In his column last Friday, Rich wondered "Why did so many underestimate the Dodgers when, in fact, they looked every bit as good as the Cubs coming into the NLDS?" This is a great question, and one worth exploring further.
Even on a park-adjusted basis, the Dodgers had better pitching than Chicago. We knew this coming in.
ERA+ K/BB WHIP
LAD 120 2.51 1.29
CHC 117 2.31 1.29
The untold story of this series was not that since Manny Ramirez joined the Dodgers, he has hit .396/.489/.743. We all knew that he had been unconscious. But as a team, the Dodgers boasted one of the very best offenses in the National League from August 1 on. Before Ramirez arrived, the Dodgers hit .256/.321/.376 in 2008. Since August 1, they produced at a .281/.355/.443 clip. Over that same period of time, the Cubbies have hit .274/.350/.439. When you adjust for park, it's safe to say that for two months running now, the Dodgers had been trotting out the more potent offensive attack.
Better pitching, better hitting? Sounds like a recipe for success to me.
Another LA (non) surprise was the productivity of Mike Napoli in the ALDS. I heard the TBS broadcast team refer to the Angels catcher as a "role player" after he blasted two home runs the other night. Paraphrasing, Buck Martinez said something to the effect of "So often in the post-season the role players step up and make the difference."
Napoli is no role player. In fact, he's probably the second best position player on the Halos, or at least was when Mike Scioscia decided to play him (trust me, more on Scioscia later on). By definition, any catcher who is an above average hitter probably is not a role player. And really, a 26 year-old backstop who hits .273/.374/.586 is a freakin' stud.
His .250/.450/.700 line did not quite save the Angels season, but he came damn close.