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NLDS Scouting Reports

CBSSports.com staff
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Danny Knobler and Scott Miller get the rundown from several major-league scouts on the eight playoff teams. Here's the scouting reports on the four National League clubs. | ALDS Scouting Reports

Philadelphia vs. Cincinnati (Best-of-5)
Date Site Time
Wednesday, Oct. 6 at Philadelphia 5:07 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 at Philadelphia 6:07 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 10 at Cincinnati 4:37 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 11 at Cincinnati-* 5:07 p.m.-x
Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Philadelphia-* 6:07 p.m.-y

Philadelphia Phillies
The lineup: "They're going in with everyone getting back to normal. [Chase] Utley is coming back, and [Jayson] Werth is hitting. They've underperformed offensively this year, and now it seems that they're getting back on track. Utley is such a key for them, because of what he brings. He makes everything go for them. He's really the ultimate competitor. [Carlos] Ruiz is coming into his own, and Werth is really starting to hit mistakes. And [Placido] Polanco is the perfect No. 2 hitter."

The rotation: "Well, they have Roy 1 and Roy 2, with Halladay and Oswalt. And then [Cole] Hamels, who might be better than he was in '08. That's three of arguably the top 10 starters in the National League, and maybe two of the top five. I'm going to go with those guys."

The bullpen: "With Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels starting, you may never see the middle of their bullpen. I was shocked when I saw [Brad] Lidge last week. It was the best I'd ever seen him as far as strike-throwing. Even in '08, he'd put guys on base and run some deep counts. It really looks like he's moving in the right direction. And I've always been a big fan of [Ryan] Madson."

The intangibles: "The experience they have with two straight World Series really helps. Utley is the catalyst. He does it by example, and he really plays hard. He's the X factor, the one player who makes a difference just by his presence. Overall, I like the Phils a lot. They've got enough guys who have done it. If three or four of their guys get hot, they just walk through this thing." -- Knobler

Cincinnati Reds
The lineup: "The Reds are one of the better offensive teams in the NL because Joey Votto has had an MVP-type season and Scott Rolen has been healthy. Plus, if they're facing fastball pitchers, they've got guys like Brandon Phillips who are good fastball hitters. They've got two pretty good young players in Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs who are getting better. Jonny Gomes has had a career year, which may come in handy if they face a left-hander like Cliff Lee. Gomes has had a terrific year. Ramon Hernandez is a proven playoff catcher. This team is more dangerous than people think. People are writing the Reds off, and they shouldn't. Especially in the first series. They are a very good high-fastball hitting team. You're not going to throw too many fastballs by Cincinnati hitters. They probably have the second-best lineup in the NL, behind the Phillies. Orlando Cabrera is a veteran player and always is on winners. He's a proven playoff player. He was a real nice addition for this club."

The rotation: "This is the wild card for the Reds. They don't have the marquee pitchers that other teams have. Bronson Arroyo is probably going to go [Game 2], and then it's an absolute crapshoot with Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. Arroyo has pitched in the playoffs before. He can either dazzle them with off-speed stuff, or he's out in the third inning. You're going to find out real quick if he's commanding his off-speed stuff and spotting his fastball. He has to have plus command for them to go deep into the playoffs. He has to win, period. The other guys are hard throwers but untested in the playoffs. Volquez and Cueto, you really don't know. Cincinnati has had a magical year, one of those Team of Destiny-type years. They've played over their heads for most of the year. Volquez depends on fastball location, he and Cueto. They have be able to throw fastballs where they want to. They're basically fastball pitchers. Travis Wood is a command guy. He's done nice job. For a kid, he's really poised. If they match up with Philadelphia, they have to have very, very good off-speed command, all of them. Volquez and Cueto are not throwing fastballs by Philly hitters, and Bronson Arroyo is not throwing a fastball by any hitter."

The bullpen: "It's been shaky down the stretch. Hopefully the two veterans, Arthur Rhodes and Francisco Cordero, got some rest this last week. They're going to have to bounce back from shaky Septembers. Nick Masset has a good arm, Logan Ondrusek has a good arm, but those two guys going to have to be men. The Reds can't have starters go out of the game early and expect to hold up. Especially against Philly. Aroldis Chapman throws hard and straight. With him, it'll depend on the matchup. He could be the wildest of wild cards. But you're talking about a kid joining the club in August and then expecting great things. It happened in '02 for the Angels with Frankie Rodriguez, but how often does it happen?"

The intangibles: "They are an aggressive team and they're going to come into the playoffs without the expectations the other clubs have. They should come in loose -- they should. Problem is, it's so many young guys' first experience with the playoffs. To make sure they're loose, that will be Cabrera's job. Cabrera and Rolen will be very important to this club to keep the team loose, ready to play, relaxed. The mental side with Cabrera and Rolen, I think, will be one of big keys to this series for Cincinnati. If they can settle the young guys down. Both the Reds and Phillies play in micro-ballparks, so that's not an advantage or disadvantage. This series may see a lot of runs because the ballparks are so small." -- Miller

San Francisco vs. Atlanta (Best-of-5)
Date Site Time
Thursday, Oct. 7 at San Francisco 9:37 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 at San Francisco 9:37 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 10 at Atlanta 7:07 p.m.-x
Monday, Oct. 11 at Atlanta-* 8:37 p.m.-y
Wednesday, Oct. 13 at San Francisco-* 9:37 p.m.-x

