October 04, 2006

Summing Up The Dodgers

Living in California mostly means having to deal with Lakers' lovers or haters on sports talk radio. Baseball is relegated to second string, except every once in a while, when either the Dodgers or Angels happen to make it into the playoffs. It's been slimmer pickin's for the Bums from Brooklyn in recent years, although you'd never know it from their attendance figures. Now that they are in the playoffs (and losing to the Mets in Game 1 as this is being written), I thought it would be appropriate to compare the Mets and Dodger's teams and managers. Here are our thoughts:

First Base
Mets: Carlos Delgado
Dodgers: Nomar Garciaparra / James Loney
Delgado is finally in his first playoff series, at an age when many players start to see a large decline in their production. Delgado's batting average was lower then expected, and he did go through a long cold-spot, but overall, he was an excellent pick-up providing us with excellent middle-of-the-order power, better than anticipated defense and another great leader in the clubhouse. NO-mar, in his first season home (he's from Whittier, not far from Dodgers' Stadium), fought through injuries to have his finest season in a few years. His average tapered off greatly after a super-hot first half, most of which can be attributed to his injuries. He's a gamer, but will come out late in the game for defensive purposes, where he'll be replaced by the young and talented Loney. Nomar is still fragile, fighting off injuries, and the Bums aren't sure which Nomar he will be- the first-half Nomar or the second-half Nomar. If they want to beat us, he will need to copy his first-half performance, which seems doubtful.
Advantage: Mets

Second Base
Mets: Jose Valentin
Dodgers: Jeff Kent
Valentin, an ex-Dodger, didn't take over as our true regular second baseman until May, and provided us with numbers that would have made us happy if his predecessor, Kaz Matsuii, had merely equaled them. His defense was again better than expected, and his pick-up was a major difference maker in the season. Kent, a future hall-of-famer, spent a good part of the season battling injuries, like Nomar. His fielding, never great to begin with, fell another notch, and he's not nearly the scary hitter he used to be. However, in a short series, he can still turn it on so the Mets' pitchers had better remain wary of his power.
Advantage: Even

Mets: Jose Reyes
Dodgers: Rafael Furcal
Reyes had one of the greatest all-around seasons that a shortstop has ever had, leading the league in stolen bases and triples, hitting 19 homers, knocking in a ton of runs for a lead-off batter, hit .300 and fielded extremely well. He has probably progressed further than any major leaguer from season over season this past year, and he is still growing into his body which will result in even more power in coming years. Furcal is another excellent shortstop, and his signing signalled that Dodgers GM Ned Coletti was serious about this season. Furcal was not quite as good in each category as Reyes, is a bit older, and had a slow start to the season. This is the hardest position to rate one versus the other, as Furcal may well have been the Dodgers MVP, along with Derek Lowe. However, Reyes is tied in our book with Carlos Beltran as the MVP of the Mets, and he has perhaps the most upside of anyone on either team right now.
Advantage: Mets (slight)

Third Base
Mets: David Wright
Dodgers: Wilson Betemit / Julio Lugo
David Wright is already one of the 3 or 4 best young hitters in baseball, and his humility makes him one of the most beloved, as well. He is a super-solid RBI guy, his defense improves every year, and he seems to be another Mike Schmidt in the making. Betemit/Lugo can't come close to Wright. Betemit has some power, is still relatively young and is a decent fielder, and Lugo, a natural shortstop, has become a utility player for the Dodgers. This one is a no-brainer.
Advantage: Mets

Left Field
Mets: Cliff Floyd
Dodgers: Marlon Anderson / Andre Ethier
Floyd has come back from another set of injuries, and seems to have a hot bat right now. He can barely run in the OF, so Beltran will have to cover a lot more ground. This might be it for big Cliff, but don't count his bat out just yet. Anderson, a former Met, is hot right now, and he was a sparkplug for the Dodgers during the past month. Ethier looked like a sure Rookie-of-the-Year candidate in mid-summer, but his bat cooled down later in the season. He's definitely one to watch in the coming years, and he can still be a difference-maker in this series if he gets any at-bats.
Advantage: Dodgers

Mets: Carlos Beltran
Dodgers: Kenny Lofton
Well, the more said about Beltran's season, the better. He played gold glove defense in CF. He hit 41 homers and knocked in over 100. His work ethic was amazing, playing for nearly the last 2 months of the season with a leg injury that slowed him down and ultimately effected both his speed and his final output. He probably would have had over 25 stolen bases and another 3-5 homers and 10-15 RBIs if he was completely healthy - and his stats STILL made him the most valuable OFer in the NL this year. What more can we say? Lofton's age is finally showing, although he continues to be very productive. He hasn't fared well against the Mets in recent seasons, and he's another step slower in the outfield. He can still hit, and even at his age he's faster then most, but this one isn't even a battle.
Advantage: Mets

Mets: Shawn Green / Endy Chavez
Dodgers: JD Drew
Green is a former Dodger who never wanted to leave (he was born and bred in Orange County, CA, less than 30 miles from Dodgers Stadium). He's slower, both in foot-speed and bat-speed, but was never what one would call a "fast" player to begin with. His defense has gotten worse over the years, and his power is not what it was, but make no mistake, Green can still grab hold of one - and Chavez is the big equalizer, as his timely hitting, speed and defense might put him in place to play a major role some time in either this series or the next. Drew knocked in 100 for the first time in his career, and seems to have all the talent in the world- he just can't seem to get fired up which infuriates fans in every city he's played in (think St. Louis, Atlanta...) Drew has the tools, and if he could ignite a fire under himself, he'd be in the top 10 hitters in the league...but he can't, so he's not, and he is what he is- a good player who could have been great.
Advantage: Dodgers (but it was a close one)

