Monday, 26 September 2011

Playoff Primer- The Arizona Iced Teas

By my count, since the Aaron Hill and John Mcdonald-for-Kelly Johnson trade, the Arizona Diamondbacks are 23-7, good enough to go from a small defecit, to an 8 game lead over the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants for the lead in the NL West.  You can add the NL West to the list of divisions that I believe the Toronto Blue Jays would at least be competitive in this season, and with the imbalanced schedules allowing Arizona to play teams like Colorado and San Diego  (15 and 21 games below .500 respectively), or the Dodgers (Juan Uribe= 3 yrs, $21MM) more often than any other, it's not incredibly tough to see that a good, young team in a division with little competition will probably win.  When SF is trotting out guys like Miguel Tejada, or Aaron Rowand instead of young studs like Brandon Belt, the two choices of a division champion will get whittled down to one eventually.  It took a few injuries and some regression of an already mediocre offense to do it, but the Giants(' position players) showed their true colors.

The question mark of the D'backs is certainly their pitching.  Playing in Chase Field doesn't hurt at all (it's like the Skydome on crack), but they have gotten some really good seasons out of a few guys.  Justin Upton has been ridiculous all season long, Miguel Montero finally turned in to the fantasy baseball steal that I expected him to be last year, and some breakout performances by guys like Gerardo Parra and Ryan Roberts have made up for the fact that Chris Young has forgotten how to hit, the loss of Stephen Drew, and the fact that Lyle Overbay was the everyday first baseman for a little while.

Trade deadline acquisitions Aaron Hill and John Mcdonald have contributed to the recent success, Hill by coming out of nowhere and hitting .328/.388/.517 since the trade, and Mcdonald by flashing his standard defensive awesomeness.

The big surprise from this team, however, has been the starting rotation.  Ian Kennedy, Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter and Dan Hudson have all been excellent this season, negating the lack of fifth starter, which is not at all needed in the playoffs anyway.  The bullpen has been solid throughout the year as well, especially considering all the game in the offense-happy Chase Field.

My big problem with giving the D'backs any chance at all to win is the fact that they will probably be the worst team in the playoffs this season, though Milwaukee isn't much better (I realize that I said MIL was the worst in the playoffs in their primer, but I take it back).  PHI, MIL, and ATL all have better rotations and offenses than ARI.  Much like MIL, any playoff success is going to come down to the marginal runs saved due to defense (ARI is good at defense, MIL is dogshit at it; ARI needs to continue to play good defense, MIL needs to start playing average defense).  Arizona is currently slated to get facefucked by the Phillies in round 1, and I can certainly see that one getting ugly.  PHI's offense is bad enough that each of these games might not be blowouts, but the pitching staff is good enough that, especially away from Chase Field, we're going to see Halladay and Clifton do some dominating.

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