N.L. DIVISION SERIES PREVIEW TEM / WCS

The MWBL Division Series are beginning and this year they represent the second round of playoffs.  And this series pits two teams from the NL Central Division – the Tempe Tempers, runaway best team in the league, vs. West Coast swing, the beneficiary of the inaugural expansion of the wild card teams in the playoffs. One team expected to be here, the other many consider a fluke.  How do they stack up?

Comparing team records and stats there are some obvious imbalances:

Records – Tempe went 134-28 (that’s winning 83% of their games). West Coast by comparison was 89-73 (55% of their games won) and a whopping 45 games behind.  Head to head – Tempe owned the Swing with a record of 9-4.  Bit of a note, the Swing had the 2nd best record of all NL teams against the Tempers (Camarillo –  the other National League Wildcard team and playoff losers to West Coast in the WC round, had the best actually taking the season series from Tempe 7-5).

Pitching – West Coast posted an impressive team ERA of 3.38 (5th best in the NL) but it was a whopping 1.34 higher than Tempe’s league leading 2.04! Tempe also lead the league with 64 saves as they managed a staff heaving in the bullpen.  Potential Starter Matchups:  Tempe’s Big Three – Matt Cain (34-2, 1.33 ERA, 45 starts), Tim Stauffer (25-0, 2.63, 30) and Brandon McCarthy (16-4, 2.11, 35) combined for over half (75) of Tempe’s victories.  This trio was backed up by a bullpen that sported a combined ERA of 1.82 (and that was for 548.2 IP) and an OBA of .162. By contrast, the West Coast staffs top three; Gavin Floyd (16-5, 2.47, 30), Scott Baker (14-7, 3.23, 24), and Josh Tomlin (11-9, 3,39, 26) barely surpassed Cain’s victory total combined.  The West Coast bullpen had a combined 3.32 ERA in 404.1 IP (almost twice as high as Tempe’s.

Batting – No surprise here, but Tempe led the NL in batting with a .276 avg (16 points higher than the 2nd best team NL West winner Sacramento) and .344 OBP. They were also first in HRs (223), runs scored (928), doubles (325) – and this was a team that didn’t even bat in most 9th innings at home.  This team is laden with STARS including the “Nemesis Trio” (Adrian Gonzalez (.329 avg, 29 HRs, 128 rbi, 117 runs), Adrian Beltre (.295, 44, 120, 91), and Troy Tulowitzki (.286, 32, 113, 93). These three seem to own the Swing (and most other teams).  However, they are not the only muscle on this club – Hunter Pence popped 21 HRs while hitting .321 and driving in 95), Melky Cabrera hit .301, scored 118 times, had 29 SBs and 92 rbis), Carlos Ruiz batted .300. In all this team had 6 players with 92 or more runs batted in.

West Coast hit .248 for the season with a .304 OBP. They popped a modest 145 HRs, and scored 680 runs (248 fewer than Tempe).  They did finish 2nd in the NL in stolen bases with 174 (but they were forced to run a lot to make up for other deficiencies). Highest average on this team for a regular was Ian Desmond at .299 (with 26 SBs). 3 players topped 20 HRs (Mark Trumbo 29, Shane Victorino 26, and Michael Cuddyer 21). No player cracked the 100 list for rbis with Victorian the only one in the 90 with 91. The team did sport 5 players with 21 or more SBs – Desmond 26, Eric Young Jr. 25 (of 26), Juan Pierre 25, Victorino 23, and Eduardo Nunez 23.

Fielding – Tempe led the NL with a Fielding percentage of .989, West Coast was 5th at .982. Tempe was 2nd best in the league for allowing the fewest earned runs, 46 (Sacramento allowed a paltry 31). West Coast was 3rd allowing 57. One area that West Coast had an advantage was in cutting down base stealers –  West Coast was successful 33% of the time nailing runners, Tempe only 14%.

As you look at these two teams it is easy to see that Tempe trumps all categories (and that would be pretty much true against any team in the league). Manager/Owner Chris Douglas has put together a strong team – strong in ALL categories and has managed them well, getting the most out of all of them. The West Coast club saw a change in ownership late in the season and Manager/Owner Bill Schindel  was able to keep them in the playoff hunt, and will need all the tricks he can come up with (and lots of luck) just to avoid a sweep.  Can David find enough good flat stones to slay Goliath?  (Are there even that many flat stone available?)

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