Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Three Baseball Guys: 2010 ALDS/NLDS Predictions
For the second straight MLB postseason, I'm teaming up with two of my favorite bloggers to predict every playoff series.
Eugene Tierney is the founder of 85% Sports. He's a dyed-red-in-the-wool St. Louis Cardinals fan and has an encyclopedic knowledge of minor league prospects and players' autograph habits. If any of you ever run into him, just ask: "Shelby Miller? MLB ETA? Will he sign through the mail?" But, only ask if you've got a few free hours on your hands.
Tom Daniels writes with an abundance of east coast bias over at One New York Life. He's a New York Mets fan who's spent the past few seasons defending embattled manager Jerry Manuel and general manager Omar Minaya. Back in March, Tom predicted "25+ home runs, 100+ RBI" for OF Jason Bay, "40+ saves" and a "big year" from closer Francisco Rodriguez and – hoo boy – "15 wins or better" from SP Oliver Perez.
And, I'm Aaron – an Oakland A's fan who didn't predict big things from Jason Bay, Francisco Rodriguez and Oliver Perez. I mean…wow, Tom.
Texas Rangers v. Tampa Bay Rays
Aaron: The Rangers are the most interesting team in the postseason and quite capable of obliterating baseball's October myths all by themselves. You say "pitching and small ball" win in the playoffs? I say EVERYONE'S pitching is good in the playoffs and it's the team that can put up crooked numbers on the scoreboard that's a bigger threat. You say "the most talented team wins"? I say the deepest and most balanced has a better chance. You say "previous playoff experience" is a plus? I say "the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays". AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton might not be 100%, but the confluence of Hamilton's unshakeable faith and bothersome injury make his ribs the most religiously significant since the creation of Eve. Are YOU betting against The Bible?! Pick: Rangers in 4.
Eugene: As much I as like the Rangers, the Rays rotation will be too much. Price has been unhittable and, if Garza and Shields can be on, they have pitchers that can go after Game 1. If Texas had a better complement for Cliff Lee, they'd have a better shot. Consider me against God on this one [watches for the lightning bolts]. Pick: Rays in 4.
Tom: After watching what Cliff Lee did to the Yankees in his post-season starts last season, I have a really hard time believing even the mighty Rays can win a short series. The mantra that "one great pitcher can win a short series" will very much be on display here. Beside the point, it's not like CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis are total scrubs. Two wins from Cliff Lee and 1-2 in their other three games? That's unreasonable? I don't think it is. Rangers in 5.
New York Yankees v. Minnesota Twins
Aaron: Minnesota is an attractive pick simply by virtue of having home field advantage and a surprisingly potent offense – even without injured 1B Justin Morneau and a season-long power outage from 2009 AL MVP Joe Mauer. Look a little closer at the numbers, though, and two stats immediately stand out: (1) The Twins pitchers finished tenth in the AL in strikeouts and (2) the Yankees hitters placed first in on-base percentage. Every New York at-bat is an unwatchable 10-minute ordeal, full of foul balls and 3-2 counts. Minnesota's pitching staff doesn't miss bats and the Yankees don't need to put the ball in the play to get on base. When New York inevitably has runners in scoring position and no one out, which Twins pitcher is overpowering enough to snuff out the rally? Sorry, Gardy. Pick: Yankees in 4.
Eugene: I'm having problems with this one. I think both teams are evenly matched. Both have good hitters. Both have weak benches. I like the Twins pitching better; both have solid rotations, but the Twins have the better bullpen. If the Twins can get past the Yankees starters, then they'll have a chance. I'm going with my gut on this one. Pick: Twins in 5.
Tom: Full disclosure: I watched exactly six Yankee games this season -- all of them against the Mets. As Cam mentioned, the Yankees play unwatchable baseball with nearly a quarter of their games going above 3.5 hours. The storyline being sold here is the Yankees inexplicable ownership of the Twins over the last few seasons. Unfortunately, the guy they claimed ownership of -- Joe Nathan -- isn't pitching this season. With Justin Morneau out (does the dude ever make a post-season?) and Jim Thome featured in last week's Sports Illustrated (guaranteeing an 0-20 series), what do the Twins have to break through the Yankee starters? CC and Andy are probably enough to take down this series. Yankees in 4.
Philadelphia Phillies v. Cincinnati Reds
Aaron: It'll be interesting to see how that contract extension for Reds manager Dusty Baker looks next October when Cincinnati's sitting at home. 1B Joey Votto could win the NL MVP, but this team relied heavily on good years from old men (3B Scott Rolen, RP Arthur Rhodes), washed-up talent (C Ramon Hernandez, SS Orlando Cabrera) and a reclamation project or two (OF Johnny Gomes). For crying out loud, the eminently league-average Bronson Arroyo is their ace! I'm not as ready as some to hand Philadelphia the 2010 World Championship, but the Reds don't have a single starting pitcher who compares to the back-end of the Phillies' postseason rotation. Pick: Phillies in 3.
Eugene: Let see - the team that got past the Cardinals vs. a team that I'm not fond of just because. Really, the Phillies are the better team. They have the better hitters and rotation; the bullpens are pretty much even. I'd also go with the experience factor mentioned above, as the Reds only have a couple of guys with post season experience. The Phillies team is pretty much the same as the last 2 years. Pick: Phillies in 3.
Tom: I find it necessary to point this out one more time: if not for the absolutely insane declaration by Ruben Amaro Jr. that J.A. Happ was untradeable last year, the Phillies rotation would be Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels. Second fun fact: The Reds are 30-41 against teams that finished over .500 including 2-5 against Philadelphia which includes a 4-game sweep in Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies are easily the best team in National League (still) and, barring just a total meltdown, they walk over the Reds here. To be slightly different, I'll say it takes four because I have no faith in Cole Hamels until he proves otherwise. Phillies in 4.
Atlanta Braves v. San Francisco Giants
Aaron: OK…the importance of good pitching in October is somewhat overstated, but the Giants' starters have been almost unhittable since the start of September. Unfortunately, their offense doesn't collect many hits, either. The Braves stumbled into the postseason after the NL East division slipped through their fingers. Ironically, the celebration of one last playoff appearance for Atlanta manager Bobby Cox conveniently ignores his history of spectacular conflagrations of failure and bad strategy in the postseason. And, while Giants' manager Bruce Bochy isn't likely to outsmart anyone, three loud home crowds and Matt Cain/Tim Lincecum/Jonathan Sanchez will turn Bochy into a genius. Pick: Giants in 5.
Eugene: I think the Giants have the better pitching, but I'm pulling for Bobby Cox to get as deep as possible. I like the Braves line up much better. The pitching is almost as good as the Giants. I also like the Braves bullpen better, which could be the difference maker. Pick: Braves in 5.
Tom: While I think Bobby Cox and his big three pitchers get way too much flak for the postseason failures through the 90s, there would be no more a fitting send-off to Cox's career than to have yet another playoff series in which the Braves average less than one run per game over a series while playing in front of a half-full home stadium. Cain/Lincecum/Sanchez are better than anything the Braves will throw at them. Happy Trails, Bobby. Giants in 3.