2008 National League Championship Series Preview
Part I : The Offense … Excluding Manny
2008 Los Angeles Dodgers
.264 / 700 R / 137 HR / 271 2B / 29 3B / 543 BB / 1032 K / 126 SB / .333 OBP / .399 SLG
Rafael Furcal – SS
Russell Martin – C
Manny Ramirez – LF
Andre Ethier – RF
James Loney – 1B
Matt Kemp – CF
Blake DeWitt – 2B
Casey Blake – 3B
On The Bench
Danny Ardoin – C
Nomar Garciaparra – 1B/3B/SS
Jeff Kent – 1B/2B
Pablo Ozuna – 2B
Angel Berroa – 2B/SS
Juan Pierre – OF
Before Manuel Aristedes Ramirez joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team was 54-54. Since Ramirez has been on board, the Dodgers are 30-24, not exactly the model of greatness, but certainly a better team. And certainly, Ramirez is the main reason for that resurgence.
In his 53 National League games, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs, 53 runs batted in, and, yes, two stolen bases. He has also single-handedly brought braids back to Hollywood for the first time since Britney Spears rocked them. Yeah, Manny has done it all.
But the Dodgers offense is not just about Ramirez. It’s also about young hitters (Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney, Blake DeWitt) and veteran mainstays (Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Casey Blake, Jeff Kent). With Ramirez, all of these guys contribute to a very potent, versatile hitters row.
Start Up Top
If there is a goal for Phillies pitchers, it’s to keep the top of the Dodgers order off the basepaths. Their top-two is Furcal and Martin. Furcal returned from injury just in time to heat up in the playoffs, and he’ll supply the same kind of versatile spark Jimmy Rollins gives the Phils. Martin, meanwhile, is a good hitter, a Jayson Werth-type player who will get on base, cause havoc, and hit a couple longballs, too. If the Phils can halt Furcal and Martin, Ramirez won’t get big chances.
Behind The Basher
And behind Ramirez lies some promise. While Kemp, Ethier and Loney are talented young hitters, they’ve slumped in the postseason, likely pressing because of inexperience. Still, one has to be warned. Ethier is a 20-homer hitter with a .300 average. Kemp is practically a mirror image. And Loney, while lacking power, is a scary spray hitter capable of doing damage at any time.
The inexperience factor is huge for the Phils. Overall, the Dodgers don’t strike out (except Kemp, who whiffed 153 times in 2008), but don’t walk (except Martin, who had 90 in 2008). They’re free swingers. That’s a big advantage for Phillies pitchers, who rely more on savvy, timing and fielding.
That said, the Dodgers experienced bats might wreak the most havoc on Phils pitching. If anyone will carry no jitters in Los Angeles, it’s Kent, and Blake, and Garciaparra, and Juan Pierre — all of whom have extensive playoff experience.
Oh yeah, and then there’s Manny.
The Phillies have given up 8.9 hits per game, which is mediocre. Despite this, they won’t give up as many runs. That plays well against Los Angeles, who will hit the ball. The key to the series for Phillies pitchers is to avoid walking batters. It’s not hard — these guys just don’t walk that much. That bend-not-break strategy rings true for Jamie Moyer, Brett Myers and Joe Blanton, who have given up about a hit per inning, but just a walk every three.
If the Phils can limit walks and position pitches well, they’ll be fine. Moreover, the Brewers only had four extra-base hits against Phillie pitching, so if they can limit Los Angeles’ extra baggers, it’s in the bag.