|By Zach Patterson||Tuesday, 6 Oct 2009|
Since our sporting articles were such moderate hits last year, we decided to come back and defend our crown as superior sports prediction analysts. In this first round of the playoffs, Chris and Zach tear apart the NL and AL Division Series matchups until there’s nothing left but toothy bone and gristle.
How They Got Here
Yankees - They bought a pricey drama-less slugger in Mark Teixeira in the offseason, and padded the rotation with some hefty contracts in the form of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Mix in a new stadium that inflated run totals, excellent or career years from many of their elder statesmen (Jeter, Damon, Posada, Cano, Matsui, Rodriguez. Swisher all had fantastic years), and a competent, reliable front of the rotation, and you have the best team with the best record in baseball that pretty much cruised through the regular season. Though it’s commonplace to bitch about the Yankees and their frivolous spending, credit the front office for truly putting together another terrifying team that could easily rival some of their better teams from earlier in the decade.
Spending money is easy, spending it smartly to build a huge fucking monolith of a team is not.
Twins - Oh man! Did you SEE that game against the Tigers!? Ho-ly shit. What a comeback! The Twins should certainly enjoy it, because it put an exclamation point on a season in which they mainly sleepwalked through for the first half of the season. And really, when September started, no one was really saying “oh man, watch out for those Twins!” But, the weakest division in baseball + an easy Twins September schedule + putrid baseball by the Tigers turned into an October miracle for the Twin Cities. This was all made possible by the amazing Joe Mauer, clear AL MVP, a breakout season from Michael Cuddyer, a solid, but injury shortened season by Justin Morneau, the midseason pickup of Orlando Cabrera, and the best month of Delmon Young’s mostly forgettable career. Their pitching staff’s a bunch of mostly ho-hum nobodies that get their job done and keep the team in the game. Oh, and the best closer in baseball helped tremendously too.
Series Prognosis: It’s easy to say the Yankees will win here, so I will. The Yankees will win this series. But since the Twins are likely to be the casual fan’s David versus the the pinstriped Goliath (or whatever other lame metaphor you can think of), this series will get a lot more attention than it probably deserves. The fact is, the Yankees have better starting and relief pitching, better position players at nearly every position, and simply are a better slugging and on-base type team. The Twins have the emotional high of an amazing win, and Joe Mauer. Okay, they have a little more than that, but they can’t line up their best starters for this series and their bullpen was totally exhausted today, so it already puts them at a disadvantage. Look for them to give the Yankees a nice fight, but ultimately not have enough to pull this out.
Prediction: Yankees win in 4. I figure the Twins might take one game with the carryover from the one game playoff, but these dudes are just overmatched. But did you SEE that game against the Tigers!? Ho-ly shit. What a comeback!
How They Got Here:
Angels – An unexpected hitting assault this year protected a mostly mediocre pitching staff that suffered from tragedy and injury. The rise of Kendry Morales as the cheaper Mark Teixeira, the appreciation of all things Abreu, the rebirth of Vlad, the continuing useful utility of Chone Figgins led a team of high average run producers to a rather easy West crown, after the Rangers fell off early in September. Lackey and Weaver led a decent staff with solid years, while the bullpen was shaky even after the big money pickup of Fuentes.
Red Sox – I’ve heard this team called rather boring this year, and I suppose you could classify how they got here as boring too. White Bread Jason Bay replaced Manny for a full year and did his best Manny impersonation, playing shitty left field and having a career year with the bat. Youkilis was fantastic as usual, and the midseason pickup of Victor Martinez essentially pushed them into a lock for the postseason. Pedroia and Ellsbury were both themselves, but Papi was terrible off and on all year and Lowell limped his way through a decent but unspectacular season. The rotation was a revolving door of old men, young kids, imports, and old reliables that still ended up getting the job done. Bullpen was pretty solid. There was some chair shuffling throughout the year with the roster, but the team played solid baseball almost all year and I never doubted they would be in the playoffs.
Series Prognosis: Tough One! The Red Sox have knocked the Angels out of the playoffs a couple times recently now, but I think this Angels squad is better equipped to give the Sox a run for their money. The Angels lineup is an asset this year, not a liability, and the front of their rotation is solid. And while the Red Sox have been very good this year, I’m not so sure they can breeze through this series. This series may come down to how well the top of the Angels staff pitches, and if they can get them deep into games. If Lackey and Weaver stumble, the Red Sox could easily take advantage of their shaky bullpen. And, the rest of Angels staff isn’t that great, whereas the Red Sox roll out a pretty solid starting 4 along with an elite bullpen.
