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NLCS preview

D'backs need Webb to cool off high-flying Rockies

Posted: Wednesday October 10, 2007 4:29PM; Updated: Wednesday October 10, 2007 5:41PM
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Catcher
Yorvit Torrealba, Rockies Chris Snyder, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.255 .323 .376 8 47 76 .252 .342 .433 13 47 94
Torrealba isn't much of a power threat at the plate, and he can be run on. But the veteran has the ear, and the trust, of a mostly young pitching staff. The big Snyder (he's 6-foot-3) has some power, he ranks near the top of the league at throwing out runners (nailing about 36 percent) and he's made only one error in 103 starts.
Edge: Diamondbacks
NOTE: OPS+ is OPS normalized to the league and adjusted for park effects. Greater than 100 is above average and less than 100 is below average, provided by Baseball-Reference.com.
First Base
Todd Helton, Rockies Conor Jackson, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.320 .434 .494 17 91 133 .284 .368 .467 15 60 109
Helton isn't the power hitter that some still think he is, but he has great patience at the plate (he led NL first basemen in walks), making him one of the tougher outs in the lineup. He's just OK defensively. Young Jackson still struggles defensively, but at the plate he makes contact (more walks than strikeouts) and has above-average power. He's a fastball hitter who fares much better against lefties and much better at home.
Edge: Rockies
Second Base
Kaz Matsui, Rockies Augie Ojeda, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.288 .342 .405 4 37 87 .274 .354 .354 1 12 80
Switch-hitting Matsui has sure hands and good range afield. His big swing leads to too many strikeouts for a guy with little power (forget that grand slam against the Phils). He's a threat when he gets on (32 steals). When Orlando Hudson hurt his thumb, old-timer Ojeda stepped in for the Diamondbacks and has proven capable defensively. He's a tough out, too, a slappy switch-hitter with a good eye and some speed.
Edge: Rockies
Third Base
Garrett Atkins, Rockies Mark Reynolds, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.301 .367 .486 25 111 113 .279 .349 .495 17 62 109
With Helton hitting ahead of him and Brad Hawpe behind, Atkins sees plenty of good pitches. And he often does good things with them. Defensively, he doesn't have a whole lot of range around the bag. This rookie came up in mid-May and helped put some much-needed pop into the Arizona lineup. He strikes out too much -- 129 times in 111 games -- and he's had a rough time fielding, but the potential pop is worth it.
Edge: Rockies
Shortstop
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies Stephen Drew, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.291 .359 .479 24 99 109 .238 .313 .370 12 60 71
A Rookie of the Year frontrunner, Tulowitzki has great range and a piston for an arm, not to mention some pretty good power numbers. The caveat: His numbers seems to indicate he's a Coors Field hitter. He slugs 175 points higher at home. Drew was good defensively this season, but he was mostly disappointing at the plate. He may be starting to come around, though. In the NLDS wipeout of the Cubs, he had a pair of homers, a double and a triple, going for 7-for-14.
Edge: Rockies
Left Field
Matt Holliday, Rockies Eric Byrnes, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.340 .405 .607 36 137 151 .286 .353 .460 21 83 103
Despite a bad break on a ball that nearly cost the Rockies their play-in game against the Padres, Holliday is an above-average fielder who covers a lot of ground. He's a good hitter on the road (.860 OPS). He's great at Coors (1.157). The all-out Byrnes gets criticized for his head-first style of play, especially in the outfield, but he can hit and he can steal a bunch of bases (50 this year), and his enthusiasm has rubbed off on the whole team.
Edge: Rockies
Center Field
Ryan Spilborghs, Rockies Chris Young, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.299 .363 .485 11 51 111 .237 .295 .467 32 68 88
With the quadriceps injury to Willy Taveras, Spilborghs took over, and now Taveras will have to fight to get his job back. Spilborghs doesn't have much speed, but he has more power and gets on base more than Taveras. Young didn't hit for average, and he didn't walk, which meant he couldn't get on base much, but he played a good center field and, when he did hit, he often hit it hard and long. Still, a .295 OBP at leadoff? Not good.
Edge: Rockies
Right Field
Brad Hawpe, Rockies Justin Upton, D-Backs
BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+ BA OBP SLG HR RBIs OPS+
.291 .387 .539 29 116 130 .221 .283 .364 2 11 62
Lost in Colorado's deep lineup is Hawpe, a slugger who takes advantage of Coors Field but really fights himself against left-handers (don't be surprised to see a platoon here). Against righties, and at Coors, he's a threat every time up. Upton, still just 20 and a rookie, can cover a lot of ground in right, but at the plate, he's been a bit overwhelmed. Pitchers will challenge him until he shows he can hit the ball consistently. With a .283 OBP, he still has plenty to prove.
Edge: Rockies
Rotation
Pitcher W-L ERA SO-BB ERA+ Pitcher W-L ERA SO-BB ERA+
Francis 17-9 4.22 165-63 112 Webb 18-10 3.01 194-72 156
Jimenez 4-4 4.28 68-37 111 Davis 13-12 4.25 144-95 111
