Thursday, October 2, 2008
Playoff Update 1 of 2: Cubs
Due to some complaints about how we're ONLY pro-White Sox, we're going to take some time out of our busy schedule to be anti-Cubs as well. Ask, and ye shall receive.
First of all, let's recap: the Cubs win the division, Cubs get homefield advantage for the series, and take on the Dodgers. Seeing as the Phillies and Brewers are hardly playoff opponents for the Cubs, playing the Dodgers is going to be the toughest non-AL opponent they see. Tough pitching, solid hitting (now with Manny), and an all-around good squad. With their starting pitching ailing (Zambrano has had the occasional arm issue on and off all season, mixed in with the 7 ER starts, and Harden lacks the stamina to be stretched out past the 6th), the Cubs decide to send Dempster to the mound in Game 1.
Dempster, with all the playoff poise and experience of most Cubs players, gets early jitters and never gets his control where it needs to be. He labors through the first few innings without giving up a run, but with his elevated walk totals, it's obvious something is wrong. The Cubs had put a quick two-spot on the board, but Dempster's control finally coughed the lead back up after walking the bases loaded and then giving Manny a pitch to hit.
End result: Cubs lose, 7-2.
So now what? In preparing for tonight's game against the Dodgers again, the Cubs have to be wondering three things:
#1. Can the bullpen be trusted? The defecit was only 4-2 when the Cubs put in Marshall. He pitched several solid innings, but Samardzija and Marquis each gave up a run in their inning of work, with Samardzija looking particularly hittable. While I expect that in a closer game, the Cubs will work with the familiar routine of Marmol->Wood, it seems that there may be cause for concern - especially if Marmol cracks under pressure.
#2. Do the starters have a leash? Zambrano and Harden are both absolutely dominating when 100%, and have filthy stuff. However, Zambrano has had one of his most inconsistent years with maladies that have limited his ability. It also probably has something to do with the 363,782 innings he pitches every year. Do the Cubs let him throw 120+ pitches at the risk of his shoulder flaring up for his (possible) next start? Harden is the reverse - similar maladies, but he's a "dericate frower." Harden simply hasn't been 100%, and hasn't been going past the 7th when healthy - a short start from him may tax the bullpen.
#3. What's with Soriano? If you saw any at-bats yesterday, you'd know what I'm talking about. Big hacks, no contact, and definately trying to do too much with each pitch. With Soto, it can be attributed to youth, as well as his spot in the lineup. But Soriano is the LEAD OFF MAN. When you get 5 AB in a game and can't get yourself on base, you make the rest of the lineup suffer. Likewise, good efforts by Theriot and DeRosa are wasted.
PROJECTED SERIES RESULT: Dodgers in 4.