Thursday, October 02, 2008

Calm Down, Chicago Fans; You're Still In Control Of The Series

As expected, last night's 7-2 Dodgers victory exhumed all the ghosts of seasons past for beleaguered Chicago Cubs fans.

The Chicago Tribune, as expected, leads the way in clearing the path to the apocalypse, with "Curse removal backfires on Cubs" and "Now you're two games from 101 years" and former LA Times columnist Mike Downey's "In Game 1, it's just Cubs being Cubs." Said Downey:

Bringing a feeling of dread and dejection back to Wrigley Field, which is world-famous for it, the Cubs lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-2, Wednesday night to accept their seventh postseason whipping in a row.

What did you expect? They are just Cubs being Cubs.

Or should we be surprised that good old, reliable Ryan Dempster suddenly would turn into Wild Thing?

Or that a rowdy Wrigley crowd by evening's end would be as silent as midnight at the Lincoln Park Zoo?

Raise the "L" flag. has a simulation team running the projections to find that, according to their math, the Dodgers will upset the Cubs this series. Fox Sports, whose main page says "Time To Worry," has a column explaining that the Cubs' hole is bigger than it looks.'s Tom Verducci says the Cubs are already in trouble:

Sometimes a series is not about the better team or the hotter team. It's about matchups. And the Dodgers present a headache of a matchup for the Cubs. "We're going to see right-handed pitching galore," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "We're going to need our left-hand hitters to do something."

Los Angeles is loaded with power right-handers in its rotation and bullpen, and Chicago is loaded with right-handers in its lineup. To understand the effect of that matchup all you needed to see was Alfonso Soriano waving at slider after slider breaking off the plate in Game 1. He can prepare himself for the same diet all week.

The Cubs may have led the league in runs, but they hit .238 during the season against the Dodgers. And if Piniella is thinking his left-handed hitters will pick up the slack, well, Kosuke Fukudome and Jim Edmonds aren't exactly the cavalry riding in to the rescue. Piniella's hottest left-handed stick is Mike Fontenot. Piniella may have to start Fontenot at second base in Game 2 and move Mark DeRosa from second base to right field, even if it means compromising his defense by putting Fukudome on the bench.

But here's the thing, Cub fans: it's only one game. And tonight, you've got ace Carlos Zambrano on the mound, only three starts removed from a masterful no-hitter, versus our young Chad Billingsley, who can get rattled. Accuscore has the probability of Cubs win in Game 2 at 69%, the highest probability in any of tonight's divisional series games.

Last night's game stole home-field advantage for the Dodgers based on one lucky swing from James Loney, who is not known to be an opposite-field home run hitter. I love Loney, but given the last Dodgers playoff grand salami was the first in over 30 years, it's safe to say it won't happen again. Nor will Alfonso Soriano go 0-for-5 and Kosuke Fukudome go 0-for-4 at the top of the Cubs' lineup. Dodger SS Rafael Furcal may have turned a couple of DPs last night, but his 0-for-3 performance and less-than-fluid movement demonstrate that he's not fully back yet (as to be expected).

A Cubs win tonight splits the series as it heads back to Los Angeles, in which case the Cubs are still in control. The Dodgers have an awful road record, which will likely be evidenced tonight against the #1 seed in the National League, with 13 more wins this season than the Dodgers (over 15% more wins).

Take a deep breath, Cub fans.


QuadSevens said...

This is still a Dodgers blog right? Why are we showing how vulnerable the Dodgers could be? If the Dodgers winning a playoff season means more suffering in Chicago I say let 'em suffer! We've gone 20 years since we last won a postseason series in LA.

Here's something to make Cubs fans hyperventalate. Russell Martin and Andre Ethier own Mr. Z. Martin has a .615 career batting average and 1.513 OPS against Zambrano. Ethier is hitting .462 against Mr. Z since 2007.
Also, Soriano has struck out 3 times in 7 plate appearances against Billingsly. And Geovany Soto is 0 for 4 lifetime against Bills. (All stats from Inside Edge, via Yahoo Sports)

I'm looking for the Blue Crew to go up 2-0 and have two chances to close it out at Chavez Ravine.

Orel said...

Wow, you sound like me.

Orel said...

Sax, that is.

Steve Sax said...

Quad, that's why we love you! Thanks for snapping me out of it...

...really, the article was not only a lowering-of-expectations piece for our boys, but also a culmination after reading article after article after article after article about the impending doom that has stuck Chicago. I think the Game 1 outcome is better than expected for the Dodgers, and worse than expected for the Cubs--but this series is FAR from over after one measly game.

Oh yeah, and the winner of Game 1 in the Divisional Series has gone on to win the series 20 out of 24 times. I'm just saying.

QuadSevens said...

Love that stat about the winner of game 1 in a series. The Dodgers only have to play .500 baseball for the rest of this series to win it. And we know they are capable of that. Of course, a sweep of the Cubbies would be great too!

Steve Sax said...

Quad, I screwed up on that statistic.

Last night, on the radio broadcast, I could have sworn I heard the Dodger announcer say that "the team that has won game 1 has gone on to win the Divisional Series 20 of 24 times". That is not true.

From 2001-2007, there were 28 Divisional Series, and the winners of the series won Game 1 19 of the 28 times. In fact, in 2003, the winning team won Game 1 only in one of the four series. So I don't know where they're coming up with that stat, or if I misheard it altogether. Sorry. My bad.

Stephie V said...

WOW! Thanks Steve! I was going into tonight's game with a heart full of hope and an aura like the sun but after this blog all I can think about are rattles and Billingsley. You're breaking my heart!

Steve Sax said...

Quad, here's some more detail on that "Game 1 Winner / Divisional Series Winner" stat, from this blog:

Interesting stat on TV: Apparently American League teams that win Game 1 of the ALDS are 12-14, but National League teams that win Game 1 of the NLDS are 23-3. It’s an interesting statistic in that, “Wow, that’s interesting but I suspect it’s just a small sample size and means absolutely nothing” sort of way. So while the stat was interesting, the relatively long discussion about how maybe the American League has more depth and maybe the American League has more resilient teams didnt’ do much for me.

Orel said...

SoSG: Breakin' Hearts Since 2008

Steve Sax said...

Stephie v, I don't mean to be breaking your heart.

You can tell your friends, just what a fool I've been. And laugh and joke about me on the phone.

Steve Sax said...

EK, that last one was for you!

Good night, Arkansas!

Stephie V said...

Your kind words are soothing!... THANKS! <3

karina said...

The wonder of October baseball is the uncertainty of a new beginning. A season within a season.
Although any team there has to perform adequately enough to earn a spot, once it begins, only heart and courage make teams to win it all, no matter the amount of wins and losses reflected in the standings in a weak or strong division.
More knowledgeable people (or at least people who get paid to talk about baseball) say this is a series for the Cubs to win. I say i trust on the momentum built by Andre Ethier, the contact hitting and good glove of James Loney, the leadership qualities and fierce play by Russell Martin, the hurricane Manny Ramirez is either on the field and the clubhouse, the incredible talent and passion of Matt Kemp, the courage of Blake DeWitt, the underdogs of the starting pitching and bullpen (unknown by most baseball fans), the real possibility Jeff Kent wants to walk away with a championship, the only great achievement left to accomplish in an illustrious career. Those factors can't be measured by any standard. Call me delusional, but there's a great chance the Dodgers can beat the Cubs, contradicting most predictions.
Having said that, i believe in the Church of Baseball and even more, in my beloved boys of Dodger blue.