Saturday, October 1, 2011

Three Baseball Guys: 2011 ALDS/NLDS Predictions

For the third straight MLB postseason, I'm joined by disheartened New York Mets fan Tom Daniels and dispirited (in about four days from now) St. Louis Cardinals fan Eugene Tierney. As you know, I'm Aaron -- disconsolate Oakland A's fan. Last year, Tom picked every postseason series correctly. I'd say the odds of at least two of us NOT running the table are pretty strong this year!

Tampa Bay Rays v. Texas Rangers

Aaron: I hope everyone was paying attention as the 2010 Rangers obliterated the competition on their way to capturing the American League pennant. The "good pitching beats good hitting" myth was bludgeoned to death by Texas' collective lumber – including an ALDS beatdown of these very same Rays. Tampa Bay's underdog narrative has been written a thousand different ways over the past two days, but contrary to Josh Hamilton's pious denials, Goliath usually wins these wars – particularly when David is only eighth in the American League in runs scored, slugging percentage and OPS. Pick: Rangers in 4

Daniels: For the purpose of full disclosure, I haven't watched a whole lot of baseball since August. However, I couldn't help but watch the Red Sox and Braves make a run at the same type of humiliating collapse I lived through in 2007 (and 2008, but who's counting). You guys, the Rangers were really good last year and this year they scored 100 MORE runs than they did in 2010 and allowed 10 less. I can pretty much use
last year's paragraph with a few modifications: After watching what Cliff Lee CJ Wilson 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 Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis are total scrubs. Two wins from Cliff Lee CJ Wilson and 1-2 in their other three games? That's unreasonable? I don't think it is. Pick: Rangers in 5

Eugene: This a toss up to me. Last year, the Rangers had Cliff Lee anchoring the rotation. While C.J. Wilson is good, he's no Cliff Lee. This team can still hit though. The Rays have a ton of momentum right now. Everything seems to be clicking. I see them improving on last year's playoff performance. Pick: Rays in 5

Detroit Tigers v. New York Yankees

Aaron: If you'll forgive my continued use of superfluous quotation marks, I'd offer that Justin Verlander will be a pretty good test case for the annual "great pitcher in a short series" discussion. During the regular season, Verlander pitched against the Yankees twice and posted a 4.50 ERA. Obviously, considering the sample size and absence of context, this means less than nothing now. Hell, in two starts against the Orioles this year, his ERA was 4.80. These are two very good offenses dotted with a few great hitters who'll be seeing a real drop-off from each team's ace arm in games two, three and five. The last man standing wins. We all know that will be Derek Jeter. As we learned this week, he's NOT Jose Reyes. Am I right, New York? Pick: Yankees in 5

Daniels: I am admittedly geeking out over the game one match-up of Sabathia and Verlander. I am also geeking out for the inevitable offseason wrangling that will start when Sabathia executes his contract's opt-out clause and the Yankees need to pony up $30M/year to keep him or watch him go to a National League team so he can bat again. The Yankees, as usual, are pretty good but they're also a comedy of problems. They're keeping Jorge Posada on the postseason roster when he really has no business being there. Jeter is fading and has feasted on bad pitching to get himself -- almost -- back up to average. Lost amongst the MVP talk is that the Curtis Granderson train has flown off the rails in September, assembling a stat-line of .198/.298/.363 since August 31st. Now, they're facing good postseason pitching which tends to exploit and emphasize every single weakness. That leaves Teixeira and Cano as the big bats to avoid while we see if A-Rod actually does have the postseason monkey off his back since adding some diamonds to his ring finger. Meanwhile.... Verlander and Cabrera. Miggy has demolished the Yankees his entire career. Unless they plan on never pitching to him, his 1.5+(!) OPS in Yankee Stadium III may, just may, come in to play. Pick: Tigers in 5

Eugene: The Yankees have gotten by all season with C.C. Sabathia and a cast of misfits. Amazingly, they had the best run differential in baseball. I don't think the rotation is "playoff" caliber. The Tigers can match Justin Verlander with C.C. no problem, but they have questions too. In the end, I think the Yankees squeak it out. Pick: Yankees in 5

Arizona Diamondbacks v. Milwaukee Brewers

Aaron: Before everyone finalizes their coronation plans for the Phillies, you might want to take a look at that Milwaukee offense: first in slugging percentage, second in OPS and total bases, fifth in runs scored. Yes, Prince Fielder is an unapologetic, unshaven ass and Ryan Braun's "aw, shucks" bug-eyed pretty boy act is a grotesque contrast of marketing gimmicks, but they can hit. On the mound, Zack Grienke and Yovani Gallardo have been taking other team's lunch money all season. Arizona finally wields the finished product that is Justin Upton, but 21-game winner Ian Kennedy isn't facing the impotent Dodgers, Giants or Padres offenses for the umpteenth time in this series. Pick: Brewers in 3

Daniels: I have not watched much Diamondbacks baseball this season. Here's the thing: I basically rode the Giants through the postseason last year based on 1) the fact they're named the Giants and I have a automatic instinct to root for them and 2) really good pitching in a short series is nearly impossible to beat. In a five game series, the Diamondbacks will need to look at Yovani Gallardo twice, Shaun Marcum or Randy Wolf in Game 2, and Zack Greinke on regular rest in Game 3. I'm supposed to buy Ian Kennedy (admittedly having a good year) as the guy to counter that? Besides the point, even if you think they're evenly matched in other areas, go with the team with the better bullpen. Not only will the Brewers probably sweep this, it's unfortunate for them they didn't get the Phillies in the short series because it's their best chance to beat them. Pick: Brewers in 3

Eugene: The one thing I've heard constantly over the last month is "Just wait until the Brewers reach the playoffs and play a good team." Maybe it was because it's St. Louis sports radio, or maybe there something to it. The Brewers rotation has the edge over the D'backs, and their hitters are better as well. Pick: Brewers in 3

St. Louis Cardinals v. Philadelphia Phillies

Aaron: Led by tenured, self-styled Baseball Emeritus Tony LaRussa, the Cardinals climbed over the asphyxiated corpse of the Braves and waltzed in through the back door of the rickety shanty that will soon be demolished by the Philadelphia Wrecking Crew. The Cards are dinged up on offense, most notably with Matt Holliday whose hand injury may force him to play down to the level of effort he exhibited during his three-month run of somnambulant indifference in Oakland in 2009. I'm not ready to hand the Phils the 2011 World Championship, but they'll certainly look good here. Pick: Phillies in 3

Daniels: While I enjoyed the exquisite collapse of the Braves as much as the next guy, watching Eagles fans have some hope in their lives because of the Phillies for another consecutive year has been maddening. The Phillies play half their ballgames in a ballpark the size of
Kiddie Field and they gave up the fewest runs per game in the National League. While the Cardinals scored the most runs per game in the league and are riding an insanely awesome September hot streak; there is nothing in me that sees them getting around Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels. It is, in all honesty, incomprehensible that the three of them all did not win 20 games this year looking at their stat lines. Age is the only thing that's going to stop four years. Pick: Phillies in 4

Eugene: Maybe it's the homer in me, but I'm very optimistic about this series. The Cardinals had a winning record against the Phillies during the regular season. Their hitters are superior (even if Matt Holliday won't start the series); the Phillies look like a shell of their former selves with the bat. The pitching edge goes to the Phillies, but if the Cardinals can get the same performance out of Chris Carpenter that they got this past Wednesday, they'll be OK. Pick: Cardinals in 5

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