Prediction: Well, here’s where I roll the dice. I say Angels in 5. I’m sure everyone and their mother wants a Yankees-Red Sox ALCS (or at least the networks do), but I think the Angels finally push past the Red Sox this year, if only because they have to one of these years. That’s a pretty terrible argument to make in favor of who’s going to win, but well…meh. With this prediction in the books, expect the Red Sox to plow through them in like 3 or something.
How They Got Here:
Dodgers – Using the first half to create a huge lead thanks to a dominant stretch at home turned out to be a successful launching pad as the Dodgers limped their way into the home field advantage for the National League playoffs. Even without the presence of Manny Ramirez in their lineup for 50 games, the Dodgers showed why they are a team to be feared as they found ways to make combacks or close out games. While they failed to finish strong in the end of the season they still remain as a team that finds ways to win, whatever it takes.
Cardinals – It helps having the biggest premiere player in all of baseball with Albert Pujols, but the Cardinals had a big boost from their pitching staff. The combination of Adam Wainright and Chris Carpenter alone dominated a great amount of games and struck fear into any team unfortunate enough to go against them. When the Cards added along slugger Matt Holliday to compliment the prowess of Pujols, St. Louis showed that they could still hang with the best in the bigs.
Series Prognosis: L.A. has the home field benefit and arguably the better overall outfield and bullpen, but their advantages end there. St. Louis has the dominant starting rotation that can go the distance along with impact players that can make a lot of noise with a single swing of a bat. You can pitch around Pujols, but then you’re forced to deal with Holliday, and that’s the type of danger that this team was lacking in previous seasons. You have two great veteran managers, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa, duking it out and trying to out think each other at almost every facet which guarantees that this series will be worth watching. Considering how the Dodgers, and Manny in general, have been struggling the whole second half of the season, they’ll need a lot of magic and luck to force the Cardinals relievers to come out early enough to capitalize. If they can’t get to the Cy Young candidates then this series will be over before it really even starts.
Prediction: Cards will split the games in L.A. and close it at home. St. Louis takes it in 4.
How They Got Here:
Phillies - The world “fucking” champions weren’t surprised to find themselves back here, but the way they did it was rather unusual. Dealing with closing issues from their previously perfect reliever Brad Lidge was a trial in itself, but they still managed to win their division with the biggest power output in the National League. Leading in almost every offensive category along with 4 of their players (including slugger Ryan Howard and new fan favorite Raul Ibanez) hitting at least 30 home runs, the Phils had more than one way to win games when their pitching ran on empty. But speaking of pitching, the team also ended up landing reigning AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from the Indians to strengthen an already solid rotation and help bring Philadelphia back into the discussion as a legitimate playoff contender.
Rockies - Left for dead sometime back in June, The Rockies organization fired their manager Clint Hurdle and put Jim Tracy in place for the rest of the season. What happened after that was a run that rivaled their insane winning streak to end the season back in 2007. Using a strong hitting lineup which includes veteran Todd Helton and getting surprising efforts from small name pitchers like Jorge DeLaRosa and Aaron Cook, the Rockies made a close bid for the NL West division but had to settle for the wild card after the Dodgers just barely kept them away long enough. Still, if any team is going into the divisional series with a fair amount of momentum, it would be the Rockies.
Series Prognosis: This is the most even matchup presented in the first round. Philadelphia led in offense but Colorado was right behind them. The pitching staff and bullpen are both bruised but the Rockies have the slight advantage in the bullpen only because the Phillies have an uncertain element in their closer position. Both have stellar fielding full of players that don’t make mistakes that often. Both have plenty of speed at hand, although the Phils agruably have better base running. Also in terms of bench players, it seems like there isn’t enough impact players for either team but the Rockies have a bit of an edge thanks to Jason Giambi being on their side. A big difference would be in the managing. While Charlie Manuel has obviously been here before with the Phillies and has gone the distance, Jim Tracy has only been to the postseason once when he managed the Dodgers and lost in the first round. Both teams rally around their respective managers and play as hard as they can for them so it could come down to who makes the first mistake when presented with a tough decision. Philadelphia still has the core team that won a championship last year but Colorado shows signs of that magic 2007 season in which they swept the Phils in the first round and went straight to the World Series. But this isn’t 2007 anymore.
Prediction: The Phillies will their way past the Rockies and move on, but almost every game ends closely in nail biting fashion. It’s going to take the full 5 games with every win going to the home team.
- Chris Derosa