Lou Piniella says there are a couple handfuls of MVPs on this team. Analysts all over the sports world applaud the Cubs' depth in this sense, saying it's impressive that the NL MVP candidate numbers-wise is not a Cub.
My opinion? The fact that the Cubs don't have an MVP-caliber player will either be what wins them a World Series or holds them back.
For the Dodgers, the situation is the opposite. Their MVP is Manny Ramirez and he has a supporting cast of a few guys that also have stepped up to drive in runs, guys he's basically inspired to start hitting better.
To see that clearly, I present my hitting breakdown.
If you look at the hitting numbers, the first thing you'll notice is that the Dodgers have the 5th best team batting average in the league and the Cubs are 2nd.
In terms of team home runs, runs scored, and run production, the Dodgers are among the NL's worst, which is surprising but fortunately. The Cubs were far and away the best run-producing team with over 800 RBI, and were in the top 5 in home runs. The Dodgers are the 4th worst in the league in both categories. They rank higher in total hits, but not RBI.
Lastly, the Cubs strikeout more and leave more men on, but they draw more walks. The one definite advantage the Dodgers have as a team is base-stealing capability. The Cubs are average in that category.
But what about the rosters? Let's compare some of the best hitters.
RBI Leaders: Manny vs. Aramis Ramirez
Man-Ram vs. A-ram, which player is the better clutch hitter? The difference here is mostly in the batting average, with Manny hitting .320 and Aramis only .289. Manny is the instant-walk in a tough situation. If you give Aramis a free pass, well odds say the the next guy to the plate has similar numbers to Aramis.
First Basemen: Derrek Lee vs. James Loney
Their statistics are pretty identical, with Lee having slightly more power and making it around the bags more. Both sit around .290 with 90 RBI. Both have even grounded into around 25 double plays. Lee draws a bit more walks and has a slight better OBP as a result. Otherwise, no difference here. I just wanted to point out how peculiar that is
Middle Infield: Ryan Theriot and Mark DeRosa vs. Jeff Kent and Rafael Furcal
Furcal's ability to have an impact after his DL-stinted season will be interesting, though he'll be spelled by Nomar Garciaparra at times I imagine. Jeff Kent is also just back from knee surgery with Blake DeWitt backing him up. While Mark DeRosa is coming off the calf injury, the uncertainty of these positions and the stellar hitting of Theriot and DeRosa give the Cubs the edge. DeRosa can also move to right field in this righty-heavy rotation to make room for lefty Mike Fontenot who is also hitting over .300
Outfield: Soriano-Johnson-Fukudome vs. Ramirez-Kemp-Ethier
I've got to hand it to the Dodgers, they have an impressive outfield. Matt Kemp has easily replaced Juan Pierre as a lead-off base-stealing threat. Andre Ethier has been stellar for a clean-up hitter behind Manny or as the 5th hitter hitting over .300 with 20 home runs, just as good as any Cub in that part of the lineup. The Cubs have their questions in the outfield in terms of who to start with Fukudome on a short leash and Edmonds as a strong veteran outfielder who will see lots of right-handed pitching. Soriano has the potential to be the spark, but we just never know.
Key Players: Jim Edmonds and Manny Ramirez
For Jim Edmonds, the playoffs are been there, done that. He's going to see plenty of time in the lineup with all right-handed starters. This is the perfect scenario for him to make an impact on this series should any of the everyday players struggle.
Manny Ramirez is sort of the Dodgers ace in the hole. The Cubs haven't seen a Dodger lineup with Manny in it this season and so this time it's very different. Manny is the most likely figure to do the Cubs any serious damage if there is serious damage to be done.
The strategy for the Cubs will need to be keeping the first couple batters off the bases. If it's indeed Kemp and Furcal in the top two spots, those guys are base stealing threats who have a behemoth coming up after them in Ramirez. Keep Ramirez from hitting with too many guys on, because after that, the rest of the lineup is much less dangerous and inexperienced in the postseason...although not to be taken lightly.
The Cubs strategy at the plate should be to score early. The pitchers are the strength of this team in this series in particular and as such they need to have all the support and confidence they can get. If all the hitters come up dry, the pressure will be very tremendous for the pitchers and many of them being young or irritable (and in some cases both) could have issues. Stay patient, hit smart, manufacture runs early and turn it over to the pitching.
More tomorrow before first pitch hopefully!