Tuesday, October 2, 2007

ALDS Preview
By Adam Dodge

To breakdown the National League playoffs, which will also include Philadelphia Phillies and the Colorado Rockies, a dart board and blind fold may be the most effective method. No one team jumps off the page as a legitimate favorite. Arizona has been the most consistent, and arguably survived the National League’s best division. Philadelphia may be the most playoff ready after playing nearly three weeks of do or die baseball, climaxing Sunday with a win against Washington and a Mets loss, securing the NL East title. The Cubs have arguably the most talent, and the Rockies are certainly the league’s hottest team.

But, I’ll give it go.

The Arizona Diamondbacks not only won the National League West, but also compiled the best record in the National League with a relatively anonymous cast of characters.

Conversely, the Chicago Cubs star-laden roster underachieved, yet played well enough in the second half and down the stretch to win a bad National League Central Division.

But with the postseason, comes a fresh start. Every team is 0-0 and with several days off from meaningful baseball, momentum is a non-factor.

It’s about the match-ups.

Brandon Webb and Carlos Zambrano will meet in game 1, and likely twice in the best of five series. Zambrano is very much a Jeckyl and Hyde type pitcher, prone to both, dominating opponents for nine innings, and blowing up early. In contrast, Webb has been consistently sharp, while not as overpowering as the Cubs’ ace.

The Cubs will also send Ted Lilly, Rich Hill and Jason Marquis to the mound, while the Diamondbacks will counter with Doug Davis, Livan Hernandez and likely, Micah Owings.

Glancing at the numbers, no team seems to have an edge in the rotation.

The Cubs though, may have a bullpen edge despite the scary notion Ryan Dempster presents as the closer. Carlos Marmol was recalled this summer and has been perhaps the most dominating relief pitcher in the National League since the All-Star Break posting a 1.43 ERA and 96 strikeouts in just 69.1 innings pitched this season.

In the end, this series will be decided by the offense. If I’m Lou Piniella, I like my chances with Aramiz Ramirez and Derek Lee in the middle of the line-up, as opposed to Mark Reynolds, Connor Jackson and Eric Byrnes of Arizona.

Alfonso Soriano has not been at his best in the postseason, compiling just a .233 average from 2001-2003 with the New York Yankees, but did show a knack for the big hit.

Prediction: Cubs win in 4 games and in walk-off fashion.
Love to hear what you think!


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