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A True Glove Story
Joe Sheehan
October 12, 2009
Most of the big names are the same as in '07 and so, too, is the story line: Defense again trumps the long ball
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October 12, 2009

A True Glove Story

Most of the big names are the same as in '07 and so, too, is the story line: Defense again trumps the long ball

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This series is a rematch of the 2007 Division Series won by the Rockies in a surprising sweep that would be followed by another sweep, of the Diamondbacks, that resulted in the franchise's first trip to the World Series. It is also about as close to a true rematch as you'll find in today's game, with five starting position players and several other contributors on each team still wearing the same uniforms they did two years ago. The Phillies are once again one of the best offensive teams in baseball, having led the NL in runs, home runs and slugging percentage. Colorado is back in the playoffs for much the same reason it made the '07 postseason: a strong defense.

Because the Phillies don't get a lot of hits—they batted .286 on balls in play, the third-lowest figure in the NL—and the Rockies so effectively convert balls in play into outs, Philadelphia may struggle to score when it doesn't hit home runs. In fact, this is one reason why the Phillies lost in '07: They hit five homers in three games, but all were solo shots, and they scored just three other runs in the series, batting an atrocious .177 on balls in play. They have to improve upon that number or hit a lot of well-timed home runs to avoid a similar fate.

Going deep against Colorado isn't the given it once was—far from it. Despite playing half their games in Coors Field, the Rockies allowed just 141 homers this season, a team record for a full year and the fifth-lowest mark in the league. This isn't just about the humidor; Colorado pitchers induce more ground balls than any staff other than the Cardinals', while giving up home runs at a league-average rate (about 10%) on the fly balls they do allow. They also have a lower walk rate than all but four NL teams. It's a simple plan: Keep the ball down, don't give out free passes, let the defense do the rest. The Rockies and the Cardinals have a nearly identical approach to run prevention, but Colorado backs it with a better defense.

The other factor working against the Phillies is their bullpen, a mess because of Brad Lidge's collapse and injuries that leave them wondering who'll be available. J.C. Romero and Chan Ho Park are out, while Scott Eyre and Brett Myers missed most of September. A key part of the 2008 championship team is a critical weakness in '09, and likely the deciding factor. Rockies in four.

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