Keep up with the latest news, notes and developments with Fungoes, a daily journal for all things baseball that will last all season long.
NLCS: Top five storylines
Featuring a pair of small-market franchises with minimal team history, the NLCS is definitely playing second fiddle to its American League counterpart when it comes to national interest. But it would be foolish for any baseball fan to overlook this matchup of NL West counterparts. Here are five key storylines to watch in the battle for NL supremacy:
1. Youth is served. The biggest back story of this LCS is the young, homegrown talent on each ballclub. The Diamondbacks start three rookies (CF Chris Young, RF Justin Upton and 3B Mark Reynolds) and boast four other regulars (SS Stephen Drew, 1B Conor Jackson, C Chris Snyder, OF Jeff Salazar) who have yet to turn 27. Arizona's Game 4 starter -- rookie Micah Owings -- just earned the full car-rental privileges of a 25-year-old a few weeks back. Colorado counters with a rookie shortstop (22-year-old Troy Tulowitzki), two rookie starting pitchers (21-year-old Franklin Morales and 23-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez) and a 24-year-old closer (Manny Corpas). You may as well get familiar with these two squads now, because with this many talented young'ins, neither team seems like a flash-in-the-pan winner.
2. A tangled Webb. According to most national prognosticators, this series will ultimately be decided by D-backs ace Brandon Webb, and that's not necessarily a good thing for Arizona. Yes, Webb handed the Rockies the only loss in their past 18 games, but in his five other starts against Colorado this season, Webb went 0-3 with a 6.47 ERA. Even if Webb is his dominant self, his contribution will be limited to two games. Arizona manager Bob Melvin has decided to use a four-man rotation, eliminating the possibility of a third start in the series for last year's Cy Young winner.
3. Fast Willy's return. The Rockies have been on a well-documented tear for the last month, and they've done so without the services of a key cog: leadoff hitter Willy Taveras, who has been battling a strained quad. Colorado activated Taveras for the NLCS. During the regular season, the speedy center fielder provided solid defense and hit .320 with a team-leading 33 steals. Taveras' return to the top of the order will most likely push Kaz Matsui to second and Tulowitzki down to No. 7. Have fun with that lineup, D-backs pitchers.
4. Melvin's magic touch. Forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but Melvin has simply pushed all the right buttons this season. No manager in all of baseball had a bigger influence on his team this season. The D-backs skipper produced the National League's best record (90-72) with an inexperienced team. Funny to think that Melvin was Arizona's second choice behind Wally Backman.
5. Rock solid defense. Colorado's offense gets all the attention, but the team's defense is actually far more impressive. The Rockies set a major-league record for highest fielding percentage in a season (.98925). Air-tight defense like this is made for playoff baseball.
posted by SI.com | View comments |
AL East blog (Monday)
NL West blog (Monday)
AL Central blog (Tuesday)
NL Central blog (Wednesday)
AL West blog (Thursday)
NL East blog (Thursday)
Wild Card (Friday)