to select... ryan theriot.

Q: Will Piniella have an impact on this series from the bench?

Vehere: Lou's been doing a pretty decent job so far, so I'd expect that he'll be more of a help than a hinderence to success in the playoffs.

John Dooley: Sleeping impacts nothing.

Jack: I think the biggest impact Lou will have from the bench will have to do with the lineup he runs out there. Not to beat a dead horse or anything but I think we have to hope he writes in Soto's name for the majority of the series. Other than that a few good pitch-out calls could go a long way.

CCD: At this point I think Lou's work is done it is up to the players. One thing that I would keep an eye on this Lou using the squeeze in a key situation. He did it against the Sox earlier this year and that brought back memories of when he pulled that stunt in the ALDS for the Mariners against the Sox in 2000. Keep that play in the mind throughout the playoffs.

Goldwater: Let’s hope not. Now is not the time for conventional wisdom regarding playoff small-ball. The D-Backs are very good in close games in large part because of their bullpen, but Chris Snyder is no slouch behind the plate (45% caught stealing; league average is 25%). No need to get clever.

gaius marius: god i hope not -- if he does, it's probably a fuck-up.

Q: Are you rooting for a specific team in the other NLDS?

Vehere: None.

John Dooley: Yes. I'm rooting for the Yankees to play the Red Sox. I don't care what anybody thinks. More exposure for baseball, the better.

Jack: In a word: No. The Phillies and Rockies are hotter than hell right now, and the Padres' pitching scares me. I'm not sure what the exact numbers are, but I dont' think we've fared well against any of those teams this year. Not that we were much better against Arizona (2-4).

CCD: There are other series'?

Goldwater: No

gaius marius: colorado -- they're the lesser team, imo.

Q: Will the Cubs win this series? How many games? If they elected a series MVP (I don't believe they do in the NLDS) who would it be?

Vehere: Cubs in 4 games. Soto and Cliff tied for MVP.

John Dooley: The Cubs will not win the series. The series MVP will be Brandon
Webb. Via his two-hit shutout in Game 1.

Jack: I hate to say it, but I don't see the Cubs coming out on top. The D'Backs have home field, Brandon Webb, a filthy dirty bullpen, and a lineup full of hungry kids. Like I mentioned earlier, Arizona played us really tough this year, and unless the Cubs can keep up the recent power surge, I think it'll be Arizona in 4, with Brandon Webb earning MVP honors with two series victories. But hey-- hopefully I'm wrong.

CCD: I think the Cubs win this series in 4. If it goes 5 I do not like their chances against Brandon Webb in the desert. Either way, stealing a game from Webb would go a long ways in sending the Cubs back to the NLCS. Series MVP will be Fonzie.

Goldwater: Cubs in five. Soriano.

gaius marius: cubs in four, following aramis ramirez.

Q: Any other random thoughts you have on the season or this playoff matchup?

Vehere: FU Steve Trachsel and Go cubs.

John Dooley: This will be the best playoffs since 1986. Trust me.

Jack: For the Cubs to stand a chance, I think two things will have to happen. 1) They'll have to strike early and often against Arizona's starters. Their bullpen is so tough (led the majors in saves with 51), that it's almost impossible to claw back after the 6th inning. 2) Carlos Zambrano is going to have to bring his A game .He'll be matched up against Brandon Webb, and if he melts-down like he did for most of September, this will be a short series.

Goldwater: Chris Young has the second lowest line drive rate among qualified NL hitters.

gaius marius: can you believe that this could be the club that breaks The Drought? they aren't good enough... are they?

CCD: Thanks to all of you guys for participating. I don't think this series will be easy, but I think it is winnable for this team. Anything can happen in five games.

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