Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald
#1 Columbus HoundDogs - 109-53, 1st place NL East
Strengths: Everywhere you look there are strengths in Columbus. The lineup features a three time reigning MVP, a Cy Young candidate in Talmadge Young, the Fireman of the Year in Sarma Inge, and a very strong supporting cast everywhere else. This team is deep.
Weaknesses: Lars looked really hard, and he's not finding any. The Beagles/Fug Nuts Curse perhaps?
Keys to Success: If the lineup hits like it is capable of, it will be a long series for opposing pitchers. The rotation is a bit trickier as Young, Elvis Christman, and Tony Cho are all elite pitchers, but can lose a game here or there, and aren't quite in the same class as the Davey Silvas of the world.
Team MVP's: 1B Chipper Harper & SP Talmadge Young & RP Sarma Inge
Outlook: Now that Kazuhiro Ong is pitching in the AL, things are looking pretty good for Columbus. Their team is so deep it's hard to pick against them, especially considering how their lineup will match up against all the other NL playoff teams rotations.
#2 San Francisco Earthquakes - 99-63, 1st place NL West
Strengths: The Earthquakes have some great young pitching, but with the season ending injury to ace Clyde Ford, the rotation will be leaning heavily on proven playoff performer Ivan Canseco. The bullpen is very good and has great depth.
Weaknesses: While the lineup is capable, this season they have only shown average production and have shown pretty much no power to speak of at the plate. The rotation took a huge hit with the loss of Ford, and now isn't nearly as imposing. Youth is also a factor, as this is the first playoff series for many players on the team save the veterans acquired in trades and those around last season when San Fran made a run.
Keys to Success: Canseco will have to be a rock and carry the rotation and Randall Slaughter will have to step up on the mound as well. The lineup will have to find a way to move the runners around the horn in a more productive fashion than they showed in the regular season, as Charlie Erving can't do it all by himself.
Team MVP's: 2B Charlie Erving & SSP Ivan Canseco
Outlook: This is a team that is very dependent on it's pitching, and if Ford were healthy would have had a very imposing 1-2 punch that would have been tough for other teams to compete with. But only having Canseco weakens this teams playoff prospects considerably.
#3 Sioux Falls Corn Cleats - 90-72, 1st place NL North
Strengths: SXF had some of the best pitching in the NL this season, and is pretty deep in both the rotation and bullpen. The Corn Cleats are also a great slugging team, and have power throughout the lineup.
Weaknesses: The power focused lineup is otherwise pathetic, and had real trouble hitting the ball for anything other than a home run, and as a result didn't score a whole lot this season.
Keys to Success: The lineup needs to get some people on base for the home run hitters to have any major effect on the score. The pitching staff features four #1A type starters in Vance Weaver, Jose Vazquez, Victor Gandarillas, and Eric Holdrige, of which at least two of whom have to bring their good stuff to the mound for this team to win. They need to feed off the momentum of a second half run that saw them go from worst to first in the division.
Team MVP's: 1B Brace Davey & SP Victor Gandarillas
Outlook: The Cleats are a team that is capable of beating anybody, as was shown by their incredible second half run, or losing to anybody, as was shown by their being in last place at the all star break. Which team will show up? If the good one does they could go a long way, if not it's lights out in the wild card round.
#4 Richmond Cohibas - 86-76, 1st place NL South
Strengths: The Richmond lineup was the best hitting NL lineup this season, and is the reason why they are in the playoffs. MVP candidates Dick Wolf and Geronimo Liriano are having excellent years, as is Benji Ordonez.
Weaknesses: The Cohibas team defense is below average, and their pitching is suspect beyond Jerry Ross and Harold Austin.
Keys to Success: Ross and Austin need to be at their best to carry an otherwise average rotation, and Shane Parrish needs to clean up the mess should he be called upon in the bullpen if a starter should falter. The lineup just needs to keep up the good work they are already doing.
Team MVP's: 1B/LF Geronimo Liriano & SP Jerry Ross
Outlook: Richmond has a competetive matchup against Atlanta in the first round, and should Ross and Austin win their starts it's a good chance that this team will go pretty far. If it gets to the Cohibas bullpen though it probably won't be a long playoffs for Richmond.
#5 Atlanta Pitbulls - 96-66, 2nd place NL East
Strengths: Atlanta is a team that is above average in pretty much everything, but not truly elite in any one particular category. But as a whole this team is very deep across the board in both pitching and hitting, and the top three starters for Atlanta are among the best in the league, and probably the best top three in the NL playoffs.
Weaknesses: As good as the starters are for Atlanta, the bullpen is a bit of an issue, and isn't very reliable.
Keys to success: Atlanta needs to have their hitters step it up just a little bit, and their starters keep up the lights out work that they have been putting out thus far. If the starters go deep into the game, that will probably mean Atlanta is going to win. If the starters get rocked though there isn't much comfort to be had when they leave the game.
Team MVP's: 2B Jamie Beimel & SP Junior Lee
Outlook: The Pitbulls are one of the more balanced teams in Cobb, and they match up pretty well with Richmond. If the starters get on a roll and show that they have playoff mettle, then Atlanta could upset Columbus and make it to the World Series. Or they could just as easily lose to Richmond and be out of it, especially given the teams history.
#6 Wichita Wankers - 95-67, 3rd place NL East
Strengths: The Wankers had the best pitching in the National League largely based on the performances of Davey Silva and Erubiel Owen, both up for the Cy Young award this season. The offense was very good as well, clubbing a league leading 255 homers despite playing in the cavernous Wichita park. The lineup is downright dangerous.
Weaknesses: Outside of Silva and Owen, the pitching staff is vulnerable and average at best and can be exploited.
Keys to Success: The lineup has to keep terrorizing opposing pitchers and helping chicks dig the long ball. Silva needs to win every start or this could be a short playoffs for Wichita with no other proven playoff performers.
Team MVP's: CF/2B Dorian Woolf & SP Davey Silva
Outlook: If the Wankers offense can get to the opposing pitching and steal a game or two when Silva isn't pitching, Wichita has the potential to go very far. Like every other NL team in the playoffs, they have trouble matching up with Columbus, but have the potential to pull of the upset.