Thursday, October 11, 2007

NLCS: The Improbable Match-up [J. Mark English]

As of yesterday there was something like 8,000 tickets available to the D'backs vs. Rockies NLCS. It just shows how little interest there is in this bout. It also is an indication of just how low the expectations were for both of these ball clubs.
The Diamondbacks are probably less of the surprise team here. They have solid pitching, and gutsy hitting...the same kind of combo that helped the Cardinals win the World Series last year. They are a scrappy team.
The Rockies may be the beneficiaries of an off season discovery. Before the season, the Rockies ground crew realized that the baseballs in the high altitude would dry out, causing great lift in the ball. Combine this with the light air, and you have a ball that will travel a lot farther then at any other ball park. They decided to humidify the balls up until game day, keeping them nice and moist by the first pitch. The added density helped keep the ball in the park more often then not, and finally the Rockies were able to put together solid starts throughout an entire season in Colorado.
The Rockies run differential was the best in the league, and so it really shouldn't be that much of a surprise that they are where they are.
Here with more about the NLCS is Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports, whom introduces to some of the known, and not so well known players on both teams:

First on the Rockies:
  • Jeff Francis: The starting pitcher for the Rockies in Game 1 is a product of British Columbia University and became the first Canadian pitcher to start a postseason game when he pitched against the Philadelphia Phillies last week in the NLDS....Francis wasn't overlooked, despite hailing from a remote baseball outpost. He was the ninth overall pick in the 2002 draft, was named Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America in 2004 and is the ace of the Rockies' staff, posting a 17-9 record this season.
  • Todd Helton, Matt Holliday and Seth Smith: Helton, of course, carries a lifetime batting average of .332, second only to Ichiro Suzuki on the active list. Holliday is a strong MVP candidate after leading the NL with a .340 average, 216 hits and 139 RBI. Smith, few folks realize, batted .625 during the regular season and .500 in the NLDS, albeit with a grand total of 10 at-bats.
  • Manny Corpas: The rookie closer signed out of Panama in 1999 gave a glimpse of his dominant stuff and uncanny composure in 2006 when he posted a do-my-eyes-deceive-me ERA of 0.98 in 42 minor league games.
And now the Diamondbacks:
  • Brandon Webb: The best pitcher in the National League, or at least the best east of San Diego's Jake Peavy, winning the Cy Young Award in 2006, tossing 42 consecutive scoreless innings this season and boasting a sinker that drops with the force of an anvil on Wile E. Coyote.
  • Jose Valverde: The Dominican closer is as frenetic as Webb is laid back. And just as effective, leading the NL with 47 saves and adding another in the NLDS. He gyrates when he throws a strike, and pumps his chest and breaks into a salsa-tinged dance when he retires the side.
  • Micah Owings: A rookie starter whose clutch pitching down the stretch helped the Diamondbacks win their division, Owings would just as soon be in the batter's box. He hit .333 in 60 at-bats, with 12 extra-base hits and 15 RBI.
  • Eric Byrnes: Shouldn't a guy who stole 50 bases, slides head first and leaves his feet for fly balls spend an extra minute or two in the shower? Not Byrnes, who has an aversion to washing his hair.

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