Numbers add up to close matchup

Numbers add up to close matchup

They both won 90 regular-season games, more than anyone else in the National League could manage. They both ranked among the league's best teams at run prevention, despite playing in high-octane ballparks.

However, the National League West champion Arizona Diamondbacks scored 712 runs on the year, third-to-last in the National League, and were outscored by 20 over 162 games. The Wild Card Colorado Rockies scored 860, second most in the Senior Circuit, and were the only NL team to outscore their opponents by more than 100 runs (102, to be exact).

So what do we make of these two teams, meeting in the NL Championship Series? Are the D-backs the favorite thanks to an ability to crank out more wins than you'd expect given their run totals? Or do the Rox have the advantage thanks to the predictive power of Pythagorean expectation?

As you can see by taking a look at's standings page, Colorado had the best expected won-lost record in the league. That is, a typical team with the Rockies' runs scored and runs allowed would have gone 91-72. Remember, Colorado played an extra game due to the one-game playoff.

Meanwhile, Arizona's 79-83 expected record was fourth in the NL West and ninth in the league.

Look at Arizona's season totals, and one number jumps out immediately: the Snakes went 32-20 in one-run games. A mark like that is often attributable in part to good fortune, or good timing if you prefer. And it tends to go hand-in-hand with a team that outperforms its expected record. It also tends to result from having a good bullpen.

And the Diamondbacks definitely have an excellent relief corps. When they take a lead into the late innings, they are likely to hold it.

Only one team in the National League allowed fewer runs than the Diamondbacks. The Cubs permitted 690, as opposed to Arizona's 732. And that's despite playing in the league's third-most hitter-friendly ballpark.

Rockies-D-backs Tale of the Tape
2007 regular season statistics
Runs Scored
Fielding %
Bullpen ERA
Blown Saves
One-run wins
Then again, that also exposes just how anemic the Arizona offense was. The West champs finished 14th in a 16-team league in runs per game and dead last in runs per game on the road.

Break it down by half, though, and you see a different story. The Diamondbacks offense was soporific in the first half, putting up a .248/.316/.401 (average/on-base/slugging) line and averaging 4.12 runs per game. After the All-Star break, they weren't great, but they were at least productive. The post-All-Star line was .253/.327/.428, with 4.74 runs per game. The power spiked, which was critical -- you have to hit home runs if you're not getting guys on base.

So Arizona's offense is probably better right now than it looked over the course of the full season. And its pitching is better as well, for one simple reason. Ace Brandon Webb could start three times in a seven-game series, a slightly better ratio than the 34-out-of-162 he started from April through September.

But the Rockies' run prevention is also better than it may appear. By committing to youngsters Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado greatly improved its starting rotation. As Josh Fogg and Taylor Buchholz pitched less, Morales and Jimenez pitched more. Colorado led the NL in ERA and runs allowed in the second half.

And though the Rockies' one-run record overall is a relatively unimpressive 19-19, their bullpen took on a different look in the second half. Brian Fuentes came on strong, while Manny Corpas thrived as the ninth-inning pitcher.

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As for that Colorado offense? It was excellent all year, but unstoppable in the second half. The Rockies averaged 5.76 runs per game after the break, and put up a composite .812 OPS in the second half.

In the end, the Diamondbacks are probably a better club than their run differential would indicate. The problem for them is that so are the Rockies.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.