MLB playoff preview

 

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest adding the extra wild card spot has been a good thing.  I know, it’s a stretch to say that.  Call me crazy but more teams in the race = more excitement in more cities.  Nice to see Bud and his boys get something right, it happens so rarely.  Ok, I won’t turn this into a “rip Bud” blog as we know I could do that non stop.  And while I complain about a lot of things in MLB, few playoffs can be more riveting.  Every pitch is huge.  By their standards, there had been some lousy post seasons from 2005-2010, but last year they got back to being amazing.  Let’s hope it’s more of the same this year!

The big story for me in the AL is that the Rangers find themselves in the wild card game after leading the AL West for just about the entire season and as I’m sure you know by now had a 13 game lead on June 30th.  For much of this season they were just leading the West but they’ve been considered the heavy favorites to go back to the World Series.  Now they’re facing a team that finds every way to win possible.  The O’s don’t do it pretty, but they find a way and come into this game having absolutely NOTHING to lose.  I would love to say I have a good idea of what will happen in this one but I don’t.  Logic says the Rangers.  They’re at home, they have all the experience, but the O’s haven’t used logic all season.  It’s Yu Darvish vs Joe Saunders and again based on talent I would give the big advantage to Darvish, but Saunders has pitched in his share of some big games and I like sending a lefty to the mound in that stadium.

Whoever wins that game gets the Yanks.  They managed to hold off the O’s for the AL East title, and in the process earn the top spot in the AL.  The offense is great as it has been forever.  But I still don’t like this pitching staff.  We all know what Sabathia brings to the table and of course it’s vital that a team has an ace to lean on.  But after that it’s a lot of question marks.  Can Andy Petiette turn back the clock?  He will have to if they want to get back to the World Series.  They’ve only got the 1 World Series title since 2000 and they’ve been known more for falling on their faces then being clutch in that time.  If they fail once again, it might be time to make major changes in the Bronx.

The Tigers are led by triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera who in my mind should be the AL MVP.  Oh yeah, they also got last years AL MVP Justin Verlander.  Every time he takes the ball they have a great shot at winning.  I actually really like that staff with Fister, Scherzer and Sanchez more than capable of locking teams up as well.  Pretty much the same team that was in the ALCS last season, excpet the lineup now has Prince Fielder.  Don’t kid yourself, if Prince isn’t in that lineup to protect Miggy then he doesn’t win a triple crown.  They have the least amount of wins out of all the playoff teams in the AL, but I’m here to tell you they’re a threat.  It’s a great lineup, great staff, people are talking about Cabrera but nobody is talking about this team heading into the playoffs and they have the ingredients to be very dangerous.

Then you have the cinderella story of the season, the Oakland A’s.  They ripped that gig from the Baltimore Orioles by taking the AL West crown from the Rangers on the last day of the season, and now the team with a rookie pitching staff (not a rookie in the staff, a rookie staff) and 15 total rookies on the roster heads to Detroit to face that Tigers team I’m high on.  Talk about a team with nothing to lose, they’ve already overachieved massively on the season.  Forget being 1 year ahead of schedule, they’re 3 or 4 years ahead of schedule!  And while most of the world now knows about moneyball, this team doesn’t follow that formula.  What they failed to MENTION in moneyball is that the A’s had the best staff in baseball during the 2002 season, just like they had in 2001 and 2003 as well.  The lineup is solid but not great, so they’ll need timely hitting and we will see how this young staff of Parker, Millone and company perform in their first postseason.

I’m going to take the Rangers experience over the O’s magic, then I’m going to take the Rangers to bounce the aging Yanks.  I will say the Tigers will sneak past the youthful A’s, and then in a rematch of last seasons ALCS I will take the Tigers to avenge their loss and get to the World Series.

I feel confident about picking the Tigers to come out of the AL.  I look at the roster and they just seem to have a bit of everything that you need to win in the postseason.  But the NL, I got to be honest here and say that I just have no idea.  All these teams are just so evenly matched.  But I will try to break it down.

Starting with the wild card game and you have the Braves against the Cards.  The Braves have been the better team all season long.  They finished 6 games ahead of the Cards, Kris Medlin has been LIGHTS OUT this season, and they have more talent.  But don’t sleep on the defending champs, this is where they live.  Nobody gave them a chance against the Phillies last year, especially in the 5th game that was in Philly, against Roy Halladay.  And all Chris Carpenter did was throw a complete game shutout and we know what happened the rest of the way.  I could argue this one either way, and all I can say right now is that if any game had the makings to be a classic, it’s this one.

The winner will get the Nationals.  And as we all know the Nats have one of the best staffs in baseball led by Stephen Strasberg.  He is amazing, he has taken MLB by storm since coming into the league in June of 2010.  Of course he had the Tommy John surgery later that season but in this his first full season back he is clearly the leader of this staff and this team won’t go anywhere without him….WOAH!  They sat him?!  Well that’s a horrible decision!  Amazingly, this Nats staff is still good enough to get them to the World Series.  Jordan Zimmerman ain’t no joke, neither is Mike Gonzalez.  You know what the storyline will be here.  If they win it will have been the best decision ever to sit Strasburg down, and if they get bounced early it will be a disaster.  I actually think it will be more about their lineup producing for them.  He may only be 19 years old, but Bryce Harper was made for the spotlight and it won’t get any brighter than in the playoffs.

For the 2nd time in 3 years the Reds took the NL Central.  It is perhaps the most quiet 2 time in 3 season division champion in baseball history.  For real, how many people even knew the Reds were in the playoffs?!  The thing I love about this team is power arms in the rotation.  Cueto, Latos, Bailey are all power arms and power pitching wins in the postseason.  Add in a crafty vet like Bronson Arroyo and I really love their staff.  Then in the pen they have Aroldis Chapman who was lights out all season.  So if they get it to the 9th, you won’t beat them.  Also love some of the sticks they have led by Toronto boy Joey Votto.  The 2010 Reds were overwhelmed, the 2012 Reds won’t be.

And finally back in the playoffs for the 2nd time in 3 seasons as well are the San Francisco Giants, the 2010 World Series champs.  Simple math here sees that no Buster Posey means no playoff for the Giants.  Buster Posey was healthy all season, and the Giants are back in the playoffs.  Still don’t love this teams offense, especially without a juiced up milk man.  But the pitching staff is one of the best in baseball.  I expect Tim Lincecum to rebound with a fresh start after a horrid campaign.  Much like 2010, this team will lean heavily on the staff, but they have a ton of experience and have a knack for getting timely hits.

As I said before I don’t really have a clue what will happen as I just think all these teams are so evenly matched.  But I’m going to say the Braves will be highly motivated with this being Chippers last run, so they will get past the Cards, and knock out the Nats in 4.  I love the Reds coming in so under the radar and so I will say they take the Giants down in 4, and that leaves the Reds and Braves in the NLCS….a rematch of the 1995 NLCS.  Sorry Braves fans, Mike Devereaux isn’t walking through that door!  Fortunately for them, they won’t need Devereaux this time around.  They won’t sweep the Reds…mainly because Chipper Jones is the only player left from either of those rosters, but I will say the Braves take it in 7 games to get Chipper back to the World Series for the first time since 99.

Why do I make all these predictions?!  They’re guaranteed to go wrong!  Well…whatever.  I will take the Braves to win it all.  I like the staff, love the bullpen, like the lineup, and they’ve played a big chip on their shoulder all year after last year’s collapse.  But that’s just a predicition.  What I hope is for another amazing postseason.  They RARELY disappoint!

 

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