2008 National League Championship Series Preview
Part VI : From The Other Side
The Blogger: Jon Weisman
The Web site: Dodger Thoughts (www.dodgerthoughts.baseballtoaster.com)
Weismann is one of the more respected baseball bloggers out there, and Dodger Thoughts is a well-done fan blog, one Peter Gammons cited as a daily read. I asked Weismann some questions in preparation for the NLCS. Here’s what he had to say, with my questions in red:
The Phillies’ last opponent, the Brewers, probably wouldn’t have made the postseason if not for CC Sabathia. Can you say the same about the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez?
That’s fair to say, although I don’t think it was out of the realm of possibility for the Dodgers to beat Arizona head-to-head without Manny. But I’m sure not going to be the one to argue that he wasn’t critical. Everything that Andruw Jones was supposed to be wasn’t; Ramirez was that and more.
Are you shocked the Dodgers swept the Cubs in the NLDS? Or did you see that coming?
Definitely didn’t see the sweep coming. I was cautiously optimistic the Dodgers might win the series, emphasis on “cautiously.” I still wonder what would have happened had Lou taken out Ryan Dempster before James Loney came to bat in Game 1.
Say the Phillies shut down Ramirez. Which one offense player has to step up to win the series for the Dodgers?
Well, the strength of the Dodgers offensively, besides Ramirez, is that the lineup has become pretty strong one-through-eight. It’s instructive that Ramirez did not have the critical hit in any of the NLDS games. You obviously want to see the guys batting behind Ramirez, such as James Loney and Andre Ethier, do well in the event the Phillies walk Ramirez intentionally, but I think there are any number of potential heroes.
I love the Dodgers balance of tried experience and energetic youth. It seems the latter has stepped up lately. Are you concerned about the way the young guys will respond to being in the NLCS limelight?
Not really. Even the two kids who struggled the most against Chicago, Matt Kemp and Ethier, still had their moments, chipping in with walks here or a double there. I mean, they’ll do well or they won’t, but I don’t think pressure is going to be an issue.
What does Rafael Furcal give this team that they didn’t have while he was out?
He offers great on-base skill at the top of the lineup and allows guys like Kemp or Russell Martin to bat lower, thus lengthening the lineup, as I alluded to before. I mean, I doubt I need to tell you the difference between having Furcal leading off or having Angel Berroa batting eighth.
Of the bench bats, who should Phillies relievers be most concerned about?
At this point, unless they get a spot start, Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent will be coming off the bench. That’s not what they’ve done most of their careers — careers that are winding down — but they’re still pretty good guys to have in reserve.
Derek Lowe, going game one, should be very effective against the Phils. But how can you beat him?
The biggest worry when Lowe pitches is that the defense behind him will let him down. It helps that Furcal is back in there, but this is still not an exceptional defensive team.
The Phillies had moderate success against Chad Billingsley, and a lot of success against Clayton Kershaw. Concern about these two big arms against the Phils big bats?
I’m not a big fan of drawing conclusions about how well a team does against a pitcher based on a start or three. Just too small a sample size. But I’m always concerned every single game. The Phillies have a great lineup. And Kershaw is very young; he can get into trouble. He also won’t have pitched in a game in a couple weeks. I think he’ll do better pitching at home if he starts game four (though I still tend to think Lowe will get that start). Billingsley has arrived; there are very few pitchers I’d rather see on the mound. But pitching in Philadelphia is no walk in the park for anyone.
It’s possible the series will be determined in the bullpens. Of all the arms back there, whose are you most skeptical about pitching in a tight game?
Chan Ho Park has slumped in the second half and gives up home runs at a high rate. But he’s fallen a ways down the depth chart.
Not asking for a drop-dead prediction, but how close does this series look to you?
I don’t know how you can confidently predict the outcome of a series between two teams who swept each other in the same month. It’s a close series that could still be a romp for either team …