After the Diamondbacks found out who they would play in the NL Division series, consensus in the clubhouse was “we match up pretty good against the Milwaukee Brewers.”
A closer look will reveal key match-ups and comparisons, and what to look for as the series progresses.
Above all, both teams are excellent at home. The Brewers get the home-field advantage, and that means Games 1 and 2 at Miller Park as well as a possible, deciding Gave Five. The Diamondbacks showed a penchant all season for the dramatics, and led the majors with 48, come-from-behind victories.
Arizona took to heart manager Kirk Gibson’s cry to play hard for all 27 outs, and if one game put a stamp on this constant, it was an unbelievable comeback on Sept. 27. Down 6-1 to the Dodgers with two out and no runners on base in the 10th inning, the Diamondbacks somehow manufactured two runs and Ryan Roberts finished the script with a walk-off grand slam and a 7-6 win.
Though the Brewers tend to have physical advantages in most locations, they would be hard-pressed to match the D-backs heart and grit.
With that, here’s a comparison and match-ups.
D-backs – Miguel Montero (.282, 18 HR, 86 RBI)
Brewers – Jonathan Lucroy (.252, 12 HR, 59 RBI)
Montero had a break-out year, emerged as solid hitter and dependable catcher. Working with veteran back-up Henry Blanco and the coaching staff, Montero improved in throwing out base runners and handling the pitching staff.
Lucroy was the Brewers starter going into spring training but suffered a broken finger and started the season nearly two weeks late. He recovered to turn in a solid season.
EDGE – Montero
D-backs – Paul Goldschmidt (.250, 8 HR, 26 RBI)
Brewers- Prince Fielder (.299, 38 HR, 120 RBI)
Goldschmidt was called up in early August and contributed with timely hits, His two run triple Sept. 23 sealed a win over the Giants and clinched the NL West. Goldschmidt remains a project at this point, and must be more intelligent in pitch selection and swings.
As an up-coming free agent, Fielder is all but gone, but will have enough to be a lightning rod. He is dangerous on nearly every pitch and D-backs pitching must keep him in the ball park.
EDGE – Fielder
D-backs – Aaron Hill (.315, 2 HR, 16 RBI with Arizona)
Brewers – Rickie Weeks (.269, 20 HR, 49 RBI)
Hill made the seamless transition from Toronto in a late season trade. His ability to put the ball in play and not strike out is a clear advantage over the traded Kelly Johnson. Weeks was out for a month and half with a left ankle injury and returned only in September. His power numbers are superior but Weeks may not be as nimble with his bat in helping to set the table for Fielder and others.
EDGE – Hill
D-backs – Willie Bloomquist (.266, 4 HR, 26 RBI)
Brewers – Yuniesky Betancourt (.252, 13 HR, 68 RBI)
When Stephen Drew went down with a season-ending broken ankle in late July, Bloomquist stepped in and gave the D-backs stability and production. As a lead-off hitter, Bloomquist finds ways to get to on base, and that sufficiently enhanced the offense. Coming over from the Royals, Betancourt put up decent numbers, but tanked after the All-Star game. His production, or lack thereof, could be a concern.
EDGE – Bloomquist
D-backs – Ryan Roberts (.249, 19 HR, 65 RBI)
Brewers – Casey McGehee (.223, 13 HR, 67 RBI)
Roberts, who made the team because of the injury to Geoff Blum late in spring training, took full advantage. His high energy and intensity is right out of manager Kirk Gibson’s mold. Roberts finds ways to contribute offensively and remains dependable defensively. McGehee’s numbers have fallen in the last two years, but the Brewers stick with him. If he gets hot, McGehee would be a terrific complement to the team’s existing power.
