1. The Dodgers are better now than they ever were during the regular season.
During the regular season L.A. played just three games with both Rafael Furcal and Manny Ramirez in the lineup; one got injured in May and the other arrived on Aug. 1. The combination of the two -- a high-OBP leadoff man and a middle-of-the-order stud -- gives the Dodgers an excellent offense. The return of Furcal, who had a .467 OBP and scored in every game of the Division Series, adds an element that the Dodgers have lacked since he went on the DL on May 8. Throw in a deep, hard-throwing bullpen bolstered by rookie find Cory Wade, who pitched in all three games against the Cubs, and the emergence of Chad Billingsley as a budding star, and you have a team that will be underrated by any measure of in-season performance.
2. The Phillies need to crank up the offense.
It was no surprise that the Phillies dispatched the Brewers in four games, although they were something shy of impressive in doing so. They scored in just five innings in the four games. They hit .171 with runners in scoring position in the series and scored just 15 runs. The Brewers bullpen, which trailed only the Mets pen in late-season agonies, held the Phillies to one run -- a solo homer late in Game 4 -- in 18 innings. Most worrisome was the absence of the Phillies¹ stars: Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were 4-for-26 with two doubles.
The top of the order did its job, with Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino both posting .400+ OBPs. The middle of the order will have to step up against the Dodgers.
3. The old cliche about playing smallball in the postseason is nonsense.
The idea, passed down through generations, is that to win in October you have to be able to manufacture single runs using bunts, steals, hit-and-runs and the occasional incantation. The truth is the opposite; against quality pitching the ability to generate one or more runs with one swing of the bat is key, because against good pitchers it's difficult to run long-sequence offenses that require multiple events. You need to maximize the runs you score at one time, because opportunities are rare. That means putting up a crooked number. The Phillies outhomered the Brewers 5-1. The Dodgers outhomered the Cubs 4-1. The team hitting more homers in a game was 4-0 in the NLDS. In all seven NLDS games the winning team scored more runs in one inning than the loser did in the entire game. To win in October, play for the big inning and don't give away outs.
4. Despite the early exit, the CC Sabathia trade was worth it for the Brewers.
They may miss Matt LaPorta down the road, as not having him limits their options for future trades, but the Brewers would not have made the postseason without Sabathia, and making the postseason has been a great moment for this franchise. After such a disappointing 2007, in which they blew an 8 1/2-game lead in the NL Central, there was a risk that another such season would jade a fan base just as the products of the farm system were coming together.
By winning a tight wild-card race, bringing October baseball back to Milwaukee and generating towel-waving, Thunderstick-banging excitement for a weekend, owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin showed the fans that the Brewers could take the next step, a decision that will resonate for years.
5. The Cubs should think about adding a left-handed hitter.
They don't need to make radical changes, and in fact, should actively avoid overreacting in the wake of a second straight NLDS sweep, this on the heels of an NL-best 97-64 record. They had the misfortune of drawing a Dodgers squad that was not only better on Oct. 1 than it had been all year, but whose staff of power right-handers was a brutal matchup for the Cubs¹ righty-heavy lineup. Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda each held righties to sub-.300 OBPs during the season, and each mowed down the Cubs, who started six right-handed batters in both games against the two. It will be hard to fit one in, given the contract commitments to Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, but adding a lefty batter with some power is the one move that GM Jim Hendry could make that would potentially address a key shortcoming.