Wednesday, October 10, 2007
On one side are the D-backs, a collection of young players whose chemistry got them a division title and the best record in the National League. Led by Eric Byrnes and Brandon Webb, the D-Backs are built around pitching, defense and speed. On the other are the Rockies, a collection of sluggers and underrated pitchers who have blazed a historic trail into these playoffs, winning 13 of 14 games to close the regular season, then a one-game playoff, then they swept the Phillies. Aside from a loss to the D-backs, the Rockies have been perfect over the last 18 games. Can they keep it up?
Rockies hitters vs. D-backs pitching: The Rockies are loaded on offense and are much more multi-dimensional than is years past when Dante Bichette and Larry Walker were crushing home runs at Coors. These Rockies can bunt, steal bases, leg out doubles and belt home runs. They had the second-best offense in the National League in 2007, scoring 5.28 R/G, just under the Phillies 5.51.
The D-Backs have a great pitching staff, which is led by potential N.L. Cy Young candidate Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01 ERA), who allowed just 12 home runs in 236 innings of work in 2007. After Webb the D-Backs pitchers aren’t quite as good, so I give a slight edge here to the Rockies.
Rockies pitching vs. D-Backs hitters: The D-Backs don’t have that good of an offense. The D-Backs averaged 4.40 R/G and were dead-last in the N.L. in On-Base Percentage. They didn’t hit with much power (.413 slugging percentage vs. ,423 for the N.L.) and they didn’t hit with runners in scoring position (.249 BA/RISP vs. .269 for the N.L.). The Rockies pitching, in contrast, quietly rolled up some good numbers on their way to a middle-of-the-road statistical season. I give the edge here to the Rockies. If they could blank the Phillies hitters, then the D-Backs don’t stand a chance.
Prediction: Rockies in five.
Let’s move onto the Indians – Red Sox ALCS. Indians hitters vs. Red Sox pitching: The Indians are a solid, if unspectacular, collection of speedsters and sluggers. Grady Sizemore is their best hitter. Uniquely talented, Sizemore can run (33 steals in 43 tries) and he can hit for power (24 home runs, 34 doubles). He sets the table –and occasionally clears it – for players like Travis Hafner. The Red Sox are going to be led in the post-season by Josh Beckett, whose astonishing domination of the Angels in the first game of the ALDS doomed the Angels to defeat. The Red Sox are deep on the mound and possess a number of talented starters, ranging from Beckett to Curt Schilling to Daisuke Matsuzaka. The only weakness the Red Sox have is the transition between the starters and closer Jonathan Papelbon. Eric Gagne and the rest of the Red Sox bullpen can be leaky. Still, advantage: Red Sox.
Indians pitching vs. Red Sox hitting: I like the Indians pitching a lot. Fausto Camona (19-8, 3.06 ERA) pitched a very nice game in the ALDS against the Yankees in the infamous bug-out game. C.C. Sabathia (19-7, 3.21 ERA) is a potential CY Young candidate. Overall, the Indians pitching staff might be the second-best in the American League after the Red Sox. The Red Sox hitters, in contrast, are reliant on David Ortiz and Mike Lowell to generate offense, although Manny Ramirez was electrifying in the ALDS. Can the Red Sox continue to generate runs with J.D. Drew in the lineup? Bottom-line: they need Manny to come up big in this series. Slight edge to the Indians here.
Overall, my prediction is: Red Sox in seven games.
Tomorrow, speed ... Friday, the future.