Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
The Arizona Diamondbacks surprised the baseball world when they overtook the San Francisco Giants in the second half of the season and never looked back. They won NL West by eight games over the defending champion San Francisco Giants. Justin Upton led the way offensively by hitting monster home runs. He actually led the National League in average distance of home runs. Ian Kennedy led the pitching staff, tying for the National League league in wins. The Milwaukee Brewers had the best home record in baseball at 57-24. The Brewers led the NL Central most of the season and won it by six games over the Cardinals. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder have led the way on offense, hitting 71 home runs with 231 RBIs between the two of them. Yovanni Gallardo, Zach Grienke and Shaun Marcum provide a deep rotation while John Axford and KRod close out games in the back-end of the bullpen.
Justin Upton won’t win the NL MVP, but will definitely finish in the top ten. Upton hit 31 home runs, had 88 RBIs, stole 21 bases and scored 105 runs. He was the focal point of the offense. Other pieces included Chris Young, who hit 20 home runs and stole 22 bases, and Miguel Montero, who hit .282 with 18 home runs and 82 RBIs. Perhaps the most surprising aspect for the Diamondbacks was their pitching staff. Their ace Ian Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA. Prior to this season, Kennedy was 10-14 in his career. Daniel Hudson was a solid #2, winning 16 games. The bullpen, last season, was one of the worst in history. Guys like David Hernandez, Brad Ziegler and JJ Putz solidified this year’s bullpen. Hernandez posted a 3.38 ERA, Ziegler a 1.74 ERA after coming over in a trade from Oakland, and Putz had 45 saves. The Diamondbacks won the season series 4-3 over the Brewers.
The Brewers have two top five MVP candidates in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Braun had 33 home runs and 31 stolen bases, along with 111 RBIs. Fielder had 38 home runs and 120 RBIs in a contract year. Corey Hart hit 26 home runs while mostly leading off and Rickie Weeks had 20 home runs in only 118 games played because of injury. Yovani Gallardo led the pitching staff in wins, strikeouts and ERA. The Brewers had all five starters in their rotation win at least 11 games. Zack Grienke, the 2009 AL Cy Young, made a nice transition to the National League, winning 16 games and averaged 10.54 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. John Axford was the closer for the Brewers and saved 46 games. He struck out 86 batters in almost 74 innings. The Brewers made the first big move of the trade deadline when they acquired KRod from the Mets to set up for Axford. Krod had a 1.86 ERA in 31 games while complaining about how he was used.
On September 1st, the St. Louis Cardinals were 8.5 games behind the Braves for the NL Wildcard. However, after a magic month, they caught the Braves and overtook them on the final day. They are loaded offensively with Yadier Molina, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols. Berkman had a bounce back year, hitting 31 home runs and 94 RBIs, all the while slugging .959. Albert Pujols had a down year for him, but a very good year for anyone else not named Pujols. Albert hit 34 home runs, with 99 RBIs, and hit .299. It was the first time in 11 years, he didn’t hit .300, hit 30 home runs and have 100 RBIs. Matt Holiday had a .388 OBP in 124 games, but was injured off an on all season. Yadier Molina led the team in hitting at .305 and you know about the defense he provides. Former Phillie Kyle Lohse had 14 wins with a 3.49 ERA to lead Red Birds in both categories. He draws the assignment of game 1 after posting an ERA under 2 this season against the Phillies. Chris Carpenter had a down year for his standards. He went 4-7 with a 3.85 ERA in the first half of the year, but rebounded to go 7-2 with a 2.98 ERA in the second half. Jaime Garcia went 13-7 with a 3.56 ERA this season. Garcia’s ERA is a run and half higher away from Busch Stadium which explains why he is starting game 3 at home. Garcia slowed down in the second half. After going 9-3 with a 3.22 ERA in the first half, Jaime posted a 4.07 ERA in the second half. The Cardinals’ bullpen isn’t very good. They were second in baseball in blown saves, but seemed to found something with Jason Motte as the current closer. The Cardinals won the season series against the Phillies 6-3.
The Philadelphia Phillies posted the best record in baseball at 102-60. They led the NL East from about May to the end of the season. The Phillies finished the season on a four game winning streak and managed to rip the heart out of Braves’ fans in the process. With the Phillies having nothing to play for and the Braves battling for the wildcard, the Phils swept the Braves out of the playoffs. Shane Victorino led the team in hitting at .279, but really tailed off in the second half. Ryan Howard hit 33 home runs and had 116 RBIs, but his ankle led to him miss time at the end of the year. Hunter Pence came over in a trade from Houston and was outstanding. In 54 games as a Phillie, Pence hit .324 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Chase Utley hit 11 home runs with 44 RBIs in almost 400 at bats. Obviously, the Phillies were led by their pitching staff. Roy Halladay won 19 games and actually had a better year than his NL Cy Young year last season. Cliff Lee had two of the greatest months a pitcher could have and parlayed that into 17 wins and 238 strikeouts. Cole Hamels won 14 games and posted a WHIP of .99. Vance Worley was a pleasant surprise, winning 11 games and posting an ERA of 3.01. If it weren’t for Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman, he’d probably win the NL Rookie of the Year. Ryan Madson saved 32 games as the closer. Mike Stutes, another surprise for the Phils, had a 3.63 ERA in 57 games as a rookie. Antonio Bastardo had a 1.71 ERA before an ERA of 11 in September pushed his season ERA to 2.64.