Mets: Paul Lo Duca
Dodgers: Russell Martin
Lo Duca has been a great influence in the clubhouse; he's been great behind the dish, calling a great game and keeping a pitching staff that featured "starter-du-jour" on track; he's dealt with huge personal issues (divorce, alleged affairs, gambling allegations) and he's had the best season of his career. PLD is a HUGE reason behind the success of this team, and he's been a steadying influence all yearl long. Think the Dodgers miss him? Well, they have an excellent young backstop themselves, in Martin, who is also a good hitter. He's still young and unproven under big game conditions, and PLD is desperate for post-season succes.
Advantage: Mets

Starting Rotation
Mets: John Maine, Tom Glavine, Steve Trachsel, Oliver Perez, and a cast of Thousands
Dodgers: Derek Lowe, Hong-Chih Kuo, Greg Maddux, Brad Penny
In August, we dreamed of a playoff staff that would feature proven big-game winners in Pedro and O-Hern - now we have the possibility of Oliver Perez starting game four- and you know what- we aren't scared! Somehow, we manage to get the most out of our starters, and if Maine and Glavine can go 6 solid innings each, our bullpen will take care of things from there. The Dodgers have 2 16 game winners in Lowe and Penny, but only Lowe comes into the postseason with any kind of momentum. Since starting the all-star game, Penny has come up "bad luck." His fastball still has speed, hitting up to 98 on the gun- it just seems to be coming in straight, which is not a good sight for their play-off hopes. The ageless Maddux lines up well with Glavine, and we'd expect both warriors to have great games. The Dodgers possess the slight edge right now in talent, with O-Hern and Pedro out, but this won't be the deciding factor in the first round, at least.
Advantage: Dodgers


The Mets bullpen has been the most dominant one in their history, in the National League this year and in all of baseball. A cast that includes closer Wagner, he of the 40 saves, as well as set-up men Aaron Heilman and Guillermo Mota, not to mention Chad Bradford, Pedro Feliciano, Darren Oliver, Royce Ring and Roberto Hernandez. We have the guns, different types of pitchers, and amazing depth, so don't worry if one of our starters, whether intended or makeshift, falters- this crew will hold it together. The Dodgers bullpen is to be commended as well, having sustained season-ending injuries to superstar closer, Eric Gagne (career-ending?) and set-up man Yancy Brezelbon, not to mention the trade of Duaner Sanchez to the Mets (another vital cog in the Mets' bullpen until his injury). In fact, the current stars of their bullpen weren't even part of the team in April- closer Takashi Saito (a 36-year old rookie) and set-up man Jonathan Broxton, as well as set-up men Aaron Sele and Brett Tomko, who both were counted on to be members of the Dodgers rotation at the start of the season. They are talented, and reasonably deep, but don't compare to the Mets.
Advantage: Mets

The Mets bench is really more of a chair, as they don't really have enough bodies to consider it as a "bench." If Chavez starts, that leaves Floyd, Castro, Tucker, Woodward and Franco on the bench. To see how far things have changed, in the 70's, a team would increase their bench strength and shrink from 10 pitchers to 9, adding another bench player, the theory being that in a short series you'll need more variety on the bench then on the staff. With all of the various specialists today, pitchers are now a more desired commodity, so don't let anyone tell you that the game hasn't changed in 30 years. The Dodgers have Toby Hall, Loney, Lugo, Martinez, Saenz, Ethier and Repko and, based on sheer numbers and versatility, would seem to have the advantage. Never count out Tom Glavine as a potential pinch-hitter (LOL)!
Advantage: Dodgers


Willie Randolph has the right blend of stars and role players, a clubhouse that is tight, and the resources to make mistakes without having to have the world topple down on him. Grady Little will always be remembered for the fiasco in the play-offs with Pedro a few years ago with the Red Sox. I've always liked Little, but he hasn't yet proven his mettle when it really counts, while Willie has enough rings to choke a large horse.
Advantage: Mets

The Mets were built with a master plan, although it is a plan whose fruition came quicker than anyone this side of Omar would have thought possible. They have withstood major injuries that would have crippled other clubs, and they once again seem like a team of destiny. If the Yankees beat the Tigers, and we beat the Dodgers, the subway-series talk will really heat up. This time, we are hungry enough and talented enough to take the crown away from the Yanks- now we have to hope it gets that far (although, for sentimental reasons, we'd rather play the A's.) The Dodgers are a collection of spare parts. None of their players are in the top 2 at their position, and age has to play a role with the likes of Lofton, Kent, Garciaparra and Maddux. They have a lot of very good young players and probably the best minor league system in baseball, but that still hasn't won a pennant for them recently and won't again this season. Ned Colletti has done a great job in assembling a team on the fly, but without the necessary superstars to take over a game, they will probably have a severe fall back to earth next season. Sad, because I love going to Dodgers games and still root for them 156 times a year (or 155 next year because they have a 4-game series in CA - can't wait!).
Advantage: Mets

Prediction: Mets in 3

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