The first month of college football is drawing to an end, hockey training camps and preseason play are wrapping up, and basketball is going overseas (rats). This is just crunch time for baseball though. I know, Utah, the Bees are done and gone, but I’m talking about America’s game. October is for baseball folks! This is the one time of the year that New York produces a winner.
The structure of the playoffs can be a little confusing, so here is what we know going in.
The Philadelphia Phillies can enjoy Citizen Bank Park throughout the playoffs. The NL won the All-Star Game, so if Philly makes it through the playoffs, they can home field the entire way to the trophy ceremony – which is looking likely. Injuries and offensive struggles aside, the Phillies have this advantage in a series:
- Game One: Roy Halladay (threw a no-hitter in first playoff game of career)
- Game Two: Cliff Lee (postseason numbers: 7-2, 2.13 ERA, 8 walks, 80 K’s, 0.82 WHIP)
- Game Three: Roy Oswalt (5-1 in postseason play, 2.75 ERA, could be weak link on rotation)
- Game Four: Cole Hamels (2010 postseason: 1-1. 1.20 ERA, 1 walk, 17 K’s, 0.67 WHIP)
There is the reason they had the best record in baseball this year, and are expected by many to win the World Series. The only team that can get close to their rotation in talent is Tampa Bay, but their pitchers are very young.
The Milwaukee Brewers have a solid rotation, but are powered by their MVP candidates – yes, plural -Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. The Brew Crew hasn’t lost very often at home this season, and with such a strong offense, they are definitely a solid number two behind Philadelphia. If Milwaukee wants to beat anyone in the playoffs, they are going to need solid contributions from Corey Hart and Casey McGehee. Hart has been leading off, and needs to get on base so that Braun and Fielder have someone to drive in. McGehee has the potential to clear the bases if those two get on, and could have good numbers during the postseason.
Arizona was a team that no one expected to break .500, let alone make the playoffs. But the Rockies and Giants choked, the Dodgers ran out of money, and Kirk Gibson led his team into contention for the second seed at the end of the season. Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy have been fantastic for this young team, and Justin Upton has become the 5-tool player that the Diamondbacks were hoping he could be. Chase Field is a launch pad for this lineup, with only the Brewers, Reds, and Braves hitting more homers this season. The experts have been picking against the D-backs all season, and I think they have sleeper potential. Kennedy and Hudson aren’t exactly Shilling/Johnson, but if the defense stays top-5, then they have a fighter’s chance in the whole thing.
St. Louis charged into the postseason behind a strong September performance, but of all the playoff teams, I think St. Louis is the weakest team. Their rotation is weak behind Carpenter, with little experience and inconsistent results. Pujols, Berkman, and Holliday are a solid core, but good pitching beats good batting most of the time.
Here are my predictions:
- St. Louis – Philadelphia
- Milwaukee – Arizona
- Philadelphia – Milwaukee
The Yankees come in as a question riddled number one team. If Ivan Nova is your second starter, you can’t deny that you could be in line for a tough postseason. The batters are incredible however, and have the ability to wear down an opposing pitcher with long at-bats. Jeter has had a hot bat at the right time, Teixiera had another strong second half, and Granderson is a MVP candidate. Will A-Roids have another great postseason? Just another question mark, and it really lowers their chances this October.
The Texas Rangers are real similar in my mind to the St. Louis Cardinals. CJ Wilson is a good pitcher, but the rotation isn’t great behind him. The Rangers lineup is better than people realize. Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young, Mike Napoli: all bring a lot to the plate. With basically the same team from last year (minus that Cliff Lee fella) the Rangers are hoping to get back to the World Series. I think they will get really close, winning their first series, but falling to my World Series pick from the AL in the ALCS.
The Detroit Tigers are a real underdog in the playoffs. Justin Verlander and Doug Fister are a strong 1-2 punch, and you have to figure the Tigers have a real shot when they are on the mound. Max Scherzer has been real bi-polar this year, either dominant over 7 innings or giving up 7 runs in 2. Depending on which Max shows up, the Tigers could be coming back to Comerica Park with an opportunity to finish the Yankees at home. I think Miguel Cabrera could be a real factor in the series, but Victor Martinez is going to have to have a good playoffs to protect him in the lineup. I really like the Tigers chances this October, and think they could be facing the Phillies in the World Series.
Tamba Ray has to feel good about the way the regular season ended, with a walk-off homer by Evan Longoria to cap a seven-run comeback. They have such strong pitching, they really have a chance to win every game. They have an offense that has to be successful in situations that are given them, whether it’s moving a runner to third and sacrificing him home, or putting the ball in the gap with two outs. Joe Maddon is showing his courage by starting Matt Moore game one, but it could turn out for the best if he has a James Shields level of contribution for the Rays. The Rangers-Rays will be a good series.
Here are my AL picks:
- Detroit– NY Yankees
- Tampa Bay- Texas
- Detroit – Texas
Philadelphia against Detroit? Sounds like another October classic, but it looks to me like the Phillies will pull it out again. I just really hope that we don’t get Arizona against Tampa Bay.
Enjoy the playoffs though folks! Baseball is an American tradition, and it deserves our attention. Just do your best to stay awake.