1. Who will be the Dodgers Game Four starter -- Clayton Kershaw or
Greg Maddux? Who would you send out there? Note: I asked this question before today's announcement that Derek Lowe would start Game Four on three days rest, but decided in light of Andrew's well-reasoned response to let the question remain.
Right now, I don't think either one would be. Maddux was not the answer the Dodgers were looking for in their rotation, putting up a five ERA that left a lot of fans wishing we just used highly rated prospect James McDonald or even AAA veteran Eric Stults instead. Kershaw was similarly unspectacular over his last nine starts with a five ERA, making it entirely reasonable to assume that having a 20 year old throw 169 innings is just too much. If the Dodgers were forced, they'd probably go with Maddux due to his veteran presence, and because Kershaw's two plus pitches could make him a dangerous weapon out of the bullpen, but there's a 90 percent chance that we'd send Derek Lowe out there on short rest. I would have to agree with that decision.
2. Which Dodger has the most control over the outcome of the series?
Difficulty: No Manny Ramirez.
The safe answer: Chad Billingsley. After spending the year toiling in relative obscurity behind other great young arms like Cole Hamels, Tim Lincecum and Scott Kazmir, Bills finally started to get some real recognition after shutting down the Cubs in game two. A great outing against a possibly even more dangerous Phillies lineup could be what it takes to get him recognized in that same group. While Derek Lowe's amazing September made his season numbers comparable to Billingsley's, Bills has really been the Dodgers ace all year, and until Manny came to the team, he was really the only noteable player we had. Billingsley needs to be the ace he was during the season for the Dodgers to take down the Phils.
Bold answer: Joe Beimel. I spent two years ridiculing the guy and saying that his success was a small sample size fluke. However, at this point you just can't ignore the results. Beimel has become one of the best left handed specialists in baseball the last couple years, highlighted by the fact that he's only allowed one home run since September 3rd, 2006. With the Phillies potentially hitting Chase Utley and Ryan Howard three and four, Beimel's ability to shut down lefties could come up in a big situation this series.
3. How much did Joe Torre have to do with the success of this team?
Has his ample postseason managerial experience affected the team's
outlook, or has there been no real effect?
Unless Torre was able to single handedly convince Manny Ramirez to be the best trade deadline acquisition ever, I wouldn't give him any credit for the Dodgers turn around. The Dodgers were a thoroughly mediocre team before Manny, and his huge performance in the last two months was somewhere around a four game improvement over Juan Pierre. I guess Torre could have benched Andre Ethier over Pierre, and we would have missed his .368/.448/.649 performance in the last two months, but that seems like a no brainer type of decision. Even you do decide to give Torre credit for those kinds of numbers, couldn't you blame him for James Loney giving the Dodgers a .526 OPS in September or Greg Maddux putting up an ERA over five since coming to the team? In the end, I don't see anything that really separated Torre from Grady Little, and if the Dodgers played in a semi-competent division, this year would have been seen as a disaster.
4. It's the 9th inning, the Dodgers have a one run lead... who do you
want on the mound, Saito or Broxton?
At this point, Broxton. If Saito had thrown more than a few innings in the last couple months, I would go with him, but it just seems way too scary to rely on a 38 year old coming off arm trouble with the season on the line. His performance in garbage time against the Cubs didn't do much to help matters. Broxton developed something a reputation of a choke artist after a bad blown save on August 9th, but that was due to some bad defense and seeing eye singles. Actually, seeing eye singles seemed to be the story of Broxton's year with a .327 BABIP and almost all of his bad outings coming from a series of ground balls getting by useless defenders like Jeff Kent. Broxton is just as good as all but the best closers, and I have no problem with him in the ninth inning.
5. As a Dodgers fan, which Phillies player scares you the most?
Chase Utley, he's one of the five best players in baseball right now, and not enough people realize it. Not only is he a dominant offensive player, but his glove could put a very tragic end to a very singles based Dodger offense. Utley is the complete package, and very few players have the effect on a game that he does.
I'm also worried about Shane Victorino or Jayson Werth dishing out some poetic justice. We sent you both of those guys for free, so I'd think there's a good 75 percent chance that the series ends on a walk off by Werth.
Thanks Andrew! Here's hoping for a good series.