The Arizona Diamondbacks have already been a great story this year, going from worst to first, and now sit on the eve of the National League Division Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. If the team flew below the radar for much of the season, that's no longer the case.
We asked the analysts from MLB Network's flagship show MLB Tonight, about Arizona's turnaround, and their chances in the playoffs. Here are what Larry Bowa, Bill Ripken and John Hart had to say about the D-backs. Catch more from them on MLB Tonight, which will be on live before and after every post-season game, with highlights analysis, press conferences and previews.
The D-backs went from 97 losses to 94 wins in a season. How did they turn it around?
Larry Bowa: Gibson changed the whole mentality of the team. I've always said that you can't accept losing. You can deal with losses, but you can't accept it. It's been great to see a lot go right in Arizona, but Gibson and his staff got the players thinking in the right mindset.
Bill Ripken: Gibson and the coaching staff have done a great job this year, but let's not forget about the players on this roster. You can start with Upton and Kennedy, but it was players like Roberts and Goldschmidt that came out of nowhere and made their mark all summer long. You just don't get to 94 wins by accident.
John Hart: You don't go from 97 losses to 94 wins without a lot of things going right. Where do we start? The manager and his staff had a tremendous year, the emergence of Kennedy, Upton maturing as a player, and Kevin Towers' bullpen moves. I think that's enough things to get to 94 wins.
What impact do you see Gibby had in his first full year as a manager?
Larry Bowa: It was a whole coaching staff led by Gibson. They went in there and changed the whole vibe of the club. You could see it from day one, and when things weren't going right during the season, they were able to keep their players believing.
Bill Ripken: Gibson is a positive guy, who doesn't dwell on the negative. He's been there and done it on the biggest stage. More than anything, he taught his players how to play all 27 outs. He only accepts playing the game in the right manner.
John Hart: Arizona played exactly how Gibson played during his career. They were professional and cared how they performed.
Who has been the team's most valuable player? Ian Kennedy, Justin Upton or someone else?
Larry Bowa: Justin Upton. You go into a series circling one or two that you don't want to beat you. How many times did Justin Upton come up huge? He had a great year with not a lot of star-power around him.
Bill Ripken: Upton was always a talented player, but I think he's learned how to grind every day. I think having Matt Williams and Don Baylor helped him mature as a ballplayer. He's always shown flashes of brilliance, but now Arizona has a complete star in Upton.
John Hart: Daniel Hudson really emerged as a reliable top of the rotation starter. He gained that bulldog mentality you need to have when you're trying to become an ace.
What do you see as the roster's strengths and weakness, heading into the playoffs?
Larry Bowa: It's fine to talk about the Diamondbacks top two starters, but what about the backend of the bullpen? It flew under the radar nationally how good Putz and Hernandez were this year. If the Diamondbacks split the first two games of the series, they've got a good shot. As far as a weakness, I'm not sure if Arizona's offense is up there with the Phillies and Brewers.
Bill Ripken: We know Postseason baseball starts with pitching, so Arizona has to feel confident with Kennedy and Hudson. But I think Arizona might need one or more potent bats to go deep in October. Some of these Postseason teams can score a bunch of runs in a hurry, and I'm not sure if we can say that about the Diamondbacks.
John Hart: I don't think there is one glaring weakness. This is a solid ballclub. They find ways to win without a lot of star power. They overcame a few injuries and plugged a few holes along the way. I told AZ Snake Pit back in March that Kevin Towers was going to steer this team in the right direction! Did I think they would win 94 games this year? Probably not, but when it happens quickly, you enjoy it and try to make the most of it.
How do you think Arizona stacks up against Milwaukee as an opponent?
Larry Bowa: First and foremost, they've got to navigate around Braun and Fielder. Out of the eight Postseason teams, I think Milwaukee has shown the best tendency to capitalize when their opponent makes a mistake. Bloomquist, Goldschmidt, Parra, they don't have a lot of Postseason experience so it'll be fun to see how they handle October baseball.
Bill Ripken: I think Kennedy has to win two games in this Division Series. Milwaukee is probably the deeper ballclub, but in five games, anything can happen. Both teams play well at home so if they hold serve, we could be looking at a Game Five in Milwaukee.
John Hart: I know a lot of experts are picking Milwaukee in this series, but I'm giving Arizona a strong chance in this one. The Brewers are a very good ballclub. Lot of power, strong rotation, but I think Arizona can hang with them. If Arizona puts some points up on the board, which I think will be the big key, I think they have a real good shot.
[Many thanks to Larry, Bill and John for their time, and Louis at the MLB Network for coordinating this..]