Morales 3-2 3.43 26-14 138 Hernandez 11-11 4.93 90-79 95
Ace lefty Jeff Francis throws just as well at Coors Field (4.20 ERA) as he does away from it (4.24). The same goes for righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who has a 5.01 ERA away from Coors and a 3.81 at home. After those two, it's lefty Franklin Morales and a lot of hope. Right-hander Brandon Webb could pitch three times in the series. If he can, he will, too. He stymied the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS with his sinker and a couple of newly perfected offspeed pitches. Behind him is the up-and-down lefty, Doug Davis, ancient righty Livan Hernandez and rookie righty Micah Owings.
NOTE: ERA+ is the ratio of the league's ERA (adjusted to the pitcher's ballpark) to that of the pitcher. Greater than 100 is above average and less than 100 is below average, provided by Baseball-Reference.com.
Edge: Diamondbacks
Bullpen
Pitcher SV ERA IP SO-BB ERA+ Pitcher SV ERA IP SO-BB ERA+
Corpas 19 2.08 78 58-20 229 Valverde 47 2.66 64.3 78-26 177
Fuentes 20 3.08 61.3 56-23 154 Pena 2 3.27 85.3 63-31 144
Hawkins 0 3.42 55.3 29-16 139 Lyon 2 2.68 74 40-22 176
With lefty Brian Fuentes in the setup role now, to closer Manny Corpas, the Rockies are tough. Fuentes has had a 1.45 ERA since his last appearance in the ninth. Since his first save in early July, Corpas has a 1.50 ERA. Hard-throwing LaTroy Hawkins often precedes those two into games, and lefty Jeremy Affeldt, who walks too many, is in the mix, too. Arizona closer Jose Valverde had more saves than anyone this season. He's a hard thrower set up nicely by righties Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz and Tony Pena. The main lefty in the 'pen -- the only lefty in the 'pen -- is little-used Doug Slaten.
Edge: Rockies
Defense
The Rockies had fewer errors (69) than any team in either league. Defense is a huge part of their game, and especially important given the outfield gaps in wide-open Coors Field. Add to that a rapidly improving infield, with strength in the middle in Matsui and Tulowitzki, and this is a team that makes others earn their hits. Arizona's defense was hurt by the loss of second baseman Hudson, a Gold Glove winner in '06. His backup Ojeda is capable, though. The youth of the Diamondbacks shows through most on defense, especially on the infield corners.
Edge: Rockies
Bench
Colorado's pinch-hitters had the third-lowest OPS in the league. Outfielder Seth Smith is the first lefty off the bench. Most often, Jeff Baker provides a right-handed bat, though not a particularly good one (.196 average). Outfielder Cory Sullivan is another lefty. No team in the NL had more pinch-hit homers than the Diamondbacks (11). Three of those belonged to backup catcher Miguel Montero and three to switch-hitting backup first baseman Tony Clark. Lefty swinging Jeff Salazar, a good defender, can sub out with Upton.
Edge: Diamondbacks
Manager
Colorado's Clint Hurdle has pushed all the right buttons down the stretch, ably blending the veterans on the team (mainly Helton) with all the youth and keeping them pointed in the right way even after disasters (a 1-9 road trip in late June). Hurdle is old-school of a sort. In 2006, for instance, he ordered more sacrifice bunts than anyone in the NL, and this season the Rocks had more sac hits than anyone in the league. Bob Melvin will get a lot of manager of the year votes for taking this painfully young Arizona team and keeping it in the running all year despite a lineup that scored only 4.4 runs a game, 14th in the league. Melvin will say that he plays percentages, but he's been known to go with a hot hand, too. He doesn't like intentional walks, doesn't sacrifice a lot, and with his team's trouble putting bat on ball sometimes, he doesn't hit and run. He'll stick with Webb, and even Hernandez, but he's not afraid to call on that bullpen early, if need be.
Edge: Diamondbacks
Intangibles
The Rockies finished with 51 wins at Coors Field, including the critical 13-inning playoff win over the Padres on Oct. 1 that propelled them into the postseason. They don't have home-field advantage in this series, though. And they were three games under .500 on the road. Still, in their last 18 games, they are 17-1, including 8-0 away from Coors. The Diamondbacks are good at home (50 wins), too, Chase Field being one of the top hitter's parks in baseball. (In fact, all four teams remaining in the postseason play in parks that are among the top five.) The Diamondbacks will tell you that they hit well in the clutch, but the numbers say their .747 OPS with runners in scoring position is the worst in the NL. Still, those 90 wins, best in the league, didn't appear out of thin air.
Edge: Diamondbacks
The Pick
Arizona's team always has been a whole greater than its parts, but its greatest part remains Webb, who can be a difference maker. If he can gut out a Game 4 start on short rest, the Diamondbacks have a big advantage because they can bring him back on full rest for a Game 7. But he's never pitched on short rest before, and he did throw more than 236 innings this year. Still, you can see why the Diamondbacks will be tempted. The Rockies have a superior lineup, a better defense and a bullpen that is at least just as good. I like Webb a lot. I'm just not sure he'll be able to carry the D'backs this time. I like the sky-high Rockies in six games.

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