San Francisco Giants
The lineup: "The secret of their lineup, really, is the leadoff guy, Andres Torres. He really makes them go. Now that he's back healthy, it makes a big difference, both offensively and defensively. If he doesn't play, there's no leadoff man and no quality center fielder. Freddy Sanchez at second base is not healthy right now, but he's a very good second-place hitter. He's got a little juice, and he can handle the bat. Aubrey Huff is aggressive with the bat, better against right-handed pitching than left-handed. But he's still very dangerous. Buster Posey is an excellent fastball hitter. You do not want to give in to him if you get behind -- you'd be better pitching around him if you can. For a young guy, he uses the whole field about as good as you're ever going to see. Very mature hitter. The deal [general manager] Brian Sabean made that put the Giants over the top was Pat Burrell. This guy is dangerous. Mistake hitter. He can look bad, but if he gets a mistake in the middle of the plate, he's going to get it. And it's usually not a single, it's out of the park. He has been lights out. Juan Uribe is very dangerous. He's a wild swinger, and on certain nights he can look as bad as anybody. Every time he swings, it's hard, and if he gets a mistake, it's an extra-base hit. He's a very dangerous sixth, seventh hitter. There isn't any better in either league hitting that far down lineup with that much power. Pablo Sandoval looks like he's picked up a little now. He's overweight, he's not the same guy. But at the same time he's dangerous."

The rotation: "Tim Lincecum is back to what he was. Matt Cain always has had a good arm, and he can hit his spots better now. He can work off his fastball good. Jonathan Sanchez used to be so inconsistent, but while he can have innings where he's inconsistent now, he can usually make a pitch to get out of it, and he can get back on a roll. Excellent three starter. Madison Bumgarner has come along good. The guy's 21 and not overpowering, but he can pitch very well. He has good location for his age. Excellent fourth starter. Barry Zito is the one guy I don't have much confidence in. Even though he's pitched better at times this year than he has in the past, he's the one guy who's hittable. He's the one guy I would think has the opposition thinking, 'We've got a chance to score some runs.' Your chances of scoring against Lincecum and Cain ain't very good.

The bullpen: "Awesome. The closer, Brian Wilson, is as good as any of them, I don't care who they are. He has no fear. If he blows a game once in awhile, he comes back. He's durable. You can pitch him in the eighth inning, have him face five or six hitters one night and come back to pitch the ninth the next night. He's as good right now as any of them, and I'm even talking about the guy in New York [Mariano Rivera]. Their middle relief, Ramon Ramirez and Sergio Romo and the rest, have all pitched great. Santiago Casilla has great arm, outside of when you bring him in, he usually has trouble throwing strikes to the first hitter. Jeremy Affeldt, Romo, it's a very good bullpen. And Javier Lopez has pitched better for the Giants than I've ever seen him pitch, and I've seen him since he came into the big leagues. He throws strikes now, his [arm] angle against left-handers is even better, cross-firing. He's awesome as a situational left-hander. Their pitching staff one through 11, it's hard to be better than they are. They're that good.

The intangibles: "The manager, Bruce Bochy, just kind of plays them. Torres will steal bases, but they don't run a lot. Bochy plays it pretty straight up. He will hit and run occasionally with Freddy Sanchez and guys like that. He's got Mike Fontenot now, another deal Sabean made that was a good deal. Get men on and somebody get an extra base hit. Bochy doesn't overmanage. He's good with a pitching staff. He's got guys now that he has confidence in. He'll work the bullpen well, and more than he used to because he has those kind of guys like Lopez who will come in and get one guy out. They have depth, their second-line players like Cody Ross and Jose Guillen, ... they've got a dangerous team." -- Miller

Atlanta Braves
The lineup: "Their offense to me is going to be a problem. They're just not up to snuff. [Brian] McCann appears to me to be a little worn down. I'm not going to bad-mouth Bobby [Cox], but I'm a little surprised that [back-up David] Ross hasn't caught more. [Brooks] Conrad has been a blessing, but he just doesn't have the experience or hittability that Chipper [Jones] or [Martin] Prado would. I always had [Omar] Infante down as an everyday guy somewhere, so I'm not surprised he has done well. But they really don't seem to have a hot bat now. You can pitch around guys."

The rotation: "[Derek] Lowe, for whatever reason, is really throwing well right now. I know I didn't see that coming. [Jair] Jurrjens is still a question health-wise, and that's a shame, because I really like him. They've got the two veterans at the top with Lowe and [Tim] Hudson, and [Tommy] Hanson is a real good No. 3."

The bullpen: "[Billy] Wagner has been lights-out, and everyone else has been fine. But they've used those guys quite a bit. [Peter] Moylan, it's unbelievable that his arm is still hanging, as much as he has pitched. And [Jonny] Venters has really thrown a lot, too."

The intangibles: "It just seems like they're limping in. I don't think they're going in at full bore. I know it's popular to say they'll play harder for Bobby [Cox], but that's zero effect for me. He lets them play, and he's a calming influence, but I don't see it as giving them any edge that he's in his last season." -- Knobler

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