Thursday, October 04, 2007

Three Questions about the Cubs and Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks may enjoy a 1-0 lead in the series but it is far from over. To help us gain some more insight into the Cubs/Diamondbacks series we welcome in Al from Bleed Cubbie Blue and Jim from AZ Snake Pit. Thanks for your time, gentlemen.

Arizona has the better pitching staff. Agree or disagree?

Al: Disagree. The D'backs have a great closer, but the Cubs have a better rotation and a DEEPER bullpen.

Jim: Arizona has the best PITCHER, in Brandon Webb. Beyond that, things get a little greyer: Doug Davis has been generally solid, but any Livan Hernandez appearance is a disaster waiting to happen. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Micah Owings is young, but good - and also possesses a lethal bat, so good he has been used as a pinch-hitter during regular season games. Overall, the Cubs probably have the edge, but the prospect of possibly facing Webb twice in a short series can't be viewed with enthusiasm in Chicago. The bullpen for Arizona has been great, however, holding on to leads like an enraged pit-bull, and in that aspect of pitching, the edge must go to Arizona. Overall, measured by ERA+ [ERA adjusted for park factors, and compared to league average], Arizona rates a 114, Chicago a 113. It's basically too close to call.

Which batting lineup is more lethal, Arizona or Chicago?

Al: The Diamondbacks' lineup is mediocre; they finished 14th in the league in runs scored, last in BA, last in OBA. They hit a bunch of HR, but otherwise were pretty bad.

Jim: Looking at the raw statistics, Chicago appears to have a far superior offense. However, that conceals a couple of issues which are of significance here. Firstly, the Cubs played half their games against the pitching in the NL Central; the D-backs half theirs against the NL West, and there's absolutely no argument that the pitching in the West if *far* superior. Chicago's figures are padded by many more games against the weak arms of their divisional rivals. In addition, the Diamondbacks' have a young team, still gaining experience at the major-league level, and they have improved through the season - whether or not this is connected to the mid-season firing of hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer, I can't say. But, over the last month, the D-backs actually scored MORE runs per game than the Cubs, so the gap now is probably not as large as most people expect.

Does the Cubs experienced roster give them the upper hand in this series?

Al: Maybe. Experience doesn't always mean everything in playoff series, but one thing that WILL make the difference in experience is Lou Piniella, who has won a World Series and is now in his sixth postseason. Bob Melvin has never managed a postseason game.

Jim: I don't think so. Arizona's lack of experience has not prevented them from posting most wins in the National League, or beating the Cubs four times in the six games played already. Sure, the stakes are higher here, but it's equally possible that the rookies will revel in this opportunity. Calm heads with playoff experience, such as Tony Clark, will ensure the clubhouse remain focussed on the goal.

Prediction time! Who wins the series?

Al: Cubs in 4.

Jim: A prediction? Hell, anything could happen here, and I wouldn't be surprised. I'll stick my neck out, and say Micah Owings hits a homer in Game Four to silence Wrigley Field - it's the D-backs in four.

For complete analysis and opinions on both teams throughout this series make sure to check out Bleed Cubbie Blue and AZ Snake Pit. You’ll also want to check out their open game threads!