October 10, 2007
When the playoffs began, I said the 2007 Rockies reminded me of the 2003 Marlins. In hindsight, it's difficult to claim that a team sporting Josh Fogg as its starter in Game 2 of the NLCS bears much resemblance to a team that boasted Beckett, Willis, Penny, and Pavano among its starters. Nevertheless, it can be said that Colorado shares a spirit with that team despite the difference in physical makeup of the squads.
What can be said matter of fact is that Colorado resembles a winner. Inexperienced pitching and a plethora of youth up the middle is not how traditionalists would draw up a successful team, but the Rockies are concerned with plans and ideals; they are concerned with scoring more runs than their opponent, and they have mastered that ability since mid-September better than any team.
While the pitching isn't pretty, it has gotten the job done and kept Colorado in every ballgame long enough for the hearty lineup to inflict damage on the opposition regardless of the pitcher. From Matsui and Tulowitzki on down, there is nary a weakness in the lineup. Holliday, Atkins, Helton, and Hawpe figure to keep a Colorado carousel on the basepaths most nights in this series.
Do not forget about Arizona and their steady play throughout the season. They DID win the NL West after all, and showed Chicago they can beat teams of any caliber regardless of their paltry batting average (worst in the NL). The uncanny ability of Arizona to win ballgames despite scoring less runs in the long run will be hard tested in the NLCS. Colorado figures to put runs on the board in every game, so it will be tough for the Diamondbacks to play "small ball," hoping to eke out a few one-run victories.
The one chance Arizona has for "small ball" victories lies in Brandon Webb's arm. Webb is capable of shutting down the most potent lineups, and he will figure in at least two of the games in this series. That lone loss Colorado suffered over the past few weeks was at the hands of Webb, so the D-Backs are not expected to just roll over and die as long as their ace is on the mound.
Arizona's offense consists of many good but not great hitters. Virtually every hitter in the lineup has ability but a weakness to match. Even though the pitching matchups will favor Arizona in almost every game, the difference in the offensive firepower will favor Colorado.
The tipping point will be Colorado's overlooked outstanding defense. Arizona plays baseball like a conservative tennis player: keep the volley going until the opposition makes a mistake. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks have run into a fundamentally sound squad in Colorado and those mistakes may never materialize.
On paper, this series should go six or seven games and Brandon Webb should ensure Arizona at least one win. HOWEVER, you can't ignore the inexplicable buzzsaw that is Colorado right now, so I am making the boldest of statements and predicting a sweep. For the sake of good baseball, I hope I am wrong, but I simply can't go against a team that simply won't lose.
Prediction: Colorado in 4