EDGE – McGehee
Gerardo Parra, left field (.292, 8 HR, 46 RBI)
Chris Young, center field (.236, 20 HR, 71 RBI
Justin Upton, right field (.289, 31 HR, 88 RBI)
Ryan Braun, left field (.332, 33 HR, 111 RBI)
Nyjer Morgan, centerfield (.304, 4 HR, 47 RBI)
Corey Hart, right field (.285, 26 HR, 63 RBI)
Upton tailed off in September but represented the offensive core as the D-backs build their division lead. In September, Upton tended to swing at pitches down and away and needs to be more disciplined in the post-season. Young had a streaky offensive season, but came alive in late September. Defensively, he is as good as any centerfielder in the game. Parra was a clear asset with his nearly .300 batting average and lethal throwing arm.
Braun is clearly an MVP candidate and Hart continues to put up impressive numbers. The key would be Morgan as a table-setter for the Brewers’ explosive offense.
EDGE – Brewers
Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88 ERA)
Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.49 ERA)
Joe Saunders (12-13, 3.69 ERA)
Josh Collmenter (10-10, 3.38 ERA
Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA)
Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52 ERA)
Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54 ERA)
Randy Wolfe (13-10, 3.69 ERA)
Kennedy emerged from the Yankees dog house two years ago to the D-backs penthouse and Cy Young award mention. His economy of pitches and ability to pin-point location remains his strengths. Hudson could be inconsistent and tends to get hit hard early. Saunders had a strong second half, and the D-backs could depend on his previous post-season experience.
Gallardo is the Brewers stopper and developed into one of the NL’s best starter. Marcum is solid second starter and Wolf remains a dependable veteran. Greinke was undefeated at home, but will likely start Game Three at Chase Field.
EDGE – Brewers
David Hernandez (5-3, 3.38 ERA)
Joe Paterson (0-3, 2.91 ERA)
Micah Owings (8-0, 3,57 ERA)
Brad Ziegler (0-0, 1.74 ERA with D-backs)
Francisco Rodriguez (4-0, 1.86 ERA with Brewers)
LaTroy Hawkins (3-1, 2.42)
Takashi Saito (4-2, 2.03 ERA)
Kameron Loe (4-7, 3..50 ERA)
D-backs total rehaul of its bullpen bore results. Owings was effective as long reliever and Paterson, a Rule 5 pick up from the Giants, was strong in getting one or two hitters out as needed. Hernandez was the difference and solid in setting up for closer J. J Putz. Hernandez was also 9-for-9 in save situations when filling in for Putz, who spent time on the DL.
K-Rod was proven as an effective set-up reliever and Saito made the transition from Dodgers closer to strong middle reliever. The veteran Hawkins turned in a solid season, and could fill in as a set-up reliever.
EDGE – Brewers
J. J.Putz (2-2, 2.17 ERA, career-high 45 saves)
Brewers – John Axford (2-2, 1.95 ERA, 46 saves)
Putz’s value was demonstrated as both a closer and leader in the clubhouse and the bullpen. Coming off the DL after the All-Star game, he converted his last 23 save opportunities, and also energized the Chase Field crowd with his intensity. Another cast-off from the Yankees, Axford set a franchise record for saves and did not have a blown save from April through the close of the season.
EDGE – Axford
Lyle Overbay – (.286, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
Geoff Blum – (.224, 2 HR, 10 RBI)
Sean Burroughs (.273, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
Collin Cowgill (.239, 1 HR, 9 RBI)
Craig Counsell – (.178, 1 HR, 9 RBI)
Jerry Hairston – (.274, 1 HR, 7 RBI with Brewers)
Mark Kotsay – (.270, 3 HR, 31 RBI)
Carlos Gomez – (.270, 8 HR, 24 RBI)
Burroughs provided an adequate bat off the bench, and Blum has previous post-season experience. Gomez and Kotsay put up better numbers and stand to be more productive.
EDGE – Brewers
On paper, the Brewers have a clear advantage, but participants like to explain the game is not played on paper. With superior firepower and better starting pitching, the Brewers appear to take out the D-backs. Yet, Arizona finds ways to win and when seemingly down and out is when they play their best.
The Diamondbacks will steal one in Milwaukee and take their two games at Chase Field.
Diamondbacks in four games.