The Brewers and the Diamondbacks head into the 2011 Postseason with lofty goals. Both teams are talented enough to make a run deep into October, but only one can advance.
Will Ryan Braun power the Brewers past the slick pitching of Ian Kennedy and the Snakes?
Ian Kennedy is a viable Cy Young candidate, and he leads a strong rotation for the Diamondbacks.
While his colleagues don't have nearly as impressive stats as the young righty, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter are having solid seasons in the middle of the rotation.
Milwaukee also has a fairly good starting staff, lead by Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum.
The Brewers' rotation has a much better record than their desert dwelling opponents, but the Snakes boast the better starting hurlers.
The biggest advantage for the D'Backs?
They've walked 25 less batters than the Brewers' starters, even though they've pitched more innings.
These teams have two of the best closers in 2011, with John Axford for Milwaukee and J.J. Putz of the D'Backs.
Putz has a tiny 2.17 ERA and has converted 45-of-49 save opportunities for Arizona.
Axford, however, has had an even better year.
His ERA is a miniscule 1.95 and 46-out-of-48 in save chances for the Brew Crew.
Combine Axford's dominance with the 3.32 ERA of the Brewers' bullpen as a whole—compared to the D'Backs' 3.71 bullpen clip—and it's clear the Brewers will have a leg up at the end of games.
Justin Upton is one of the best young players in the game, Miguel Montero is the second best hitting catcher in the National League (behind Brian McCann), and Aaron Hill is finding his rhythm in Arizona.
That being said, however, the D'Backs simply won't be able to compete offensively with a team that has two future Hall-of-Famers batting third and fourth. (Not to mention that Ryan Braun is the best overall hitter in the game under 30).
Here are Braun and Prince Fielder's numbers, combined, in 2011:
.315 average, 71 HR, 231 RBI, 357 hits, 204 runs, and 74 doubles.
Throw in Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt and Corey Hart, and the Brewers long-ball fire power is awfully daunting.
On paper, the two teams' defensive numbers are quite similar.
The D'Backs edge the Brewers in overall range factor 4.11 to 4.10 and in total zone fielding runs above average 30 to 25.
The biggest key for the Diamondbacks' defense?
They're strong up the middle. Willie Bloomquist and Stephen Drew have high zone ratings and, while not as flashy as the Brewers' combo, have the slight edge in defense
ADVANTAGE: Diamondbacks, by a scale.
Neither Kirk Gibson nor Ron Roenicke have much managerial experience.
This is Gibson's second year the the D'Backs, and Roenicke's first, and neither have managed a single playoff game.
Gibson likes to push the envelope and stresses aggressiveness, while Roenicke is the more silent, stoic type.
I prefer the Roenicke approach, but when it comes to these two coaches, it's hard to give one side an edge over the other.
While the Brewer bench is solid with guys like Craig Counsell, Mark Kotsay and George Kottaras, the Diamondbacks have the edge when it comes to the pine.
Lyle Overbay brings pop from the left side and Sean Burroughs is a tough pinch hitter who barely strikes out once every two games.
Henry Blanco also provides some depth behind the dish for the Snakes, and he's added 8 homers and a .250 average on the season.
Not shabby for guys who don't play every day.
Milwaukee had an absurd home record this season, winning more than 70 percent of their games played at Miller Park.
Their road record, however, could be cause for concern as they won less than half their games outside the state of Wisconsin.
Arizona, on the other hand, doesn't have a big record swing one way or the other, staying above .500 both home and away.
The bottom line is the Brew Crew are simply hard to beat inside Miller Park.
ADVANTAGE: Brewers, in a big way.*
*If Arizona can sneak a win in Milwaukee, however, the Brewers could be in trouble.
The Brewers simply have too much fire power for the Diamondbacks.
The D'Backs will avoid elimination in game 4, but they will ultimately fall.
Kirk Gibson and the rest of the crew should be proud of the way they played in 2011, but they just run into the wrong team at the wrong time.
Milwaukee will advance to the NLCS, winning the series 3-2.