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NLCS preview - Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72) v. Colorado Rockies (90-73)

The two teams with the best records in the NL West also had the best records in the league and seemed almost destined to meet.  They feature vastly different games and styles of play which should make for a great NLCS.

Offense: 
Offensively the Rockies are a juggernaut who ranked second in runs scored in the NL.  Core players include MVP candidate Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, Todd Helton and Rookie of the Year candidate Troy Tulowitzki.  Combined these five hit 131 home runs, drove in 554, scored 473 times and hit .308.  The Rockies as a team hit .280.

The Diamondbacks, despite their lack of big name hitters are no slouches.  They hit almost as many home runs as the Rockies (170 for the D’backs - 171 for the Rockies) despite scoring 148 runs fewer.  Some of that can certainly be attributed to the Coors Field factor, but the difference in team batting averages could be a concern as the D’Backs hit a full .30 points lower than the Rockies (.250 to .280). Edge Rockies

Defense:
Simply put the Rockies are historically the best fielding team EVER.  They committed just 68 errors over 163 games and compiled an all time high fielding percentage of .989.   That means that the Rockies essentially play perfect ball and if they can do that they’ll add to the pressure that the young Diamondbacks will have to face. Edge Rockies

Starting Pitching:
You can call this one the Webb factor.   Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb (18-10, 3.01) is far and away the best starter in this series.  Arizona ranked 4th in the NL in pitching with a 4.13 ERA but Colorado wasn’t far behind at 8th with a 4.32 ERA.  Colorado ace Jeff Francis (17-9, 4.22) is almost certainly better than his numbers imply but his stuff isn’t as dominating.

After those two, neither starting staff is all that distinguished although the D’Back have two other pitchers who managed to get over 10 wins (Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez) while the Rockies can only post a single pitcher who managed to reach ten wins (Josh Fogg). Edge Diamondbacks

Relief Pitching:
This is an area which may be somewhat deceptive as both teams had good relief staffs behind the starters.  On paper at least the Diamondbacks certainly appear to be a more solid bunch of relievers with Jose Valverde (2.66, 47 saves), Brandon Lyon (2.68, 35 holds), and Tony Pena (3.27, 30 holds).

The Rockies answer with a bullpen full of former closers including Brian Fuentes (3.08, 8 holds), LaTroy Hawkins (3.42, 18 holds), Jorge Julio (3.93, 16 holds), Matt Herges (2.98 ERA), and Jeremy Affeldt (3.51, 9 holds).  They stand behind closer Manny Corpas (2.08, 19 saves, 16 holds).  The Holds and innings have really been spread about and that gives the Rockies a lot of depth in the pen - something which could come into play. Edge Diamondbacks

Bench:
The Diamondbacks are a very flexible team in terms of who plays where, and the do tend to be able to easily plug in and platoon players, leaving them with a much deeper bench.  On any given day you night find Chad Tracy, Justin Upton, Conor Jackson or Tony Clark coming off the bench. Edge Diamondbacks

Manager:
Both D’Backs manager Bob Melvin and Rockies manager Clint Hurdle have done masterful work with the players that they have.  Hurdle might have a slight edge in managing his pitching as he overcame the Coors field air, but Melvin has the advantage when it comes to plugging in and substituting hitters and fielders as he’s had to find ways for this team to win while being outscored by opponents over a full season. Edge Even

Intangibles:
This one is a close call, but the Rockies get the edge here not because of playoff experience, but because of their hot streak, winning 18 of their last 19 games, more veteran player, and because they are deep in uncharted waters as an organization - and they want it more than just about any team I’ve ever seen.  Edge Rockies

Prediction:   Rockies in six