In a continuation from the decreasingly analytical AL playoff primer, here's the WSO NL playoff primer!
The National League features a style of play where the pitchers hit, and the game is thus more pure. It's not about chubby beer-leaguers swatting home runs, it's about athletes and real ballplayers winning with pitching and defense, strategy and fundamentals. It's the superior version of the sport, as has been objectively proven by the NL winning the last two All-Star games, and an NL team winning the World Series in 2 out of the last 3 years.
...and so concludes the Les Grobstein guest-written portion of the primer.
In literally no order:
How did they do it?: Consistency. As a baseball writer, it's always great when you can give a one-word cliche answer. It's even better when it's true. The Diamondbacks did not have any holes in their starting 9. Not a single full-season regular finished with under 2 WAR. Kelly Johnson wasn't going to make it, but they traded him away. Xadier Navy was sub-replacement but lost his job due to poor performance!
Lost his job due to poor performance?!? A veteran?!? What a team!
Ok, Nady also got hurt, but no one's perfect!
Familiar faces: Former prospects Chris Young and Daniel Hudson are both impact players, the likable J.J. Putz is the closer, and even '05 hero Geoff Blum is on the 40-man roster. Why they're just so-darn likable, young and talented that you m--wait, wait, WAIT WAIT!!! COME BACK!!! COME BAAAACCCK!!!
Hateability Index: 2 - They were cool enough to celebrate winning the division in the pool in right field for goodness sake--wait, why the hell do they have a pool in right field!??!?!
If they win, it'll be because: Justin Upton has a coming out party. One of those coming out parties where not having more than two starters stops mattering.
St. Louis Cardinals
How did they do it?: Their manager is Tony La Russa, their roster includes Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot. It can thus safely be concluded that the Cardinals defeat their opponent via grinder-ball; a method of play capable of being executed only by grinders, who when bound together form an enormous human gristmill and transform their opponents into wheat flour. It's as horrible to watch as it sounds.
In actuality, the Cardinals fe--nope, you know what? I'm going to leave it at that.
Familiar faces: Former hurlers Edwin Jackson and Octavio Dotel, who both combined high strikeout totals with terrifying but momentary bouts of "Dear Lord, throw a strike!".
Marc Rzepczynski never played for the White Sox, but he did bring us this. Thank you, Marc.
Also, apparently Tony La Russa once managed the White Sox. Have you heard about this? It's not something much publicized by the team, I wonder if it has something to do with the terms on which they ended...
Hateability Index: 4 - As annoying as it is for Cardinals fans to have a moniker like 'The Best Fans in Baseball' when their fanbase is 93% Goober like everyone else, I watched that 60 Minutes piece on Albert Pujols' charity work and now I....can't...not....like...him...ever.
If they win, it'll be because: An obvious answer would be that the Berkman-Holliday-Pujols triumvirate is an unholy machine of war in the playoffs. The correct answer is: Edwin Jackson - 6 GS, 54 IP, 73 K, 0 H, 36 BB, 4 ER.
How did they do it?: Well, I donno for sure, but 682.1 IP by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels probably didn't hurt
Familiar faces: Did it ever occur to you that Ross Gload never got a fair shake? No? Well, food for thought. Perhaps the 2006 White Sox didn't cry out for free-swinging backup 1st basemen/corner outfielders, which is why Rossy only got 177 PAs. But he hit .327/.354/.462 in that time, including that 2-out, 9th inning grand slam in Baltimore that was supposed to be the turning point of the season, but never did, because you kinda can only determine those things in retrospect. Maybe he didn't deserve a bigger role, and maybe he didn't even deserve a roster spot, but he darn sure didn't deserve to be traded for the likes of Andy Sisco! So what did that result in? Oh, the Sox lost 90 games the next year with one of the worst offenses in baseball! Without Ross! I bet they wish they had old Gloady-Face back, but they can't because he's on a contender now AND HE DOESN'T NEED YOU!!!! (panting)
Jose Contreras is as you remember him; badly hurt.
Hateability Index: Let's just stick this at 5. The Phillies are a big bad, large-budget-toting favorite full of glowery professionals gunning for a title, and Ryan Howard is stathead-meatball battleground because he lacks on base skills, but still supplies respectable home run and RBI totals while stuck in the middle of the lineup.
Still, Philadelphia is only in the nascent stages of losing all sympathy as a fan base, and Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee are two really great pitchers who deserve a ring.
If they win, it'll be because: 11 shutouts in a row, I'd imagine.
How did they do it?: Heh, well, this is awkward. They also went 'All In' and it, well...worked. Their two mashers had banner years, slap-hitting Nyjer Morgan justified his presence with a high average and premium defense at a need position, and while they did have black hole named Yuniesky Betancourt, he managed to not have the worst effing season of all-time.
Familiar faces: Besides giving Jeremy Reed possibly the last 7 plate appearances of his career, the Brewers hilariously gave a major-league contract to Mark Kotsay. I suppose in some sense he had a bounce-back year, but he also had just a .103 ISO, which is only acceptable for like, a center fielder, and who would put 35 year-old Mark Kotsay in--OH GOD! THE BREWERS DID! FOR 10 GAMES! HOW DOES SOMEONE TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY AFTER THAT?
Hateability Index: 1 - Their fanbase has suffered in obscurity, they're Midwestern and local without being a rival, and their state is full of delicious cheese and beer. If their mascot still slid into a vat of beer after every home run, this number would be in the negatives.
If they win, it'll be because: The all-powerful forces of chances smile on Milwaukee in this shiftless, reasonless, unscientific crapshoot.
Picks that will NOT be true
Rangers over Rays behind Mike Napoli equaling his season total of 30 HRs in 4 games. Video review will reveal lots of cheating.
Tigers over Yankees. Curtis Granderson joins Detroit's celebratory dogpile in infield. So does Andruw Jones. Everyone's ok with it.
Diamondbacks over Brewers. Justin Upton inks wildly unnecessary contract extension while shagging routine fly ball in the 8th inning of Game 2.
Phillies over Cardinals. Albert Pujols cheers himself up by watching old '06 DVDs with David Eckstein and Jeff Suppan, who just happening to be hanging around the stadium
Rangers over Tigers. Hard to project from this far out, so let's say Detroit's undoing is from batting a guy with a .317 OBP at leadoff
Phillies over Diamondbacks. First rumors of Selig pondering whether to have Halladay hobbled in an effort to increase scoring emerge.
Phillies over Rangers. Peak of the series clearly comes during Game 4, when starting pitcher Roy Oswalt successfully lobbies Texas stadium officials to play Allman Brothers: Live at Fillmore East straight-through over the PA system.
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Tags: albert pujols, Andruw Jones, arizona diamondbacks, baseball, bud selig, chris young, cole hamels, curtis granderson, Daniel Hudson, Edwin Jackson, J.J. Putz, justin upton, mike napoli, milwaukee brewers, Philadelphia Phillies, ross gload, Roy Oswalt, st. louis cardinals, White Sox